THERE has been a heated debate over the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the next general elections. While the ruling party favours EVMs as part of electoral reforms to strengthen democracy, the opposition fears otherwise. But there is another factor involved in the whole debate which is often ignored.

Let us suppose for a moment that our election process is completely fair and free. Is that a panacea to all the ills that plague democracy?

I do not think that is the case. Socrates argued that the world’s conception of democracy is totally flawed. He propounded the concept of ‘intellectual democracy’. While the former grants voting right to every eligible citizen, the latter caters only to the skilled pool of population.

By ‘skilled’ Socrates meant the ‘educated’ lot of people who have political awareness, who are cognizant of the government structure and functioning of a nation; people who are aware of the tenets of democracy, and who can analyse and astutely resolve problems.

So are we in that ‘skilled’ category? Regrettably, many of our denizens have no idea what a vote of no-confidence is, what external debt means, or what lies under the jurisdiction of the local governments. Many of our ministers also have shallow expertise in the fields they are supposed to manage.

Is it judicious to allow these people to decide who should rule the nation and run the national affairs? Obviously, they should not be allowed to do so. It is just a recipe for disaster and won’t serve the purpose.

Socrates argued that only the ‘skilled’ lot should vote for the right person. With almost 40 per cent of our voters being illiterate, and a regressive and extremist mindset ruling the roost, the selection of an able leader by them is unlikely and it will remain a distant dream. Before dreaming of real democracy, the officialdom, civil society, the media and all the voters should ask themselves some simple questions. Do we really know what our country is going through and who will take it out of the chaos? Do we have that ‘skilled’ lot which can choose the right man for the leadership?

Ashraf Ahmed Shah

Published in Dawn, November 30th, 2021



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