Sunday, March 21, 2010

Dr M talks about democratic abuses

Many would find this ironic, but Dr Mahathir Mohamad has decided to share his views on how democracy can be abused.

During his 22-year tenure as prime minister, the 84-year-old statesman was accused of muzzling the media and emasculating the judiciary, police and anti-graft commission, among a litany of other alleged misdeeds.

In his latest blog posting yesterday, seven days ahead of the MCA elections, Mahathir also talked about party elections.

“Political parties love democracy as it seems to be fair to everyone. Anyone can bid for any place in the party, including the top post. That is the theory at least.

“But the reality is that only certain people could aspire to lead because of the support of a substantial number of the members,” he said.

Ideally in a contest, Mahathir said, the one with the biggest number of supporters should win and the loser and his supporters must accept the decision of the majority.

“Unfortunately the loser or losers may not want to accept the results. This can ultimately lead to the party being split and weakened.

“The process may have been very democratic but the objective of choosing a leader by majority vote is not achieved. The losers must remember that when they win the same can happen to them.

“In other words, a democratic contest can only lead to the break-up of the party (I am speaking from experience),” he said in referrence to the 1987 crisis in Umno.

Mahathir said he woud like to cheer on the candidates contesting for any post anywhere through the democratic process.

“Obviously only one would win. If those who lose cannot accept the decision of the majority, then it is better not to talk about democracy. You really do not know what democracy is about,” he said, adding a footnote at the bottom of the page which read, “Of course I am assuming that the contest is fair.”

Democracy 101

The former premier noted that many people believe that as soon as they accept democracy, then they will be practising democracy.

Unfortunately, he said, mere acceptance is not enough.

“It is not enough because everyone, from the topmost person to the ordinary people, be they from a political party or a nation, can find ways to abuse and frustrate the true democratic process.

“As a result we see democracies failing to work in most organisations or political parties and in many nations,” he added.

Explaining the basics of democracy, Mahathir said the system is about giving power to the majority and it is assumed that the majority knows what is best for the whole.

“The minority should therefore be prepared to accept the rule of the majority albeit after presenting opposing views and criticisms. The minority must be prepared to wait for the next elections in order to make another bid,” he added.

In a mature democracy, he said, almost everyone respects the results of national elections where the majority forms the government and the minority take their places in the legislature and try their best to influence policies and laws introduced by the majority government.

“And so for the four or five years before the next elections, the legislature debates, approves or disapproves the proposals by the government.

“But the minority and even the individual legislator may also move proposals or laws although in most instances they will not get through for lack of majority support.

“Playing their parts, both the majorty and the minority would contribute to the proper workings of a democratic government,” he added.

'My way' Mahathir

Critics would be quick to scoff at Mahathir's comments, since the former premier has been described as 'dictator' who could not tolerate dissenting views.

In 1987, Mahathir had more than 100 people, including journalists, opposition politicians and activists, arrested under the Internal Security Act during the infamous 'Operasi Lalang' dragnet.

More than a decade later, he was accused of authoring a political consipracy to oust his then deputy, Anwar Ibrahim.

However, Mahathir has denied the charge, and has remained unpologetic for the numerous controversies during his leadership.

On the other hand, his supporters believe that Mahathir, whose favourite song happens to be Frank Sinatra's 'My way', was the best thing that happened to this nation.

by FMT

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