Voter objectivity needed to change political attitude

Murari Sharma

Many significant developments of long-term consequences have occurred in the last 15 days around the world and in Nepal, since I posted my article in the electronic media.

Let me recap. Across the world, the febrile Greek debt crisis has boiled over, culminating in a referendum that supported the anti-austerity option only to be swiftly abandoned. South Sudan continued to simmer in a brutal civil war. A court has handed death sentence to the former Egyptian president Morsi and a number of his supporters. An Islamic State supporter has killed several dozen people in a beach in Tunisia. Ukraine has continued to bleed in east and southeast. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has continued to rage in one form or another.

Similarly, in Nepal, the new constitution was hastily drafted in the midst of dissent and chaos to clear the way for an all-party-government so all parties would have their hand in the post-earthquake reconstruction purse. A bill to provide generous facilities to former political and judicial officials was presented and, due to public uproar against it, was quickly shelved. A new civil service bill was approved, prohibiting government employees having residency in developed countries. However, the victims of the major earthquakes of April and May 2015, who deserve national attention, remain willfully neglected.

What is common in these two sets of circumstances? Politically convenient priority.

Politicians almost entirely determine our public life and affect considerably our private life. They claim to work for people but seldom do that. They may profess peace and harmony in power, but they work to agitate and divide people when they are out of it to regain it. Mahatma Gandhi has said, “Action expresses priority.” Evidently, not words.

Political priorities change with personal circumstances. The leaders of Germany, the largest creditor of Greece, have conveniently forgotten that other countries had forgiven wartime debt and have relentlessly insisted that Athens pay every penny it owes to Berlin. Now they want order, because that suits them.

Similarly, South Sudanese leaders, who waged war of attrition to separate from the north citing religious and racial differences only recently, refuse to recognize the same right to identity to their minorities.

The Egyptian people fought for democracy, but the Islamic Brotherhood leaders gave Morsi as president. Morsi consolidated power in his hand. When the people rose against him, Sisi promised democracy but gave dictatorship, worse than that of Morsi. Now Sisi is unleashing more repression than Morsi ever did, all in the name of Egyptian people.

In Tunisia, the Islamic State took nearly three dozen lives in a beach, in the name of Allah, because the IS wants medieval power there at the cost of imperfect democracy.

In Ukraine, the western countries supported the Maidan uprising against an elected president and forced him to flee. Now the Russians are supporting separatists in the east and southeast against Kiev. The Ukrainian leaders and people are being used by western and Russian politicians as their pawns in their geopolitical contest.

The Israel-Palestine conflict may be in lull for a while, but it is ready for conflagration any time at the slightest trigger. They kill each other in the name of people, who want negotiation and peace between the people that share the land there.

In Nepal, the big four political parties have drafted a new constitution amidst opposition from smaller parties. The Constituent Assembly took 7 years to come up with the preliminary draft, but the leaders are giving only 15 days for the public to express their opinion. It is a sterile charade. No matter what the people say, it is a document, a compromise among the leaders of four main parties. It cannot be changed. However, this charade is being enacted to claim popular legitimacy for the statute the leaders have written to suit their interests — after bargaining which leader is going to occupy which high position after the law of the land is promulgated.

The government presented a bill proposing extravagant privileges for former political office holders in the name of people. In the teeth of popular disgust, from the same in whose name it was done, the bill has been shelved, until when the dust settles down and the leaders can approve those privileges for themselves in the name of the same people who have opposed it.

The CA also recently approved a new Civil Service Act that empowers the government to fire any public employee who has residency in western countries, not in the neighboring countries though. The leaders did it in the name of people though there was wide public opposition to this measure.

In other words, political leaders do what they want but they do it in the name of people. But their priority keeps changing based on their personal interest. They seldom care about the people and use their name to advance their personal interests. They do not bother about people until the next election cycle knocks on their doors.

At times, I wonder whether it is the fault of leaders or people who support them. Society without political leaders might be inconceivable, but society with political leaders has been fraught with conflicts and wars. Until we the people acquire the knowledge to tell right from wrong without any ideological blinkers and channel our support based on merit rather than on allegiance, we will remain pawns in the hands of unscrupulous politicians.

We often blame politicians for our owes, and rightly so. However, we need to be aware that somewhere we might also be at fault. We have let our politicians get away with murder. Voter objectivity, free of ideological and other loyalties, is critical to shape political attitude consequentially for the better and force politicians represent their voters rather than their personal interests, more than anything else.