Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Political Mandate (or not)

There has been a lot of talk recently in Australia (with a federal election on the way) about the meaning of a political mandate. When a party is elected into power, does that mean it has a mandate, a right, to put into place all the policies which it took with it into the election?

The answer is NO, and the reasons are quite simple.

When I go to the polling booth I have to make a choice between parties which have proposed a whole raft of policies. Some of those policies I will agree with; some I will not. This is true on both sides of politics. If I decide (for example) that Party A’s economic agenda is, on balance, slightly better than that of Party B’s, and I decide to vote for them on that basis, that does not mean that I support all their other policies. I might not agree, for instance, with their policy on the environment or towards asylum seekers. Just because I decide to vote for a party on the basis of one or a few issues this does not mean that I do, or am obliged to, support all their policies. Nor do I believe it gives them an automatic right to implement those policies.

Democracy does not begin at 8 am and end at 6 pm on polling day. Democracy requires that I and every one of us continues to advocate for the things that are important to us. It also demands that the government of the day be perpetually answerable to the people, and not just on one day every three years or so.

Just because I voted for YOU does not mean that I believe in everything you stand for; and I will continue to speak loudly and irritatingly about those things I think you have wrong.