After the recent Local Government Elections in Mauritius, where the turnout was traditionally low (45%), with countless articles trying to justify the rampant rate of electoral absenteeism, one obscure aspect demands some more in-depth analysis. There are people who consider voting as a completely futile exercise, others who consider it as a core feature for the proper functioning of a democratic system while others think that the whole process of voting is a favour, from THEIR side. This third category could be referred to as ‘assisted’ voters, who need a tremendous push to do their duty towards the maintenance of democracy in the country. During the electoral campaign and particularly on Election Day, this trend has been conspicuously highlighted.
Prior to Election Day, during political meetings, free transport, meals and drinks have to be catered for the ‘assisted’ voters in the battle of the crowds. On Election Day, while in the past, elderly, ill or disabled people were given a helping hand in the form of lifts in political activists’ vehicles to cast their votes, a wholly different picture is being played nowadays, although the polling stations are within a reasonable distance from people’s houses. Now, completely hale and hearty people are refusing to go to vote unless there are standby vehicles transporting them back and forth. They are also given their voter registration number at the ‘tables’ to facilitate the process, although the assistance is readily available and instructions are crystal clear at the polling stations. Has voting become such a tedious business altogether ?
Next, there are other ‘assisted’ voters who will vote solely on the condition of getting a favour, a push, a job, a contract or whatever other advantage. If you do not promise anything nor agree to their proposals, they will not budge an inch to do their civic duty, although they have the golden opportunity to express their dissatisfaction against the system through the power of their votes. ‘Give and take. ‘ This is the unfortunate mantra playing on everyone’s lips, which accounts for many cases of electoral bribery. Unless there is an active demand, there would not be that substantial rate of supply. If everyone had considered it duty-bound to vote, while bearing in mind the historical struggles involved in securing the right to vote for them, maybe the rate of ‘assisted voters’ could then be addressed. But it takes a good dose of common sense and an intrinsic sense of responsibility from ALL stakeholders for that to happen. Until then, the carrot will have to be kept dangling in front of these ‘assisted’ voters’ noses !