16 April 2009

India does democracy proud

Democracy has sometimes been considered a luxury reserved for rich nations. India has, for over 60 years, proved that notion wrong. Despite great poverty and illiteracy, a huge, almost unmanageable, population, and a vast range of ethnic groups and languages, India has remained steadfastly democratic for three generations.

Today, it embarks on its 15th election. It will be, as it always is, the largest democratic ballot in history with over 700 million voters eligible to troop to the polling booths. In order to manage the massive vote, the election will be held in five phases over 28 days. Candidates of over 1,000 registered political parties, from untouchables to members of the upper castes, from cricketers to Bollywood stars, will contest 543 parliamentary seats.

That such a populous, diverse and poor country can succeed at democratic governance is encouraging to democrats everywhere.


  1. It sure is. And in fact (according to Wikipedia) voter turnout is higher in India among the poor and in rural areas.

  2. I wonder how long India's democracy will be able to withstand the social pressures of its looming environmental disaster. The Himalayan glaciers are in full retreat. The Pentagon and Brit MoD foresee massive unrest when the country's main agricultural rivers become seasonal, drying up at the very time they're needed to irrigate. It's estimated thatthe country will no longer be able to feed250,000,000 of its people.

    To minimize that impact, India is going to have to take water that Pakistan depends upon. This has all the makings of a climate war between two nuclear-armed states.

    Gwynne Dyer did an excellent, 3-part series "Climate Wars" that is available at CBC Radio's "Ideas" web site.

    Basically, we have a third of the planet's population (India and China) confronted by an extreme freshwater crisis due to the existing state of global warming.

    Tribes, communities and nations that cannot feed their people take a predictable course toward their neighbours and it's never good.