Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Colombian “Democracy”

By Juan David Ayala

Last Sunday, 11th March, Colombia decided who are going to be the men and women that will take the decisions at congress in the next 4 years. Believe it or not, you, me and the other 48 million people that live here, are going to face the consequences (good or bad) of a decision that was taken by just 15 million; this is NOT about left or right, liberal or conservative: this is about representation.

Almost 36 million people were able to vote and express their will in the elections, but more than 20 million of them let the others take the decision. With a rate of 60% abstention, the decision was made in the name of the majority, but without a real majority in terms of population. Even if that rate of abstention is very high, for the Colombian case it would be considered normal: less than the half of the people participate in decision-making processes, distorting the relation between representatives and represented. 

The majority of the Colombian population don’t consider the vote as something important, no matter the kind of elections; the people just don't consider that as a mechanism to change the things in the country. Less than two years ago, in October 2016, the abstention reached a rate of 62,5%  in the plebiscite votes, that was decisive for the acceptance or denial of the peace treaty after a 50-year war.  As in the legislative elections of 2018,  that decision was not made by the majority of the population.

It is not about the yes or no position, it is about representation again. When less than half of the population decides the future of the entire one, there is not a real representation of all the positions and opinions about the most important topics of the country, because the majority of the people is simply out of the system - not because of a restriction, just because of the lack of interest.

The elections represent the competition between the different perspectives; people choose their direction supporting a candidate to defend some ideas, which is the basis of a representative democracy in general terms, but the reality in Colombia is different.  A common explanation that the people give for this situation is that the majority of the candidates buy votes and are corrupt, but actually not going to vote is not a solution for this problem, it only makes things worse.

Abstention makes it easier to give places to the people that pay for votes. This happens because the votes that are corrupted are more meaningful if the number of total votes is reduced, so this also helps the corrupt candidates to maintain their positions for several periods. If we want to change the country, we must start changing ourselves, and part of that is to comply with our vote at the national or regional decision-making processes. We as nation must change this reality in order to improve our democracy and representation.

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