Friday, May 7, 2010

Democracy is the only clear winner from Britain's election

Having gone to bed at 3am Jakarta time (9pm London), shortly before the polls closed in the UK, and woken up at 6am Jakarta, as the first results came in, it's been a joy to watch the outcome of the election slowly unfold, nothwithstanding my crappy internet connection and persistent attacks from mosquitos.

With most of the constituencies having reported, it appears that the Conservatives will now be the biggest party in Parliament but without an overall majority. Meanwhile, despite losing many seats, it seems that the ruling Labour Party may be able to stay in government if it can form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, the third party.

It is far from obvious who will form the next government. But what is clear is that the whole election process has demonstrated the strength of democracy and the vitality of a system where power resides with the people, if only, as Rousseau noted, at election time. 

The peculiarities of the British system mean that while the aggregated will of the electorate has opted for a hung Parliament, it is now the political parties who will decide the make-up of the next government, with a fair amount of shady backroom dealing likely to be at the heart of any agreed coalition.

Still, it's undeniable that the political theatre of an overwhelmingly free and fair election both demonstrates the power of democracy and reinforces it, particularly in a country where voter apathy seemed in danger of becoming the norm.

For the latest results, see BBC News election site here.

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