Pitfalls of the Two Party System

Source: directionsmedia.net

Source: directionsmedia.net

The American media is never short of opinions expressing shock at the several fringe political movements appearing in the country from time to time.

Over the years, we have seen the emergence of progressive Green Party enthusiasts backing a Ralph Nader presidency in the wake of progressive discontent from the Clinton years, arguably costing the Democrats the 2000 election. We have witnessed the Occupy Wall Street movement standing up to the role of financial corporations in the recession of the 2000s, and ending with the disappointment of more corporate bailouts from the liberal Democrat leadership. And we have seen the rise of the much demonized libertarian-leaning Tea Party movement standing up against the rising taxation and regulatory policies of the progressive Democrats and President Obama. This group has been voicing its dissatisfaction and frustration over a Republican Congress failing to reflect their demands, despite a massive mid-term victory in 2014.

The latest “fringe” wave of the populist anti-immigration sentiment rising ironically with the Presidential campaign of billionaire businessman Donald Trump is yet again shocking the world. Something which absolutely must have no place in the discourse of American politics, which should remain absolutely confined to the Democratic and Republican party.

There is really nothing new about the anti-immigration sentiment. We have seen political parties in Europe winning on the anti-immigration, anti-Euro platform, and some could argue that the recent remarkable voting performance of the UKIP and the ultimate victory of the Conservative Party is one such instance in the very liberal United Kingdom.

Regardless of the morality of this political view, reasonable questions should be asked why it cannot find its due place in the American representative politics. Especially considering the fact that what is painted the anti-immigration stance of the Donald Trump campaign is actually not against immigration, but only for taking strict action against illegal immigration. This is not just a right wing phenomenon, as we have seen such sentiment in the campaign of progressive Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders, who considers open borders a “right wing proposal,” probably referring to the libertarian movement. But there really should be no mentions of any such proposed policy, with the only accepted versions being the official positions of the Democratic and Republican parties.

Any candidate that deviates from the establishment positions is an extremist and must not get the party nomination. Regardless of the fact how many among the general public support those positions. Marijuana legalization, on which the positions of the Libertarian and Green party are pretty clear, is one issue which has garnered overwhelming support from the American public lately. However, on the federal level, both establishment parties oppose the legalization, and are funding the controversial and unpopular war on drugs.

Even for the fans of obstructive government mechanism in the Presidential system of the United States like me, the two party system seems too exclusive for comfort. I am a strong proponent of separating the executive branch from the legislative, as opposed to the blurring lines in the Parliamentary system. However, you cannot help but marvel at the inadequacies of the two party system. Granted that America has a proud two-party political structure, that is apparently as simple as it is complex, but is it truly reflective of the ideological diversity of the country?

The two party system sounds like the sort of absolutist scenario that offers almost unlimited powers to the executive in the Parliamentary system. Either you are for an issue or against it, with no ifs and buts in between. Which does not even make any sense, because on most issues, both parties agree where it matters, and in the recent years, there really has not been any regulation with the exception of the Affordable Healthcare Act that significantly altered the state of affairs in a partisan manner.

Undoubtedly, both Democratic and Republican parties have room for a variety of ideas and positions on various issues. However, the candidates that eventually win nominations for the executive branch often have centrist and moderate views, and opinions which could be referred to be aligned with the establishment positions. This could also be said to be reflective of the moderate and centrist political approach of the people of the United States, but does this notion hold true on every issue?

Of course, there are more than two political parties in the United States, but what if they had the representation in the federal legislature as well? In any case, there really is no reason why a multiparty system should not work in a Presidential system in the United States. It might change the clear role of majority for one party and minority for another. I think it just does not work because the electoral system and media do not offer any margin for it, discouraging independent voters to even consider the option due to the lack of electability. But what if it becomes a possibility one day?

Maybe it would shock the US media less about certain fringe political positions, or unconventional Presidential candidates.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.
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Voting By Candidate

Source: thekooza.com

Source: thekooza.com

I have grown up hearing that you should always vote for the party and the ideology. Well, it makes sense too because with more seats, the party would possibly gain a majority and the people who remotely share a fraction of your political world view could become decision makers. But does that mean you should turn a blind eye to the candidates?

But thanks to our parliamentary system, this voting approach has a severe drawback. Particularly for undecided voters and particularly for people who are not voting for ideology. I guess there would be a lot of educated voters in the upcoming 2013 general elections in this regard.

To most people, the general elections for National and Provincial Assembly representatives are a substitute for Presidential or Prime Ministerial elections. They vote for Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan or Asif Zardari, rather than considering the candidates. Probably it is the same for the rest of the parties too.

I am even told by many that they would vote for a pole if it runs for the party or the leader of their choice. Others would vote for fly-over bridges and construction and development projects, which is a somewhat better approach, But obviously hardly anyone concentrates on their legislative stance and ability.

A lot of people vote for the legislature candidates as if they were voting for a councilor or a mayor, and that is the value they get in the end. But probably it is not their fault. We have a terrible parliamentary system prevalent in this country which only lets people vote for their representatives, but not for their Senators, Governors, Chief Ministers, Presidents or even Prime Ministers.

Furthermore, the 5 year term of a government is ridiculously long. I can hardly think of any better system than the bicameral US Presidential system which has 2 year terms for the representatives, though a long term of 6 years for the senators. But it is an electoral system which allows the US people to elect all of their representatives and even mayors directly. The parliamentary system seems autocratic in comparison.

Now they have even worsened this terrible electoral system in the 18th Amendment to the 1973 Constitution during the last term by introducing and unanimously voting for the Article 63 (A) about disqualificaiton on the grounds of defection. It is an article which requires every member of the legislature to vote according to the party lines or have their membership terminated.

How undemocratic is that. I actually find its passage hard to believe, and our politicians have the audacity of incessantly boasting about it. I can’t imagine a democracy without individual freedom and liberty.

How is this for treason to democratic values? At least it goes to show that there is no respect for individual freedom and individual opinion in Pakistan. Then why worry if the message is reflected at the grassroots?

This clearly goes to show that democracy has “not been able to work” in Pakistan because several provisions in the constitution are not democratic in the first place.

But when voting for a party is thrust upon you as a moral responsibility, you are hardly worried about factors such as these.

But when I look at a candidate, and I imagine whether I would want him or her to represent my constituency or not, I would really find myself responsible for the sake of spending public money the right way to assign the right person to the job. Well at least they must be able to read and understand the constitution, even if that means voting for a candidate who would get a total of 63 votes. I am mentioning that figure for a reason.

Malik Ibrar Campaigning - Source: Official facebook Page

PML (N) Candidate – Malik Ibrar Campaigning – Source: Official facebook Page

PPP Candidate Zamurd Khan campaigning - Source: pakistanleaders.com.pk

PPP Candidate Zamurd Khan campaigning – Source: pakistanleaders.com.pk

PTI Candidate Hina Manzoor Campaigning - Source Official facebook Page

PTI Candidate Hina Manzoor Campaigning – Source Official facebook Page

I need to vote in the NA-54 constituency where the major contenders are the incumbent Malik Ibrar Ahmed of PML-N, Zamurd Khan of PPP and Hina Manzoor of PTI, apart from other members from the JI, JUI (F), MQM, ANP and independent ones which are not expected to get much votes, like always. The candidates for the PP-10 Punjab Assembly constituency are much worse and picking the right canddiate would be an easier task there.

While I largely find myself undecided over the current constitutional and electoral mess, I would surely vote and I would try to vote by candidates. I am not saying there is anything wrong to vote by parties. Do so by all means. But I believe that evaluating the candidates is just as important.

While I am disechanted by the last parliament for unanimously voting for the controversial clause about Article 63 (A) in the 18th amendment, by the same rationale, I could just as well vote for just about any candidate not elected to the last parliament term.

But is that really the answer? Because provided our brilliant parliamentary system, any member you vote for would simply vote on party lines, regardless of what they want and how terrible the party stance is. Slavery could never have been abolished in the United States if they had such a constitutional provision. This largely destroys the purpose of voting for choosing the legislator for your constituency, because you are actually choosing no one, as rightly pointed out by some in my family.

I wish I could possibly not vote for gangs, because this is what political parties wearing the most civilized and democratic façade are acting like. And it is such a shame. Sadly, it is behavior like this that extremists and undemocratic forces like the Taliban would like to see, which in the end means that you have no choice but to stick to “lesser evils.”

That is why we need to criticize the autocratic legislation of our political parties loudly and clearly more than ever before if we are to ensure the establishment of true democratic values and principles in this country. But I know I must vote to send out a strong and clear message to those who do not want me and all of you to.

But it’s all really confusing and I would rather like to wait till May 11 to make up my mind.

Till then, I’d rather vote for the person I’d hire.