2018 general election: Discerning before we vote

Now that we are fast-approaching election day, it is time for us to evaluate the various parties, their manifestos and their candidates.

Apr 13, 2018

By Anil Netto
Now that we are fast-approaching election day, it is time for us to evaluate the various parties, their manifestos and their candidates.

Even though Jesus told Pilate, whatever authority the Roman prefect had was given to him from above, we can be sure that it is not part of God’s plan to have unjust or oppressive governments to rule over us.

While Scripture tells us to we are obliged to obey political authority, this is not a blank cheque: we cannot condone anything that is morally wrong.

The Second Vatican Council told us: “It is legitimate for them (citizens) to defend their own rights and those of their fellow citizens against abuses of this authority within the limits of the natural law and the law of the Gospel.”

Such a situation could occur “when citizens are under the oppression of a public authority which oversteps its competence” (Gaudium et Spes/The Church in the Modern World, 1965).

Some sage advice from Moses’ father-in-law, who advised the prophet in Genesis 18:21: “from the people at large choose capable and God-fearing men, men who are trustworthy and incorruptible, and put them in charge of them as heads of thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.”

In today’s context, it would be mean voting for incorruptible men or women candidates in the coming election. This means we have to discern which of the candidates or parties are less likely to be corrupt or even kleptocratic.

But not just incorruptible, they and their parties have to be trustworthy. While the choice before us may be stark, that doesn’t mean we should compromise or close an eye to the shortcomings or flaws of our favoured parties and candidates that make them less trustworthy.

Corruption takes many forms, not all of them immediately obvious. Besides outright handing of cash (‘under counter’), there could be transfers to foreign bank accounts in obscure places and in tax havens. There could be hidden stakes or proxy shareholdings or interests in profitable firms.

Electoral corruption can also take the form of politicians buying votes from people in so many different ways – whether before or after the election. This must be rejected and condemned as blatant inducements.

Be aware that even if a candidate is perceived to be free from corruption, they may still betray the trust of voters by cosying up to foreign powers and Big Business at the expense of the public interest.

They may betray the interests of people by putting profits and ‘growth’ ahead of the interests of workers and the environment.

Beware also of parties or candidates that might accept excessive amounts of funding or assistance from corporate interests or developers. What’s wrong in receiving funding or help from such companies? Well, once a party is elected to power, those companies or tycoons may then expect “payback” in the form of return favours and awards of contracts.

This is also the time to demand an end to all oppressive laws – no matter the party or the candidate.

Do the parties and candidates have a track record of working towards greater democracy, social solidarity and security, or pro-people policies? Are they really concerned about the interests of the poor and the marginalised – or are their words just gula-gula (sweeteners) to win votes and once in power they gravitate towards Big Business?

Do the parties and candidates reject the politicisation of ethnicity and religion or are they using primordial sentiments to win votes?

And what of climate change? Have any of the contesting candidates and parties vowed to work hard to promote sustainable development, renewable energy, less consumption (horrors!?) and minimal depletion of natural resources? Or are these seen as unrealistic struggles best left for another day?

What do the respective parties have to say about social solidarity? How serious are they about environmental care and concern?

The electoral system itself is skewed heavily towards rural areas. The latest round of constituency boundary changes has created a large gap between the average seat size (in terms of number of voters) in ruling party and opposition party areas.

And the expansion of postal voters to 12 categories of civil servants for inexplicable reasons means that will very likely be less transparency in so many votes.

So the odds are stacked against ordinary voters. All of us have a moral obligation to go out and vote for representatives of our choice. (Hopefully you have registered as a voter in the coming general election!)

Don’t waste our right to vote. And make sure it is an informed choice.

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