Wednesday, May 8, 2013

This is How They Deal with Defeat in Other Mature Democracies

Given Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's love of Washington politics and America's Democratic Party, it's a shame he hasn't learned from their recent history about how to deal with electoral defeat with grace, dignity and via the proper legal channels.
If Anwar took time to examine, for example, what happened to 2000 Democratic Presidential candidate Al Gore, he would find that that Gore was a man who really could claim to be on the end of a "stolen" poll, but dealt with it without calling people onto the streets in an attempt to destabilise the Government.
Yes, Gore had every right to feel angry, denied victory in part by the so-called hanging chads in the state of Florida – partially punched voting cards that were hotly disputed in his legal challenge. He complained, and he complained loudly. But he didn't call for "people power" to challenge the result, he didn't try to fill a stadium for grandstanding, and he certainly didn't allege a conspiracy involving the Republican Party and "complicit" election commission officials, as Anwar alleged here.
Instead he let the matter go before the U.S. Supreme Court over eight long weeks and then after the Court ruled against him, he did the noble thing by announcing "for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession."
In other words, Al Gore put the exercise of democracy ahead of his own ambitions.
In Westminster politics too, there is a tradition of playing by the referee's decision, no matter how unfair it seems at the time.
Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam was sacked by the country's Governor General during the 1975 constitutional crisis and lost the subsequent election. Yes, he complained bitterly; but when told by constitutional lawyers there were no grounds for a legal challenge, he bowed out of politics.
In the United States, Britain, Australia and in all systems of democracy there is a pattern that is observed following an election which is important and normal. The loser concedes the election and then telephones the victor to privately congratulate him. The losers can, as mentioned, challenge the legality of the poll or of a close result in individual seats, and if they choose that route then they must then step back and let justice take its course.
The only part of this tradition that Anwar fulfilled is the threat of legal action.
For the sake of our democracy, he needs to file his application and then live by what the court decides. That's the correct way of doing things in a mature democracy.

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