Electoral Democracy Criticism

Electoral democracy means that parties try to convince voters – by information or persuasion – to vote for them the next election period. Impartial information gives voters the opportunity to form an opinion, but persuasion is second to none when it comes to getting people to change their opinion in a short time.

Election campaigns use great resources of information. Without information, the voters would not be aware of their choices, but there are limits to how much information we can handle. When all parties inform at the same time almost everything drowns in the information flow. Only the strongest voices are heard.

The election campaign can be described as a competition in strategic marketing – a contest in which party leaders’ personality and charisma, and election workers’ persuasion techniques decide the outcome. The voters become more susceptible to emotional arguments the more the election day is approaching. In the situation that arises, it is difficult for the media to stay neutral. The election campaign that is supposed to be a period of enlightenment turns into competitive entertainment.

Electoral democracy opens up every fourth year so that people can join and decide. After Election Day the system isolates itself from the public. Before this day all political information is open. When it is over the political system shuts like a clam and the parties begin to negotiate behind closed doors. The radical shift between maximum and minimum information flow shows that the political system is not transparent. Both surpluses and deficits in information reduce voters’ ability to take rational decisions.


Another problem with electoral democracy is the parties’ promises. Competitive behavior makes them often to promise more than the economy allows. The winner can either keep the promises and risk the entire economy, or take financial responsibility and disappoint the voters. Both strategies reduce political confidence.

It’s not only voters who undergoes an unhealthy information press before the election. Even politicians are exposed to a large pressure. Lobbyists and interest groups uses the political campaigns to press the parties. Media can hardly stay neutral – the hidden political agenda behind the media companies and the large advertisers do affect them.

In the polarization that occurs the media tend to concentrate on the party leaders. They end up in live interviews where experts challenge them. To behave like oracles, they need to surround themselves with speechwriters and media trainers. This dramaturgy shifts the focus from ideology to person, from the content to the package. There is no time for thinking or nuances in the hot media situation.

Electoral democracy promotes the formation of two coalitions, based on a political conflict between social classes. But this political map is out of date. Coalitions make a frustrating situation for the voters. Many other issues are just as important as the one between the bourgeoisie and the proletarians – i.e. human exploitation or sustainability. One who would vote for the Green Party in Sweden was forced to favor the Social Democrats in the election.

As the parties seek to push through as much of their policies as possible, it leads to a “minimal winning coalition” – the smallest possible coalition required to have the political majority. Nearly half of those elected are marginalized, while the rest abide their party leaders’ agreements. Decisions will in practice be taken at closed meetings where party leaders are negotiating. Competition between the parties turns the politicians from visionaries to strategists. If the parties task is to give their voters as much influence as possible, it leads to a systematic oppression of the other parties.

The technological developments have come so far that more participants can prepare the decisions. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) allows for better cooperation, which means that the party leaders’ dominance could be broken. We could develop a broader democratic interaction, allowing participation between elections. A well-suited ICT model would not only complement representative democracy, but lead to a close interaction between representative and direct democracy.

The political system would not have to be top down. People affected by a decision often have relevant information. Decentralization means decisions made by those concerned. Policy decisions could be decentralized to a greater extent if we change the laws and regulations discouraging it. Organization and hierarchy are two different things. If everyone has the right to take part, the system becomes self-regulating and more decentralized.

If we want to bring democracy to the information age, we should take a glance at self-organization, i.e. how market economy works. Every time we buy a product, consider that we vote for it. All consumers’ choices together control the market. Something similar could be done in politics if the decisions prepare together with the help from ICT and not behind closed doors.

5 Responses to “Electoral Democracy Criticism”

  1. gabrielpezzini Says:

    There are numerous negative, but commonplace things in representative democracy. Another of them is the fact that the political candidates, more specially the leaders, tend to portray themselves as leaders, instead of possible legitimate representants for its electors.

    This becomes even more evident in Brazil, where we use presidentialism, instead of parliamentarism. The candidates to presidency want to seem to be God on Earth!

    Of course, this is because of the “top-downess” of the representative democractic system. And although we cannot make total direct democracy, which would lead to complete inefficiency or, in the worst case, to “majority dictatorships”, it’s clear there’s enough space to push the decisions MUCH MORE towards the “common people”.

    • pernor Says:

      I don’t think we can blame the top candidates for playing the “hierarcy-game” as long as the majority supports the system. In Ancient dramas, someone has to play the King or the Divine role.

  2. gabrielpezzini Says:

    I think there’s blame on the two parts: the ones who are at the top of the system and the people who elect them themselves. The top people usually somewhat control communications, so alternative discourses have no space in media.

    Is seems you are having these kind problems in Vallentuna.

    Another thing that makes me laugh is the necessity of the candidates do the Executive to know everything. Every number, every statistic – just to the debates, and when they don’t know them they make a guess, they speak false numbers. In an Executive cabinet, they don’t know all. They have ministers.

  3. hades Says:

    A pretty good post until the last paragraph. How can you start the article with persuasion and then forget about it when talking about consumerism?

  4. Becoming An Idiot Over And Over And Over Again | My virtual world Says:

    […] Image taken from : https://pernor.wordpress.com/2010/10/03/electoral-democracy-criticism/ […]

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