Saturday, 21 August 2010

Australian Election 2010, and What It Means

I must say I expected something like this. In fact, a hung parliament with Labor slightly ahead of the Liberals reflects my feelings exactly. It's nice to know the entire country feels the way I do :-).

I daresay we wouldn't be in this situation if we had Peter Costello leading the Liberals. It would have been a slam dunk. Instead, we have the aptly named religious nut Tony Abbott in charge. Call me what you will but I refuse to vote for a politician whose policy manual is religious scripture (and it doesn't matter what religion we're talking about). Abbott has been considered unelectable for a reason, and that is now clear in these results.

At the same time, there's tremendous anger against Labor, and Julia Gillard by extension, for what was done to Kevin Rudd. They were punished for their backstabbery by the loss of 17 seats. I hope the back room boys like Mark Arbib and Bill Shorten are pulled back into the same back room and given a wedgie. (I can't be sure, of course, that other voters have had qualms about Labor for the same reasons. There are some troglodytes even in an advanced Western democracy who oppose Gillard's leadership because of her gender, those who believe that an unmarried person without children cannot understand the problems of Australian families, and the religious right who oppose her for being an atheist and/or for "living in sin".) Still, I like to believe the Rudd factor was the most important.

At the time of Kevin Rudd's victory in 2007, the swing in Labor's favour was so great that psephologists called it a "two-election swing", which meant that the next election was Labor's to lose. And true enough, they lost it. I guess they could still crawl back into government by bribing two independents, but then it'd be official: Julia Gillard as Australia's first female lame-duck Prime Minister.

[See this hilarious Taiwanese spoof on the Australian election.]

Australia now follows the UK into the new era of hung parliaments and coalition governments. India moved into this era in 1989. 1984 was the last time the Indian electorate delivered an outright majority to a single political party. European democracies have seen coalition governments for decades. I think messy as they are, coalition governments more truly represent the views of a diverse society. They're complex and unwieldy, but ultimately fairer.

The Americans seem to have sidestepped the need for coalition governments by splitting the power of the State three ways - into an independently elected executive (the President), independently elected legislative bodies (the House of Representatives and the Senate) and a judiciary that although subject to appointments by the administration of the day, acts like a capacitor in an electrical circuit by slowly absorbing and discharging right- and left-wing constituents over the course of many administrations. Westminster-style democracies like Australia, the UK and India, in contrast, have the executive and legislative arms joined at the hip. The government is formed by the majority party in parliament. Hence the only way for the State to reflect the diversity of its polity is to elect a hung parliament with no single party gaining an outright majority. Coalition governments are then inevitable.

From a historical context, I think the world is therefore progressing. There is greater accommodation of diversity, and our democratic institutions are changing to reflect this.

Post a Comment