Saturday, July 14, 2012

Defining Democracy

Just back from a very brief holiday in western New York, I'm still feeling a bit too relaxed to post anything lengthy, but I do have a reading recommendation for anyone concerned about democracy in its various forms.

Earlier this year, The Star's Rick Salutin took time off from his weekly column to do research on democracy. The results of that research begin today in the first part of a series. Entitled Democracy: Thinking outside the box, the piece offers some surprising statistics that challenge the notion that elections are the pinnacle of democratic expression.

Despite the fact that Tunisia was the birthplace of the Arab Spring, it turns out that when elections were finally held, only 55% cast their ballot, a statistic that leads Salutin to reflect upon notions of democracy and disaffection.

By examining various countries and systems, the writer goes on to opine that perhaps government consultation with the people is more important than the election experience as democratic expression.

Personally, it is an opinion I take issue with, as I see a quite intimate relationship between an engaged citizenry at election time and the responsiveness of government to its people. In other words, given the kind of poor turnout at the polls we experience in Canada, it is hardly surprising that we currently have a government that represents only a very small minority of its constituents.

While the above may sound like a gross oversimplification, for me, fear of electoral retribution is the beginning of wisdom for our 'representatives'.

I look forward to the next installment of Salutin's series in tomorrow's paper.

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