At the time of writing the outcome of yesterday’s Australian federal election was yet to be decided. This lack of clear result has provided huge amounts of material for political speculators, but what struck me yesterday was something quite different – the utter civility of our electoral process.
Granted, some politicians can be less than complimentary than others (although few will reach the heights of Paul Keating), but in general the worst we can say about them is that they were a bit surly in their concession speeches. We complain about the political tone, but really it’s fine. A little robust, but far better than many other forms of public discourse.
Think about the voting process itself. We stand in line for a while, generally good-naturedly, identify ourselves, then write our choices on some pieces of paper. Then we all eat a sausage! There is no conflict between voters of rival persuasions, very few conversations even. The most combative things we do are push past the people handing out how-to-vote cards. And it’s all held at the local primary school! Could it possibly be less dangerous or complicated?
Consider the authority administering the election, the AEC. They’re independent from government, generally very competent, and utterly impartial. An administrative stuff-up is front page news, they’re that good. Voting is compulsory – how else could we achieve fair representation of the electorate. I have utterly no time or patience for people who complain about compulsory voting. If standing in line for half an hour once every couple of years is such a burden for you, you must have a very difficult life.
Imagine this situation in, well, much of the rest of the world. We are so incredibly lucky to be able to vote at all, and to be able to do so without fear of violence or recrimination, to be lucky enough to whinge about it – well, we are privileged indeed.