Undemocratic parties in a democratic system


WEB DESK: Although vote bank of the Jamaat-e-Islami is quite small, it happens to be most democratic internally. It holds regular elections, quite often precipitating changes at the top and takes positions on vital national issues after intense deliberations at the level of consultative council. The Pakistan Muslim League (N), on the other end, enjoys a mass appeal and has the largest vote bank, but inside, it is least democratic.

‘This inverse relationship is worrying,’ says the Pildat report, issued this week on development of internal democracy in eight major political parties of Pakistan during 2015 as compared to the year before. However, it stopped short of concluding that the absence of internal democracy, in otherwise very popular parties, tends to breed autocracy. In actuality, almost all the big vote-getting parties are merely the ‘lengthening shadows of their leaders’. According to the report, the other two popular parties – Pakistan People’s Party and Muttahida Quami Movement – that too have large vote banks, but very little democracy within.

And, for those who never tire of accusing Imran Khan of possessing a dictatorial mindset, Pildat has bad news: His Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has been rated among the first three who have plenty of internal democracy, a fact established by popularly contested party elections in 2012-13. In between the Jamaat and PTI stands the National Party of the late Mir Ghous Bux Bizenjo for the second position, the principal reason for its good score being the ease with which it has been changing its top leadership.

According to the Pildat rating regime, ideally a political party should score 100 points by fully meeting nearly a dozen conditions, including internal democracy, democratic decision-making process and credible party accounts. On this scale the Jamaat-e-Islami scored 56 points, NP 47 and PTI 44. The PML (N), which is in power at the Centre and in Punjab and Balochistan sits at the bottom of the ranking with just 31 points. Interestingly, the Jamaat’s once ally but now a rival, Maulana Fazlur Rehman-headed JUI is abysmally short of internal democracy, and thus shares the second last position with the MQM with 33 points.

Had the Pildat compared parties vote tallies with their performance in the legislative house they so furiously fight to become members, the picture would have been quite disturbing. Take the case of popularly elected prime minister of Pakistan, Mr Nawaz Sharif. Didn’t he show horrendous disrespect to the National Assembly by materialising in the house after the absence of 89 days and that too only for half an hour. In reality, Nawaz is not first among the equals, but he is above all others in the federal cabinet which rubberstamps his decisions.

The Pildat’s ranking takes into account how often a political party holds ‘competitive’ party elections – the emphasis is on competitive, because more often than not party elections are top leader’s selections. It also tries to look into, and invariably finds, that there is a growing trend of dynastic leadership – in an ambience of the ‘son also rises’. Does a particular party smilingly puts up with dissenters within its ranks? The Pildat struggles to find a plausible answer to this question by looing into that aspect of internal democracy and what it finds must be very disturbing.

The reality is that in Pakistan, and in this it is not alone as quite a few other countries from the developing world also nurture dictatorship under the garb of democracy. For example, only yesterday while his electoral opponent was behind bars Yoweri Museveni of Uganda was declared elected as President of this African country for the fifth term. In there the political parties are being run as corporate entities. And we are not going to get rid of this perverted democracy anytime soon – see how the most democratic party, Jamaat-e-Islami has one of the lowest vote banks.

Source: Business Recorder