Elections in a Democracy

Manila Bulletin, January 25, 2008 | Go to article overview

Elections in a Democracy


Byline: Fr. Emeterio Barcelon, SJ

ELECTIONS are divisive. There must be a counter force for unity, strong enough to keep the unity of the group. Without this counter-binding force, the group will disintegrate. This counter force may be an ideology, or a kinship, or a threat of a disaster, which the participants do not wish to happen, or some other value. Elections in a democracy can provoke violence as in the recent killing of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan and the riots and killings in Kenya.

There are many other examples and we Filipinos are very aware of this as it happens in almost all elections we have had. The conclusion is not to have elections. However, it seems the way to choose a leader with the least of possible evils. It is certainly better than allowing might to be the criterion. If we have to have elections, we should prepare for unwanted consequences. In the end, it is important to build the counter force like, love of country, an ideology, a culture of peace and mutual helpfulness, and awareness that all fellow citizens are creatures of God destined for union with God.

At one time, an administrator of the city of San Francisco, they tell me, happened to be a Filipino. He lamented that he was able to help with city funds the Chinese, the Japanese, the Koreans, the Vietnamese and other communities but he could not help the Filipino community there. The reason was that if he helped one of the adversarial groups he would incur the ire of the other groups. I am inclined to believe this was true. An example is when a Filipino community from Province AB in the States has an election; the loser organizes a separate Association of South Province AB. In the next elections, the loser in the elections of the Association of South Province AB will form a new Association of Southeast Province A. The binding force is not strong enough for the losers to keep the association intact. …

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