If we take a practical definition of a democracy, it’s a system which gives power to the people by letting them choose and replace governments through free and fair elections. Most people then go on to reason that ‘fair’ implies each individual’s vote has equal significance. This is where they are wrong. Multiple countries have had long histories of electoral fraud under the supposed guise of ‘Democracy’, and that’s why I think the power it holds as a word is severely diminished.
I’ve already written about some of the undemocratic elements of the American voting system so let me start by presenting you with an example of where the UK could be more ‘fair’ compared to how it currently conducts elections. As it stands, the UK has 650 constituencies and for a party to form a government on its own it must gain a majority of these seats.
Are these constituencies equally populated though?
That’s an excellent question you’ve asked, dear reader! The answer is no. In fact, the smallest electorate for a constituency in the UK (as of 2015) was around 21,000. The largest? 108,000. This means some people are 5 times more well-represented than others. Furthermore, this localist system that the UK currently uses creates some inordinate results. This creates an even larger disproportionality on a nationwide level, which can be seen through the fact that David Cameron won 37% of the popular vote and a decisive 51% of seats. The rest is history. Many critics of this result have called for proportional representation to be introduced, whereby the popular vote would be consistent with the number of seats a party would receive.
But some say this could also be quite problematic. If we used proportional representation then forming a government would be pretty difficult considering the likelihood of a single party passing the 50% threshold in the UK is…well, impossible. The incumbent Conservatives are (oddly) having a purple patch when it comes to polling (which should be taken with a pinch of salt) and even then they poll around 42%. This is why I would having an alternative vote. It would better gauge the voting intention of everyone, and would leave us with a government that could govern. This was rejected by the public back in 2011 though, so there are no signs of our current system being reformed for the better.
If you think that the UK has a problem, then let me be the first to let you know that in America it is far, far, worse.
Gerrymandering is redrawing electoral boundaries to suit a particular party. You would think such an underhanded practice would be outlawed in the USA, but it has happened time and time again. This disenfranchises voters with ridiculous boundaries put it place simply to further the agenda of a party. When the word democracy is thrown around, are people aware of how easily it can be violated?
Below is an example of what I’m talking about.
I could go on and on and on about democratic countries with some very undemocratic customs, but the message I’m sending out to them all is the same. Democracy is a bastardised word. Using this word for a country as justification for people being given a say is misleading as this can be manipulated all too easily.
Agree, disagree? Drop a comment below!