Friday, February 26, 2016

Election day in Ireland

Waving The Flag

It's election day in Ireland. Once again I am subject to cynical assessments of the process via social media. This derives from fundamental mistakes people make when considering their role within "democracy" and "politics", two terms that are basically meaningless without further descriptives.

I grew up in Canada, which is similar to the USA and UK in having "first past the post" elections. Technically called "plurality voting", such a system only simulates democracy. Voting is treated like a horse race. A representative government can never result by definition. It is safe to say that there is no democracy in Canada. (Despite Leonard Cohen's optimism!)

Nonetheless, I worked for years in politics, with the Green Party. It is important to mention that this party is not to be confused with the Green Party in Ireland or indeed any other country, since each has their own platform and works independently. All they have in common is the name. I was Riding President in London, Ontario for a few elections. In most, if not all (someone with a better memory can correct me) we put forward the very wonderful Jeff Culbert as candidate.

We did this even though we had absolutely no chance of getting elected or influencing parliament in any way. We dreamed of a fair voting system, where every vote counted, eliminating the ethical quagmire of "strategic voting". With envy we studied countries like Ireland, which has a multiple-winner district system. Such a voting system is mathematically provable to be fairer.

In Ireland every vote counts. If a majority of people decide to elect a brand new candidate, their will prevails. And yet still cynicism is rampant. Cynicism in all cases favours the strong and the status quo. By being cynical you are giving in, admitting defeat. You are doing exactly what the powerful want you to do.

As an example, take Sinn Fein, who it is said will never get elected in any number, due to their history. This "fact" is dragged out at every opportunity in the media. Regular, ordinary folk (my friends), refuse to consider Sinn Fein, despite the fact that they are pro-health care, pro-social services, pro-rights, and so on. In other words, this party is often the perfect match for the very people who dismiss them! This bias is an example of the cynicism that says "people never change".

(By the way, I use that party as an example, not because I plan to give them my number one vote, but because they present a clear example.)

Certain people vote only to back a winner, as though an election really was a horse race. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy that makes my blood boil. Because, as already explained, I once worked with a plurality voting system which made this condition literally true. But it's little more than laziness to make this claim about Ireland. Here, if enough people want change, it will happen.

Despite all impediments, we fought for change in Canada. Why would we do this if we had no chance of getting elected? First, because I believe as a fundamental principle that you should stand up for your beliefs despite any impediments. It's easy to believe when everyone is on your side. It is only when principles are tested that they are worth anything.

Second, elections are only one small part of politics. Politics arises from social conditions and human desires. Change those and you change the very conditions of politics. I believe the Green Party did change Canadian politics, by foregrounding concerns that other (stronger) parties would subsequently take up. And despite everything, the Greens eventually went so far as to elect candidates, something that was only a pipe dream in my time.

But it's not about winning. It's about making a difference. That's a fact that elections can obscure.

If your candidate doesn't win, you can still make a difference through your future actions. Conversely, if your candidate does win, this is not the end of the political process, but only the beginning. That's why you'll find me on marches, writing articles, and stirring up dissent!

It's election day in Ireland. Get out and vote because you believe that every person matters. Vote for the candidate that shares your principles, because you believe in integrity.

On your way back from the polling station, consider how you can act tomorrow to further your beliefs.

That's democracy.


1 comment:

robin said...

This handy website allows you to compare candidates on the issues that matter to you:

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