Monday, 8 August 2011

Cherishing Democracy - how an immigrant of three years will be making Jersey Democracy real.

Yesterday I registered to vote an Accountant of Pakistan citizenship that has only been living in the island three years. The circumstances are edifying and say much about those who love Democracy and those that think it always there like Coronation Street on the television.

I knocked on a door and introduced myself and purpose. The person answered holding a portable telephone; an old trick for getting rid of unwanted salesmen, religious fundamentalists and politicians alike. I was asked to come back and left assuming the person had no desire to discuss the forthcoming elections. I was wrong.

I then walked further along the avenue to knock on other doors. At one house I heard a voice from above – a woman’s voice asking me my purpose. I stepped back to see her on the balcony. Then began our discussion, she on the first floor balcony and I, like Romeo, serenading her from the pavement.

She was angry with the current state of political affairs in Jersey and furious with the Ozouf - Le Sueur government for its indifference towards the middle classes. She sounded perfect to register to vote and vote Le Cornu, I thought. However - no a chance.

She was adamant that she was not going to vote nor register even though she saw the necessity and hated government policies like GST and loading taxes on the middle class.

I turned to leave knowing that I could not win her to Democracy, in spite of all my persuasions. At that point the Accountant came rushing up the street – wanting to talk to me about the elections and would I come into the house.

We sat down and I was told they were very keen to vote and to know more about the political system. I was curious to know why a recent immigrant of three years residence was so enthusiastic about voting in a Jersey election, when there are Scots and English here that have never voted in forty years? 

My answer was swift. He came from Pakistan. He loved Democracy and knew that citizens must make it work.

I smiled, as I understood him immediately. He did not have to explain his reasons, I knew them already. Pakistan is a country plagued by military coups and corrupt rule. Democracy and civilian participation in government are precious flowers in need of constant attention. Citizens have a role to play in keeping Democracy alive by voting.

I told my host that District No1 St Helier was plagued not by military governments but by a 75% voter abstention. My host was shocked. I went on to explain the opacity of the system and that the Establishment had ground down the working classes to such an extent that they had given up any hope of change by electoral means.

My host thanked me for taking the time to explain the complexities of Senators, Deputies and Constables. Why we did not simply have one category of States Members he asked?

My host will be voting in the elections on 19th October and understands that for Democracy to function, votes must be cast.  

I feel sure an extra vote will be cast for Le Cornu as Deputy in St Helier No1.

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