Fischer, Tim, Business Asia
POLITICAL YEAR 2001 has started with a busy round of elections (Portugal, Thailand) and Presidential Inaugurations (Philippines, USA) to mention some, but is democracy truly alive and well?
At the true start of the new century and millennium, the degree of democracy varies sharply around the world. On top of that, there is a cynicism and disconnect developing which will need to be managed very closely.
Welcome to the era of the politics of disconnect democracy. It is a reflection of changing attitudes in the community and of conflicting demands upon government of pushing goal posts out beyond reach.
Above all else, it is being driven along by a media with instant assessment, instant news coverage, instant minutiae and, at the end of the day, a feeling by all stakeholders that to some extent we have lost the plot -- that we have lost the way.
It is laced with deep-seated cynicism, whereby nobody trusts a political statement or promise, unless and until it is actually delivered in spades.
The approaching phase of the politics of disconnect democracy involve very tricky political management to handle various conflicting demands. For example:
* People say we must have balanced budgets, and then say we must have more expenditure on projects x, y and z, particularly in the local region; and
* People say we must have systematic approaches to complex policy areas such as superannuation taxation, which in most OECD countries are crying out for simplification. This involves coordination and strong political leadership operating through modern parties. Yet equally, given a chance, the same people will vote for a colourful independent ahead of political parties more often than not these days.
What then are the actual definitions of these concepts?
In short, the politics of disconnect democracy can be defined as when the parliaments and all of the major political parties are out of step with the people. The politics of connect democracy are when the parliaments and the major political parties are seen to be and are in step with the aspirations of the people.
Now, it could be said efficiently operating democracy removes the disconnect and provides the reconnect at every fairly conducted election. …