There has been much talk in the media about whether Pakistan’s ‘President’ Pervez Musharraf will be able to rig the outcome of yesterdays general election. [18.02.08] That he wishes to do so is obvious to all, as Musharraf’s very presence in the Presidential Palace is an indictment of the fact he rigged his own election to that office. Although this time around due to the unpopularity of Musharraf and the Pakistan Muslim League [Q], that represents his views, it will be far more difficult for the ‘president’ to steal this election and by all accounts the opposition have done extremely well.
Nevertheless there is a factor about this election that is rarely mentioned in the western media and that is who ever wins, rigged or not, they will not have a democratic mandate as we in the West understand it.
For in Pakistan any citizen who does not have a university degree is ineligible to stand for Parliamentary office, now in a country in which there is little free State education, this restriction bars the majority of the population from standing as a candidate for Parliamentary office. Educationally the best most of the country’s workers and peasants can hope for is to receive a basic primary school education, secondary school and university are not even on the majorities horizon. Such educational establishments are the preserve of the economically rich and the middle classes.
Thus come election time it is these classes who compete for elected office, workers and peasants have legally been removed from the fray, leaving the field clear for the upper middle class to share out the constituencies amongst themselves. True they rely on the votes of the workers of countryside, town and city, but if they are able to do so the ruling elite either coral, intimidate or bribe them to attain their votes. It is impossible not to conclude that this democratic deficit which is at the heart of Pakistani’s electoral system, is the main reason for the country’s endemic political corruption, which has eaten away at the nations soul since it first gained independence.
Yet this is very rarely mentioned in the western media; when interviewed, the likes of the late Mrs Benazir Bhutto or General Musharraf will waffle on about the workers and peasants not being interested in politics. Which is an obscene lie, to understand that one only needs to see the massive crowds that turn out for political meeting in Pakistan, or witness the support the masses give to an honest candidate.
Of course this trick of placing restrictions on who can stand for public office is nothing new, as the middle classes did much the same in the UK, where right up to the 1950s there were restrictions on peoples democratic rights. [for example around the ownership of property, only men could vote, and then women over 30, etc etc]
Having taken there lead from the US Neo-conservatives and their Multinational financiers, the British political establishment, whether Labour or Conservative, have taken with some relish to exporting ‘democracy’ on the end of British army bayonets. Perhaps it is time we all looked a little closer at the flaws in the democracies our political class have become the cheer leaders for. They give two reasons for supporting the likes of Musharraf, Sharif, and the late Mrs Bhutto with millions of pounds of tax payers money, one is the bulwark against terrorism nonsense and the other is that they are democrats.
Is it any wonder the Pakistani masses, having been excluded from the core of the democratic process, refuse to take up their alloted role as ballot box fodder, let alone follow our politicos lead and applaud such a democratic sham.