Fake democracy

Winston Churchill, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, once said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except all the others that have been tried.”
Mongolia adopted representative democracy where we choose and appoint our delegates giving them the power to make decisions concerning our lives on behalf of us. For the last 20 years, we have had relatively peaceful elections including khural elections at all levels (parliamentary election and all citizens’ representatives council elections) and presidential elections. However, the sense of responsibility as well as professional discipline has been lost among the delegates we have chosen while their knowledge and skills required to perform their tasks are on a downward trajectory.
Furthermore, there is increased corruption and it is proving to be more difficult to provide oversight and hold them accountable for their unlawful actions. As a result, the entire society has become more prone to disarray and laziness. Some people today trust shamans more than they believe in themselves. That is why we are facing a genuine threat that Mongolia’s democracy could become a fake democracy.
The main reason why this threat has become legitimate is that we have neglected the basic principle of representative democracy – oversight on governance. Regardless of which political party has the ruling power, our government at all levels talk greatly about having public oversight on governance, yet they actually do not do anything about it. They have become so skilled in avoiding the talks about civic oversight while using it as an advertisement tool in elections.
In countries where people are allowed to provide oversight to their government, a true democracy flourishes as public governance strengthens and the principles of free market are fully applied. It creates opportunities for their citizens to work hard, receive gains that they deserve, and satisfy their intellectual needs. On the other hand, if a democratic country does not have such mechanisms of public oversight, their people lose trust in political parties and become less active in elections. As a result, fewer people choose where the ruling power goes.
Media is an institution that plays the most important role in ensuring that the characteristics of democracy are present. However, Mongolian newspapers, television channels, radios, and social media, including Twitter and Facebook, have been negligent about providing oversight on public governance as our media has been more focused on the forms and attributes of problems rather than their root causes.
One of the issues that have been avoided, intentionally or unintentionally, by our political parties, legal entities, and media is the transparency of political party funding. Even though there are laws on financing political parties, they are not implemented. It has almost become an accepted norm that individuals offer huge, secret monetary donations to political parties, become a member of Parliament or other khurals in return, and potentially get appointed to a higher position within the government. It is clear how far the swamp of corruption has spread in a country where political power is traded.
It is inevitable that there will be doubt and distrust among citizens when it is allowed for individuals to buy senior governing positions while political parties can get away with keeping their financing secret.
In Mongolia, political party funding is regulated by the law on political parties while campaign finance of political parties is governed by the election law. There is currently no independent institution that reviews total funding of political parties, have political parties release their financial reports, and make those reports available to the public. The law states that political parties, as well as independent candidates, must have independent audits done on their campaign finance and submit the report to the General Election Committee within a month after the election concludes. However, the public does not have any information on whether political parties are in compliance with this law or not. The General Election Committee is an institution that organizes elections at all levels, but it does not have the authority to review campaign finance of political parties and hold them accountable for non-compliances.
Political parties have been secretly supporting the continuity of these circumstances where laws that are supposed to stop secret funding into political parties and trading of senior positions, and promote public oversight are not implemented. It has been favored by political parties that the non-compliances of such laws are not publicly informed and countermeasures are not taken in time to put an end to this.
Although Mongolia set certain limits on monetary donations that can be made by individuals as well as legal entities, there is no mechanism that verifies campaign finance reports submitted by political parties in order to see if there is any non-compliance with the law. It has become evident that political parties and state officials will not create such mechanism on their own unless there is a strong push from the public.
In order to stop corruption and improve the efficiency of governance, Mongolia needs to establish a system that reviews political party funding and their campaign finance, improves the understanding of democracy, and enhances public trust in democracy.
One possible option is to replace the General Election Committee with a Commission of Voters. Instead of the members of the General Election Committee being appointed by the President, the Prime Minister, or the Speaker of Parliament, majority of the members of the Commission of Voters should be politically independent individuals representing voters. Although there could be representatives of larger and smaller political parties, the independent members of the commission would have the right to make a decision independently from political parties. The commission could have an executive function that exercises the right to organize elections, receive financing reports from political parties, and investigate their sources of funding.
The Commission of Voters could report directly to the parliament and have long-term membership. Also, the commission would have the authority to accredit and approve the registration as well as shut down political parties, and relevant documents. Furthermore, the Commission of Voters can receive quarterly reports of political party income including donations, publish reports online, generate a list of the biggest donators, and improve awareness and understanding of public governance among citizens. The commission should also be an appropriate institution that could study how political parties can use its money and capital, and give recommendations. For instance, such recommendations could include shutting down a political party if it has 801 members, which is the legal minimum for registration, but fails to receive the same amount of votes in an election.
There could also be an independent, parliamentary standards function that reviews the expenditure of funds that are provided by the government to members of Parliament and are supposed to be spent on transportation and other costs required to fulfill their tasks. At the request of votes, expenditure reports can be provided by this institution.
Besides holding democratic elections fairly and properly, Mongolia needs to make its public governance transparent, which includes reviewing and reporting of political party funding and their campaign finances. If we manage to build this system, Mongolia’s current fake democracy will become a true democracy. It all depends on us, the citizens of Mongolia.

Translated by B.AMAR

Short URL: http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/?p=9402

Posted by on Jun 4 2014. Filed under Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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