10 January 2015

Elections are not (just) about Candidates and voters

What are elections about if not candidates and voters, someone might ask rhetorically, leaving the answer ‘nothing else!’ hanging in the air.  That’s so wrong.  What do politicians do apart from asking for a vote in a thousand different ways, using all media available and spending all resources at hand?  And what do voters do apart from taking the trouble to get to the relevant polling station, standing in line, getting ballot paper, having the pinky colored purple, marking a cross and stuffing a folded piece of paper into a ballot box? 

We are not trying to make light of all this of course.  Politicians have to sweat.  Voters have to deliberate.  Calories are burnt by both parties.  And yet, politicians and voters are just individuals on one side of the overall election story.  Well, there are the backers, campaign managers, ‘troops’ on the ground and so on of course.  They all play a part and are no doubt important but we are not talking about such people here. 

This is about those who work to make it possible.  Let’s raise a cheer therefore for those who don’t get mentioned. 
First and foremost there is the Man of the Moment, Commissioner of Elections, MahindaDeshapriya.  Whoever holds his post is ‘legitimate’ target for the losing side.  He can do nothing right.  Every error is seen as complicity in some devious plot to cheat the voter and subvert democracy.  Few, if any, know the limits of his powers or the resource-limitations he has to work within.  The man can only do his best.  He went out of his way.  He has employed all available resources efficiently.  Effectively too, one must add.  He stood tall and this is something the saner sections of both camps will acknowledge.  Thank you sir.

He doesn’t work alone.  The voter knows of a single polling station.  The voter sees a handful of officials.  There were 12,314 polling stations located in the 22 administrative districts.  Approximately 300,000 Government Servants were deployed to ensure that things are done right and your franchise protected.  They’ve been trained.  That training they put to use.  They’ve done a thankless job.  Just think.  Of those who voted, on this occasion and previously, how many have talked about the person who answered questions about where exactly you had to go to vote, the person who asked your name and checked your ID, the person who marked your finger, the person who handed you the ballot paper, the person who stood at a respectful distance from the place you marked an ‘X’ and from the ballot box into which you thrust the ballot paper? Think about them.  Say ‘Thank you’ or 
පිං සිද්ද වෙච්චාවේ  (may you acquire merit) or anything else that expresses gratitude.  They deserve it.

And how about those who have to do the counting; the officer in charge and all those under him/her?  Have you wondered if they were tired, say?  There were 303 centers to count postal votes.  There were 1,109 main counting centers in a total of 44 locations.  There were people in these places and they were all part of the aforementioned 300,000.  They too deserve our salute.  Thank you!

Is that all? No.  There’s the Police.  In this election, without the strength that came from the 17th Amendment, the Police Department covered itself with glory.  We had the most peaceful presidential election since the first one, held in 1982 and they helped make this possible.  If anything they showed, that with or without constitutional provision, professionalism and decency and get the job done.  Let us say ‘Thank you!’ to the 71,000 police officers who were on duty.

Pics by Chandana Wejesinghe and Ravindra Dharmathilake.