Electoral reforms

Amal Chatterjee
10 min readOct 21, 2022

Source: Google photo

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Synopsis: The honest governance anywhere needs serious electoral reforms that can make the election process transparent and weed out the corrupt people so that honest and poor but qualified people can get the chance to serve the country. Such reforms if implemented can serve the entire country and propel it toward development and prosperity.

The democracy is a beautiful word. All over the world, people long for the freedom to choose their own government that will truly represent them and serve their needs and fulfill their aspirations. There is nothing better than an honest representative government that serves the people, but we live in an imperfect world where the greed for power makes people corrupt. They will do anything to win election that may include outright bribing the voters to get their votes or intimidation and threat of physical violence against those who do not vote for the corrupt politicians.

It is no secret that most politicians become immensely rich when they get elected and start getting commission money from rich contracts when the government buys what it needs to modernize the country. It may be the massive infrastructure development or the purchase of military hardware from abroad or other sources. The commission these middlemen and women make from such deals runs into millions of dollars that make them super rich.

Often these corrupt politicians’ resort to outright extortion of businesspeople and middle-income businessmen with the threat of closing down their business unless they pay the so-called protection money. This is just like the mafia people who forcibly take over the properties of people who refuse to pay them the “protection money” or even kill them.

When they become super rich through corruption, they run for the elected office to become ministers, members of the parliament or other such posts. Some have become leaders of their country while people suffer. They ultimately regret voting for the corrupt people and desire to vote for those candidates who promise to bring in an honest government so that they can live in a free democratic society where the government serves the people and not rule over them with tyranny.

I have lived and worked in many countries where I have seen first-hand the devastating effect of the corrupt governments on the people. We all have heard of the dictator in Romania who built a 1000 room palace for himself and bathed in a bathtub made of gold and we also know what happened to him and his family when people could not tolerate it anymore.

In a totalitarian society where they have a one-man rule, such abuse of power makes people poor and desperate for change, so they start to protest on the streets or through strikes to shut down the factories or the transportation system to paralyze the country but often pay a high price of getting killed or jailed where they are very badly treated.

When poor people asked for bread from the Tsar of Russia, he sent brutal police force to open fire on them outside his palace gate. It led to the Bolshevik revolution in Russia that shot dead the entire family of the Tsar.

Unfortunately, people who want a change in their government in a peaceful manner can only cast their votes in favor of those who promise better governance, reap the consequence of electing corrupt people who make all sorts of promises but forget about them as soon as they get elected.

In fact, it is now very common for the politicians to make fake promises to the voters before the election because they want to win an election through any means. A win means a sure way to get rich quickly with no accountability to the people who elected such a person.

So, a question arises here — why the politicians become so corrupt? The answer lies in the cost of the election process. It takes a lot of money to win an election. It takes money to make rallies during campaign, pay for the cost of assembling a large audience, pay for their transport, often their food and printing the campaign paraphernalia like the manifesto. It takes a lot of money to advertise on TV and radio and it takes a lot of money to charter planes or helicopters to fly to different parts of the country on a short notice for the election campaign rallies.

So, the politicians belong to the political parties that allot tickets to certain candidates who may have a chance to win election in a certain state or region. The political party raises funds to support their candidate and provides on the ground support through their cadres who do not work for free so they must be paid, fed and transported that costs money.

One way they raise funds for their campaign is through the rich businesspeople who make donations to their campaign but in many countries, such donations are made secretly so that the donors are not exposed for their support to a corrupt person. The donors in return demand huge benefits to their business if their candidate wins who may give them huge government contracts to provide certain services.

We all know about the lobbyists in the United States who walk the corridors of power to influence the senators and the congressmen to pass bills that favor their business. They actively try to prevent bills that may hurt their business like the case of the tobacco tycoons who lobbied hard to prevent bills that warned people of the danger of smoking. They failed and are now compelled to print on the cigarette packets the warning that smoking causes cancer, so it hurts their business.

Another way that is more popular with the politicians is the extortion racket they operate to raise funds for their political campaigns. All they have to do is to send their goons to extort money from the rich people. It happens in many countries where such practices discourage the businesspeople to set up business and re-invest money in new projects, so the country suffers. The extortion is not limited to the rich businessmen. It hurts the common people as well. If you set up a small store or build a house, they come to extort money from you. They take commission from the suppliers of the building materials who pass on the added cost to you.

But the most popular way the corrupt politicians make money is through the widespread system of taking commission from any purchase the government makes and from illegal mining, illegal logging, illegal cattle smuggling, drug trafficking etc. They always find new ways of taking commission to enrich themselves like taking huge bribes to give employment to unqualified people for numerous government jobs.

They bribe the police, the border security forces, the lawyers and even the judges to look the other way so that no one takes them to a court of law. They maintain an army of goons who carry on such activities freely who in return get a share of the loot. In case someone is caught and brought to the court, the corrupt lawyers go to defend them and get them released.

This type of corruption filters down to the lowest level of the society where a low-level constable starts to take extortion money from truckers or motorists. Our tour bus in South India was stopped by a policeman who would not let the bus pass unless the driver coughed up some money. The tour operator was legitimate, the bus was legally registered, and the driver made no traffic violation, but the policeman extorted money just the same because he could. There is no accountability for such corrupt people.

I have published a blog called the bane of middlemen that you may read here.). There is another blog that you should read in this context called the Allure of black money here. There is a third blog called An evil nexus here that you should also read.

So, all over the world wherever they practice voting to elect their government, people are demanding electoral reforms that should include transparency in collecting legitimate campaign funding and in spending the money for legitimate reasons.

The corrupt politicians who are not popular, find new ways to suppress the voting rights of people who may not vote for such candidates when threats and intimidation does not work. They can tamper with the voting machines to get votes cast for someone else. They bus in flying voters or illegitimate voters who are given fraudulent voter’s ID.

Many countries have tried and failed to make laws to make meaningful electoral reforms because the law makers are corrupt, so they defeat the bills that do not favor their corrupt practices. If a candidate only campaigns using the free social media to reach the voters, the powerful TV stations cannot make any money from the political advertisement. If the unpaid volunteers who go door to door to campaign for a candidate who is honest, then the paid field workers who work for the corrupt candidate will not like it and may clash with the volunteers.

A change is coming:

Now the Prime Minister of India Mr. Narendra Modi has started the process of making the entire electoral process transparent that has put the corrupt people in a bind. The voter’s list is purged of all the fake voters, flying voters and non-citizens by linking their national ID with their tax ID and their bank accounts. Those who have fake national ID are easily caught and removed from the voter’s list throughout the country.

Every candidate fighting election anywhere in the country must submit his or her tax returns for the last so many years, must declare his assets and how he has acquired them, must show transparency in collecting campaign funds and list of their donors and lastly must present the correct accounting of all expenses to the Election Commission that oversees the election process anywhere.

If a person is found to hoard black money or has properties illegally acquired, he is summoned by the Enforcement Directorate for questioning. ED has put many such people behind bars who are facing years of jail term. Many politicians and businessmen are already in jail in India while a number of them are on bail but may end up in jail in the future as more and more evidence against them pile up through investigation by the crime branch of the NBI and other such branches of the government.

Once found to be guilty of a crime, such people are banned to take part in any future election and their properties and bank accounts are frozen in favor of the government. Those who have fled the country to evade prosecution are being sought through legal means to repatriate them so that justice is served.

Those who are hiding their loot in foreign banks are now being exposed and prosecuted. Their foreign accounts are frozen and their properties in India seized and auctioned off to pay their victims. The chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh state of India sends in the bulldozers to demolish the illegal properties of the corrupt people no matter who they are and what political position they hold. It has made him many mortal enemies, but it does not dissuade him to make life very hard for the criminals.

There is an ongoing effort in India to bring about the judicial reform as well so that the guilty people are punished by the fast-track courts, to send a message to the corrupt people. The long and slow judicial process that may take years to give a verdict needs to change.

Source: Google photo of bulldozers demolishing illegal properties

The electoral reforms that are currently being implemented in India by Mr. Modi is a step in the right direction to bring in fundamental changes in the whole process of election in the country that will make it easy for the poor but honest people to fight an election and win. Barack Obama proved that he could win an election and become the President of the United States without the monetary support from the rich businesspeople. Millions of people volunteered for free to campaign for him.

It is another story that Obama could not bring the electoral reforms by enacting laws because such a move greatly inconvenienced the corrupt people who want to maintain their corrupt practices to win election.

But the electoral process reform is not impossible as Mr. Modi is proving. You cannot change the whole system overnight, but many steps can be taken to allow the honest people to participate in the governance of the country. Only then you can have a government for the people, by the people and of the people that will only serve the people and not rule over them.

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Originally published at http://aumolc.wordpress.com on October 21, 2022.

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Amal Chatterjee

I am the village bard who loves to share his stories.