Wednesday, May 12, 2010
5 Reneging On Democracy
If of 1000 eligible voters, 500 vote (for whatever party), but 500 do not vote, then 50% of eligible voters have expressed—as the laws stand now—a disinterest in the state. As long as the voter is not formally identified by an electronic mark on h-h (his-her) ID papers, the 500 not-voters are anonymous and are collectively referred to as nonvoters. More accurately, they are abstentionists or even better—not-voters.
If the 500 nonvoters did not vote because the government in their opinion is so corrupt that in the name of good government h-h have no choice but to not-vote, their just reasons stands to be unjustly accused of disinterest in the state and government—because there is no mechanism that allows h-h to cast a not-vote. THIS IS WHY IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT WE SEE THE INSTITUTION OF A NOT-VOTE.
If the not-vote is formally recognized as a legitimate vote (and why should it not be?), then of the 1000 eligible voters, 500 will have voted for the government, but 500 will have cast not-votes for the government. Therefore, the result will be hung elections and 2nd elections will need to take place. Because a 100% accuracy of 500 vs 500 votes is unlikely, lawmakers and statisticians can work out the percentage of “error” that is allowed and will allow the elections to stand. Of course, those of the 1000 who did not vote and chose to remain nonvoters, risk a penalty. For example, a life-time 4x not-vote will cause one automatically to lose citizenship, which will effect, say, whether one is or is not eligible for a pension and certain expensive health care.
Given that we live in the IT age, and statistics has replaced the absolutism of a simplistic ON vs OFF and YES vs NO vote—an instrument which makes the Constitution an absolutist document—the time has come to institute a NOT-VOTE. The Latvians (the country of my birth) and the world at large are certainly in a great need of it.
How is a not-vote to be instituted in a state and nation (actually all modern states and nations), where the Constitution allows for no replacement of itself? This is a problem that must be solved. Because why would one not want to change or rework the Constitution that has outgrown its usefulness or its usefulness has been compromised by its capture by an autocratic power?
As stated earlier, the IT age makes it possible for this difficulty to be resolved. If you have a voter’s card imbedded in your mobile phone or home computer, your ID, besides for being a pro-vote, nonvote, and not-vote would also register the voting public’s instant reaction on a visual graph to all questions of importance to the society as a whole. If the percentage registered a 70-80% unity on a question, the issue would be automatically put to a formal referendum (in effect a seconding) that would then be put to a formal vote 3 or 4 months later.
The only way that this blogger sees how such a Constitutional change may be brought about with mental rather than physical exercise is by way of the NOT-VOTE. Absent its institutionalization, the not-vote has to find itself by doing it, not-voting. The percentage of not-voters ought to ring bells. Today the bells would “ring”, as they used to say in the old days, “the phone off the hook.”
By letting the people know and understand that a not-vote, if organized, is effective political action, a not-violent act, the voters may, for a period (perhaps the seven years foreseen by the Weimar Constitution) empower an authoritarian government. It would be followed by a government subject to popular vote for a seven year term 3x perhaps. Then the Latvian uncle Kārlis Ulmanis would again look over the nation’s shoulders and offer some advice.
THIS IS WHY IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT THERE BE A NOT-VOTE.
The snubbing by the Saeima of Dainis Īvāns—one of the spirits of Tautas Fronte (The People’s Front), the mover and shaker of “The Singing Revolution” two decades ago—as one to address the Latvian Saeima on the 4th of May was a telling act. The 4th of May is the date when Latvia formally declared the renewal of its independence from the Soviet Union. It has not gone unnoticed that by its act Saeima told the people that Īvāns represents few it knows or it cares what they think about Latvia’s future. It knows better.
This audacious snub occurs at a time of profound crisis, one that involves the economy, finance, jobs, a roof over the head, bread on the table, and not least education. Perhaps as many as 200,000 have left Latvia for what seems a better existence, a job, almost any job. Latvians are the optimists of Europe, because if Europe betrays them by failing to find the authority to unite Europe and help Latvia write a new Constitution, there will not be Latvians long left except as residents of any administrative district.
Things have arrived to this nub because of, for one, the atrocious IMF rules. Such once were known as “bulls”, divinely inspired directives that overrode any other way or constitution, democracy including. Of course the Saeima is doing all that it is doing as a saint, except a not-vote will let it know that the people dispute its self-ratings. In short, it is time for parliamentary democracy to be replaced by direct democracy. But it can only be instituted through the intervention of an authoritarian government.
With a Parliamentary system of government and a largely disempowered president at its helm (the Weimar Constitution acting as inspiration to the concoction), the cores of parties under control of oligarchs and corporations with rights of individuals, the partidocracy sees the world through eyes all its own. Latvia as a community limps forward under the charisma of irresolution come by a severe infection with Conspicuous Consumption, even as it leaves 250,000 of its 2.3 million inhabitants sans citizenship.
Yes, I understand the problem brought by demographic death spiral to a language and a community worth its name. However, a refusal to look the problem in the eye does not make it better. A government that sulks is hurting all of the inhabitants of the country. How does a voter discomfit a government enough to get it moving? This is where the “not-voting” citizen comes in.
Twice the political system has reached a point where it has put the state of Latvia in a flower pot. The excuse the first time around was that the authoritarian rule of Karlis Ulmanis was ended prematurely (the Weimar Constitution allows the President seven years in office) by the infamous Hitler-Ribentrop pact. Though officially such a seven year Presidency is not something that is part of the Latvian Constitution, its association with the Weimar Constitution gives Kārlis Ulmanis a legitimacy by an undertow of associations.
However, what is the legitimacy of the Saeima twenty years into the renewed republic of Latvia worth, when the forces that enabled its re-emergence from Soviet occupation are become of nuisance value to it? The populist spirit behind the People’s Front no longer interests the Saeima. In fact, it is obvious that it is rather in the way.
If most of the people who are not-voters at this time by way of opinions expressed, perhaps their breath will be better spent on a march to Riga to express NOT-VOTER sentiments. Such an event could reawaken the populist spirit that wants a vision of economic development that points not toward yesterday, but takes into account the likely circumstances of tomorrow and acts.
Asterisks & Other Readings
Compulsory voting in the EU Parliamentary elections
The abstentionist elephant
One country, two systems
Bill Moyers last interview. The Populist Moment
Eso's Chronicles, the beginnings of my blogs
These blogs tend to be a continuum of an idea or thought, which is why—if you are interested in what you read—you are encouraged to consider reading the previous blog and the blog hereafter.
Partial entries of my blogs may be found at LatviansOnline + Forum Home + Open Forum – The-Not-Voter. If you copy this blog for your files, or copy to forward, or otherwise mention its content, please credit the author and http://the-not-voter.blogspot.com/