Corruption or Democracy
No Other Way Out
Corruption and democracy are directly linked with each other, in a way that one’s existence causes death of the other. Democracy, which reflects the will of the people, cannot compromise on corruption which is against the will of the people. “For Aristotle, democracy was a vicious form of government, in which many used their power for their own, rather than for the general good,” writes Ellie Kedouri in his essay titled as ‘Democracy and the Third World: Governance for Developing Countries’. Democracy thrives on the rule of law which is a seal on the establishment of a ‘just’ society. While a democratic system gives birth to organized social order, economic development and protection of human rights, corruption brings destruction and devastation to all that. Democracy is a form of government that serves people’s interests and strengthens the society as a whole whereas corruption is “abuse of entrusted power for some personal mileage” which has widespread repercussions on the people living in a
society, encapsulating that corruption is the last nail in the coffin of democracy.
Democracy today is an internationally accepted political system that provides denizens with the right to “freedom of choice” to select from amongst them a governing body that they think can deliver economic growth, ensure peace and prosperity, protect people’s fundamental rights and work towards the evolution and development of the nation. It is the significance of democracy that the governing body is elected from amongst the people to maintain law and order situation, to ensure the provision of employment, education and healthcare facilities and to work in the best interest of the nation on the domestic as well as international front. And, it is through democracy that those at the helm can be held accountable for what they do, which is a key to a progressive, welfare state.
Democracies that indulge in corruption are the ones losing the essence of democratic principles. Rule of law, which corrupt societies do not follow, is a fundamental principle of democracy, implying that none of the people is above the law and whosoever will be involved in corruption will have to face the music. But undemocratic societies where the rule of law plays a second fiddle to the corrupt elite and where the judiciary works at their beck and call, do not deliver upon their sole responsibility that is to ensure that nobody is above the law. Corruption affords corrupt man an opportunity to escape law, thereby making the maxim that money can buy everything seem true.
Democracy protects the supremacy of civilians and their fundamental rights, particularly their choice of the governing body. However, interference in politics, engineering of elections and stealing of secret ballots, in order to select a governing body, which is in contradiction to the choice made by the masses, and let it function on their whims and wishes imply that democracy is corrupt, ergo compromised. Will of the masses is subjugated to the will of a few, and voice of the general folk for the provision of justice in the wake of the violation of the constitution, and sorrowfully, the will of the majority is incarcerated into the clutches of silence in an undemocratic and corrupt society.
In a democracy, institutions are independent; delivering upon duties they are conferred with, with no influence of external elements. Democracy demands partial and independent working of institutions, regardless of the stature of people, referral and recommendation of the elite which seek to corrupt the system. However, in an undemocratic system, institutional crisis worsens, as officials are not allowed to work in a way they should be. From judiciary to bureaucracy, all institutions are subjected to corrupt practices by highly-influential and external brigade therein. It is a matter of utmost distress that where work is being done, it is influenced by money and referral, leading to institutional paralysis and non-accountability of the spending of the budget. Then, how can justice, in true form, be provided to the masses there? Corruption, which has become a torment to the masses, is indeed a crime which democracy cannot allow under any circumstances.
The democratic system of government calls for the uplift of human beings, especially those who are vulnerable and resourceless. It ensures the safety and security of citizens, and the provision of peace and justice in the society. Its principles promote equality, fraternity and justice. It seeks to provide for quality education and quality health-care system. Corruption, on the other hand, is a mixture of menaces that seek to inflict on citizens torture, injustice and cruelty in the form of rising poverty, soaring inflation, low-quality education and devastating health-care system, ineffective policing. The matter of consternation is that the rich come out unscathed from the corruption-inflicted wreckage whereas it is the powerless middle class that suffers most.
In societies where democracy prevails, there is accountability mechanism for everyone, especially those in power. Accountability wields staggering importance in a democratic system, implying that everybody is responsible for their actions and can be held accountable following the violation of their duties. Lack of accountability, and leniency, in its process, motivates corruption which, in turn, is an unequivocally serious threat to democracy. In a corrupt society where accountability is hardly found, corruption done by those from low-grade peon in an institution to a high-profile politician in a government demonstrates how that society takes its people on the road to destruction and works at the expense of social justice and equality principle.
Corruption is the manifestation of a faulty society where democratic principles are undervalued. Under corruption, society deteriorates into a dog-eat-dog form where greed shapes people’s behaviour and leads to their exploitation of the folks living under humble circumstances. Corruption is an opportunity for the powerful to wreck the powerless, the strong to subdue the weak and the rich to exploit the poor in a way characterized by hopelessness and helplessness. Everything can be sold out to those who afford it, by corrupting the officials, at the expense of the state’s resources which guarantees prosperity of the rich and the poor alike. It is what can never be allowed by a vibrant and healthy democracy.
In order to thwart corrupt practices and challenge the corrupt culture, democracy has to become strong, vibrant and healthy. Although corrupt elements who have based their development on corruption could never want democracy to work at full strength, because its strength robs them of their ability to hoard money illegally, yet progress and prosperity of the nation necessitates the proper functioning of democracy. Democracy is in full function when people living in it are educated and aware enough to challenge the corrupt mafia; quality education produces quality people who shall, on the first instance, choose people competent in work and honest in dealing among them to form a government, and then enhance the mechanism of accountability of whosoever is involved in this malicious practice, on the larger scale. Educated democracy can never allow its people to die of hunger, owing to a few gulping its resources without any remorse for the poor population. Educated persons understand the provisions of law and how its violation takes place, therefore find themselves able enough to question it and raise voice against the powerful corrupt elements.
Another important factor that shall elevate the quality of democracy to the extent of no corruption is the conduct of transparent elections. It is seen on a frequent basis that engineering of elections takes place to select a government against the will of the majority, in a weak and compromised democracy. Those who succeed in forming a government by orchestrating the ballot papers with the appliance of nefarious designs could not prevent themselves from doing corruption and those who help them win the election must have a plan to plunder the nation under the civilian government as a disguise. In order for a democracy to flourish, it must conduct elections under transparency and impartiality. Indeed, only a transparent election can pave the way for a corruption-free democracy.
Corruption is like a deadly disease raging across a body, effecting dysfunction of its every part; the society, state, institution or wheresoever corruption exists, it is highly likely that it will destroy its essence. Corruption distorts the functioning of institutions, turning them into money-making machines, creates disturbance in the partial distribution of funds in an organisation, plays havoc on the existing principles of a government system, takes a heavy toll on the constitutional laws and plunges the populace into enduring suffering. There is nothing more deleterious than the scourge of corruption for societies that believe in the development of human welfare and the establishment of the justice system. The quicker the corruption is done away with, the more the promotion of quality education and production of progressive and competent people—and by bringing transparency into elections—the higher are chances for democracy to work in full bloom.
The writer is a student
Shah Abdul Latif University, Khairpur