Posted by: Tanmoy Chakrabarti | December 7, 2011

Elections

I have not been updating this page for various reasons that pre-occupied me and my mind. However, it is not that I have not been thinking or wanting to update. There are always things happening around me, which urge to communicate. However, sometimes lack of audience at critical junctures of life results in unwarranted silence.

One of the most interesting things that happened recently was my wife and I voting in New Zealand’s general election. New Zealand is perhaps one of the very few countries in the world, who allow non-citizens like us to exercise our democratic rights. The election process is much less complicated and if I must say, much more civilized when compared to India.

For more than two or three months, the candidates campaigned through letters and billboards. The respective Prime Ministerial candidates engaged in televised debates, which I must say were highly entertaining. The two parties that were contesting for the Prime Ministerial role were the ruling National Party (is sort of Centre-right) and the Labour (which has socialist leanings) parties. They debated on issues such as – whether New Zealand state owned companies should be sold or not? Whether rich should be taxed more or not? Whether benefits should reduce or not?

There were other minor parties too but then in New Zealand they extend their support to either of the two primary parties.

Other than the vote to elect the nation’s parliamentarians and leader, we also voted on a referendum. The referendum sought votes whether New Zealand should retain its current system of formation of a government that is MMP. If you voted NO, then it provided you with a few alternatives which you could choose.

Prior to the elections, the election commission sent us personalised letters which had all possible information in relation to the elections. The letters not only contained details of our polling booth and candidates but it also had brochures in relation to the different systems of formation of government, list of all candidates across all parties, how to vote, details where we could vote if we are travelling on the polling day etc.

On the day of polling, we were quite excited. We went to our designated booth and cast our vote. There were no policemen in the polling booth and the process was very smooth as was expected. The next day the results were announced and there were no major surprises. National got a second term.

Coming from India, it was quite interesting to participate in New Zealand’s electoral process. I would not say election generated frenzy among people. In fact, going by the statistics, the percentage of people who voted actually went down – which is a shame. However, may be the increasing number of expatriates contributed to a low voter turn-out.

Whilst, like all countries people generally are not overtly optimistic about politicians, expectations of not completely being let down by them exists. This is far from what I have experienced in my own country.

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Responses

  1. Let me be the first to express my delight on seeing you posting again, Tanmoy: I was beginning to give up on you!

    It was nice to hear that you had a pleasant experience voting. NZ must really be one of the few countries which allow non-citizens to vote. Certain comparisons you have drawn with India are sad, not to say humiliating. No policemen at the booths… hardly imaginable here: and having seen my fellow countrymen in so much ‘action’ so often, I must say I cannot blame the politicians alone. Interesting to hear about the televised debates, too: it seems the issues in contention are uncannily similar worldwide now!

    One thing I must demur about – if I have understood your last two sentences correctly – is that I think so far as the aam-janta is concerned, far from expecting to be let down by the leaders, they keep voting in very large numbers in poll after poll only because they still pin a lot of hope on the ‘system’. It is the most privileged middle and upper classes, and particularly the young among them, who have of late been demonstrating a great apathy towards the electoral process. Chief Election Commissioner Qureshi himself mentioned this at a recent public function as a most disturbing development. My theory is that this is so not merely because this section is so worldly-wise as to have become cynical, but also because very large numbers among them don’t care, either out of ignorance of the political process (an old boy currently doing his master’s at one of the IITs recently told me that not one of his classmates – barring the handful preparing for the civil services exams – could speak knowledgeably for five minutes on how our government works!) but also because they know they can manipulate and tamper with the system so well to serve their own ends that they don’t have to care about who get elected to the legislatures, and how.


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