Can there be too much democracy?
Today France is voting in the Socialist Party primaries, the battle stands between Martine Aubry, François Hollande, Arnaud Montebourg, Ségolène Royal and Manuel Valls. Jean-Michel Baylet, president of the Parti radical de gauche (PRG), is also a candidate.
Contrary to earlier primaries and because the Socialist Party wanted to avoid criticism that it was closed, this election was open to all French citizens listed on electoral lists on December 31, 2010. Foreigners in France were also welcome to vote provided they were full members of the Socialist Party, including the young movement, no later than May 31, 2011. Provided they are members of the Socialist Party, young voters that will be 18 in May 2012, when the Presidential election will take place, are also welcomed to vote.
At the time of writing 2 million had cast their votes, this can only be considered a success. And in many places the number of voters was so high that new ballots had to be procured in haste. Currently Martine Aubry has received 30% of the votes and François Hollande with 40% of votes are in the lead. The primaries have the same structure as the presidential vote and takes place in two rounds. Next round is scheduled to October 15 and 16.
I’m for everything that can augment democracy in our society. Personally, I distrust our society and I find opaque, but I wonder if there can be too many elections? It is an old truth that decisions are made by the ones that show up. But if we are asked to show up too many times, will we even bother to turn up in the end? Or is this kind of elections, a combination of party, national and personal at the same time, the way forward? After all 2 million people took time out of their Sunday to show up and vote. Did we at this election see something new – politicians that managed to engage us in an election that was a cross between a personal election and a party vote? This is after all an election where voters voted “on” someone. I mean it is not as this vote will oust President Sarkozy.
However, I digress, can we have too much democracy in the shape of elections we are asked to participate in? If I’m correct informed in France the elections are Presidential and to the parliament. Then there are regional, to the European Parliament, senate, municipal, and cantonal elections. And now the Socialist Party primaries. In UK the citizens vote in: general, devolved parliaments and assemblies, European Parliament, local and mayoral elections. A smaller country Sweden have three elections the same date: parliament, regional and municipal. Because the European Parliament have a different timing that election is held on another date, and consequently have a low participation. In Switzerland, the elections are national, federal, legislative, and state council.
But why is it I have a feeling that democracy is slumping in our society? That despite all these opportunities to show up and have our say, that we feel less and less listened to? That there is a higher degree of exclusion in our society now than ever before? Is it “simply” a question of politicians that seem clueless and parties that are aloof and doesn’t seem to listen? Is today’s electorate better informed than the politicians think we are? Are politicians treating us for fools (yes!) and as a result we don’t turn up at the urns? Is the success of this vote due to the fact that the voters felt a “connect”? Will this keep for next week – I should perhaps have waited to write this text until then.
Or do we have to many elections, too much democracy and that we suffer from democracy fatigue?