Elitocracy
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Nauman Sadiq |

The biggest fault in democracy, as it is practiced all over the world, is the election campaign funding part, because the individuals and corporations that finance an election campaign always have ulterior motives: that is, they treat political funding as investment from which they intend to make profits by influencing executive policy and legislation.

Elitocracy in simple words

The masses and the members of the middle class cannot take part in elections because election campaigns entail huge expenses

In the developing world, politics is the exclusive prerogative of the ultra-rich: that are, the feudalists, the industrialists, and the big businesses. The masses and the members of the middle class cannot take part in elections because election campaigns entail huge expenses, and if individual candidates spend money from their own pockets on their election campaigns or the election campaigns of their respective political parties, then how can we expect from such elected representatives that they will not use political office for personal benefits in order to raise money for their expensive election campaigns during the next elections?

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Western politic mechanism

In the developing countries, moreover, politics works like a business: the individual candidates of political parties make an investment on their election campaigns and reap windfalls when they get elected as lawmakers in the legislature or as ministers in the government.

In the west, political parties raise funds from contributions which are then spent on the election campaign of political parties and their individual candidates.

In the developed Western countries, individual candidates do not spend money from their own pockets on their election campaigns; political parties raise funds from contributions which are then spent on the election campaign of political parties and their individual candidates.

But this practice is also subject to abuse, because the donors of electoral funds, especially the corporations, when they donate money to a particular political party’s election campaign, in return, they demand a say in the policy making of the government of such political parties. Such a government is beholden to its financiers and cannot pursue an independent policy in the interests of the masses.

Read more: Dummies Guide to Pakistani Politics.

A better path

A much better practice for generating election-related funds has been adopted in some developed countries, where the state allocates funds from its national budget for political parties’ election campaigns if they manage to obtain a certain percentage of the popular vote on a national level.

Although this practice may sound onerous for impoverished, developing democracies, but if we take a look at all other governance-related expenses, it would appear feasible. Take the cost of maintaining federal and provincial bureaucracies, for instance: paying the salaries of bureaucrats; maintaining the federal and provincial public service commissions and academies etc.

Paying for election-related expenses of political parties is only a one-time cost and its benefits can be enormous

The bureaucracy only constitutes the mid-tier of the governance structure; the top-tier is occupied by the politicians who formulate the state policy. Paying for election-related expenses of political parties is only a one-time cost and its benefits can be enormous, and it also avoids all the pitfalls of taking contributions from shady individual and corporate donors.

Read more: Political Lessons to learn from Singapore

More cracks in Pakistan’s system

How can one champion democracy on a national level when one refuses to implement representative democracy in one’s home?

Notwithstanding, another major fault in Pakistan’s political system is the refusal of the party chiefs of the two national level political parties: Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), to hold genuine intra-party elections. How can one champion democracy on a national level when one refuses to implement representative democracy in one’s home? Because of this reason, both these political parties have become personality cults and family fiefdoms rather than representative political parties, as such.

Read more: Pakistani Politics after Panama Decision: Lull before the Storm?

The few who do it right

Instead of losing faith in the political system, we must remain engaged in the repetitive electoral process, which delivers in the long run through the scientifically proven trial-and-error method.

The only mainstream political party which has held intra-party elections before the 2013 parliamentary elections is the new entrant in the Pakistani political landscape: that is, Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). Those elections were far from perfect but it was a step in the right direction. Democracy evolves over time. Instead of losing faith in the political system, we must remain engaged in the repetitive electoral process, which delivers in the long run through the scientifically proven trial-and-error method.

Read more: Titanic of Pakistani Politics: PTI & PMLN; Upper Deck & Lower

Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) regularly hold intra-party elections. That is why the Urdu-speaking Mohajir nationalists and the hardline Islamists vote in droves for these political parties, respectively, because they represent the middle class of a section of Pakistani society.

Isn’t it ironic, however, that apart from PTI, the only two political parties in Pakistan that regularly hold intra-party elections and that have created a public fund for the election campaign related expenses are Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI)? No wonder then, the Urdu-speaking Mohajir nationalists and the hardline Islamists vote in droves for these political parties, respectively, because they represent the middle class of a section of Pakistani society.

Had it not been for the racism and militancy of MQM and the hardline Islamist ideology of JI, both these parties would have easily swept the election, the way PTI won an overwhelming mandate in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) in the general elections of 2013.

Read more: Cockroaches- Part 2. The Rule of Law and due process

Another comparison to the west

In the developed Western societies a distinction is generally drawn between power and money. If we take a cursory look at some of the well-known Western politicians; excluding a few billionaires like Trump, others like Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Francois Hollande, all of them were successful lawyers from the middle-class backgrounds before they were elected as executives of their respective countries.

Nowhere in the developed and politically mature West is it allowed for individual candidates to spend money from their own pockets on their election campaigns

The Republican, Democratic, Conservative and Labour parties, all of them accept political contributions which are then spent on the election campaigns of their nominees, which generally are the members of the middle class. Nowhere in the developed and politically mature West is it allowed for individual candidates to spend money from their own pockets on their election campaigns because instead of a political contest, it would then become a contest between the bank accounts of respective candidates.

Read more: Donald Trump Says He Will Accept Election Outcome (‘if I Win’)

money does influence politics even in the Western countries, but only through indirect means like the election campaign financing of political parties, congressional lobbying, and advocacy groups etc.

Although money does influence politics even in the Western countries, but only through indirect means like the election campaign financing of political parties, congressional lobbying, and advocacy groups etc. In the developing, Third World democracies, like India and Pakistan, for instance, only the feudalist, industrialists, and billionaire businessmen can aspire for public offices due to election campaign related expenses, as I have mentioned before, and the middle class and the masses are completely excluded from the whole electoral exercise.

This makes a sheer mockery of the democratic process because how can we expect from the ultra-rich elite to protect the interests of the middle and lower classes? They would obviously enact laws and formulate a public policy which would favor their respective financial interests without any regard for the larger public interest.

Pakistani politics is a monopoly

In Pakistan, politics has become the exclusive monopoly of the feudal Bhutto fiefdom and the industrialist Sharif dynasty; while in India, the elitist Nehru dynasty has practically been kicked out of politics by the BJP due to the former’s neoliberal policies and hereditary leadership.

Read more: Here they come-The Cockroaches from the Wood works!

The fact of the matter is that in Pakistan and India, we have never had a genuinely representative democracy that would cater to the needs and interests of the masses. What we have had so far is quasi-democracy or more appropriately, an “elitocracy,” that protects the interests of moneyed elites of the subcontinent.

Nauman Sadiq is an Islamabad-based attorney, columnist, and geopolitical analyst focused on the politics of Af-Pak and Middle East regions, neocolonialism, and Petro-imperialism. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.

Nauman Sadiq is an Islamabad-based attorney, columnist, and geopolitical analyst focused on the politics of Af-Pak and Middle East regions, neocolonialism, and Petro-imperialism.

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