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More important than electing officials, today must lead to good governance

May 13, 2019

TRUE to our constitutional and democratic tradition, we mark Election Day today across the entire archipelago.

No doubt our people will once again demonstrate their enthusiasm and support for their representative democracy and the Constitution.

It is a profound irony that for a nation that was annexed by America on the pretext that it would teach our people the art or science of self-government, we Filipinos exercise suffrage much more eagerly than our supposed mentors.

Filipino voters turn out to vote at a vastly greater rate than their American counterparts.

In this 2019 midterm elections, we will record a voter turnout of nearly 90 percent, perhaps even better. Americans at best can only scratch a turnout of barely 57 percent in both their presidential and midterm elections.

How did it happen that Filipinos take suffrage far more seriously than our American brothers?

Is this because our people are comparatively poorer, and many get monetary rewards for voting?

Or is it rather because our people – the masses as well as the elite – really believe their votes matter. They care who will govern them and their public life.

Americans never tire of preaching to the world about the great importance of holding free and credible elections. They cannot practice what they preach.

Short of running for office, voting is one of the best ways to get involved in the political process.

Although Americans quarrel a lot over politics nowadays, it has been said that US voter turnout is low because people feel their votes don’t matter since they believe wealthy Americans control Washington, D.C.

Is this true of most developed countries in the West?

No. The United States simply sports one of the worst voting figures among developed countries.

Roughly 56 percent of America’s voting-age population voted in the 2016 presidential election, according to Pew Research Center. That’s more than the numbers who turned out for the 2012 election, but less than the 58.3 percent who voted in 2008. In either case, both numbers are way behind those of most developed countries.

Belgium in 2014, Sweden in 2014, and Denmark in 2015 all had more than 80 percent of registered voters cast ballots. More than 87 percent of Belgians went to the polls in 2014.

Among American states with the worst voter turnout are the biggest US states: California, New York and Texas. The bigger they are, the lazier they are in voting.

Voter turnout is bad throughout the United States, but it’s worst in Hawaii. It’s the only state where less than 50 percent of voters cast ballots; barely more than 47 percent of people voted in 2016.

Voter turnout is the percentage (or number) of eligible voters who cast ballots on election day. By this measure, the Philippines clearly is no slouch as a representative democracy.

Having said that, we want to make a second important point today.

The principal purpose of holding national elections is not only to elect our representatives in government, in the legislative and executive branches of government.

The exercise is not just about filling up posts in the House of Representatives and the Senate, and in our provincial, city and municipal governments.

Thousands of positions are at stake in the elections today.

Every candidate we elect today will become part of the public payroll. In some cases, it could mean entire families entering the government payroll.

The full objective of an election, however, is to produce good governance for the nation and our local communities.

Democracy is perverted when an election produces only bodies whom the public will pay, and fails to produce officials who will man and lead effective and responsible public institutions.

Good governance means the responsibility and effectiveness of public officials and governing bodies in meeting the needs of the masses and the whole society.

This is what the election must produce.

Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net

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