Friday, April 20, 2012

Volume 4 Issue 15: Intelligent Investing

Senegal Can Have Proper Democracy. Why Not Malaysia?

For many Malaysians, we have only heard of this country in Africa, Senegal, because of football. 

Compared with its neighbors, it is relatively small in size. Its total land area is about 197,000 square km, about half that of Malaysia. As with most other African nations, Senegal is a relatively poor country, with GDP per capita less than USD2,000. Compared with Malaysia, Senegal's economy would make Malaysia look like Singapore - see Chart 1.

Chart 1
Despite the given circumstances, Senegal even manages to have a proper democracy:
Senegal’s democratic tradition deeply shapes ordinary people’s expectations. In June 2011, Wade attempted to amend the constitution to eliminate a second round of voting in presidential elections should the leading candidate win 25% in the first round, rather than 50%. This effort at a constitutional coup was thwarted by massive protests in front of parliament. Slogans like “Touche pas à ma Constitution” (Don't touch my Constitution) were accompanied by “Wade, dégage!” (Wade, get out!), reminiscent of the chants in Tunisia, “Ben Ali, dégage!” 
Democratic resistance worked, blocking the amendment and creating the possibility of defeating Wade’s run for a third term. In the first round on February 26, voters showed a higher level of trust in their electoral institutions than did many political actors, who urged postponement of the election, or a boycott, on the grounds that Wade’s control of the state apparatus made a free and fair election impossible. 
In fact, a well-organized civil society and an independent press ensured that the results could not be rigged. For example, as soon as results were counted locally, they were immediately announced nationally by independent television and radio broadcasters, even when state TV stopped disclosing results. International pressure, especially from the United States, France, and the European Union, also helped to marginalize the hard-liners in Wade's entourage. 
In the crucial first round, only 35% of the electorate voted for Wade. Opposition candidates like Macky Sall, who bet on high voter turnout, fared much better than candidates who took the fight to the streets or, hoping the election would be postponed, started campaigning too late. With 26% of the first-round vote, Macky Sall was on the ballot for the runoff. 
Voters, especially in Senegal’s cities, eschewed vote-buying and instructions by some religious leaders to vote for Wade, whose aggressive strategy of clientilism and ethnic divisiveness failed conspicuously. By violating the symmetry of respect and equidistance between ethnic groups that characterizes Senegal’s pluralism, he offended far more people than he attracted. 
In the second round, all 12 unsuccessful candidates supported Sall, as they had pledged to do. With the opposition strongly united, Sall more than doubled his first-round vote, reaching 66%, while popular support for Wade stagnated. The army adhered to its tradition of non-intervention and explicitly let the president know that the result had to be respected.
So, why can't Malaysia?

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