Sunday, November 02, 2008

Government of minorities

The democratic paradigm has been that the government is elected by a majority of the voting population. This already indicates a peculiarity about the term "majority". It is not -and has never been- a majority of the population of a country. There is usually an age limit, and in some cases an additional legal requirement, for example being at the country on election day, to become a valid voter. This is the case of Costa Rican elections. Among these valid voters, that compose around half of a country's population, around half of them vote and the rest remain indifferent to the act of electing a new government. This already means that only a fourth of a country's population actually do vote. If an election is won by one vote, it means that an eighth of the Costa Rican population -plus one vote- can decide who will govern the country for the next four years. It means that the critical mass to elect the Costa Rican government is around 500,000 voters. This is clearly a minority of a total 4.5 million inhabitants.

This is nothing that should cause alarm. it is in fact a symptom that helps analyze the fact that a country is better governed is more minorities are included in the act and process of governing. How is a "government of the majority" effective at administrating public matters if they do not take into account what the other minorities that did not vote to elect the government do have as interests for their future?

Costa Rica is a country that, as many others, is integrated by many diverse minority groups. Perhaps not as large to elect a government, but definitely large enough to be included to make a better job at governing, especially because all minorities that did not vote for the ruling party add to much more people than the electing minority.

For example, there are religious minorities, predominantly Catholic, Christian and Jewish, each with its own interests and capable of influencing elections in a small population. Especially if you consider Catholic relationship to the State, Christian proselytism and Jewish economic power.

Then, there are media-related minorities that make people swing one way or another. For example, participation of followers to a football team like Saprissa, where there are other teams as well but none as corporately organized and sold as a media brand as this one. There are surely more than 500,000 followers of that team, although the most belligerent might be underaged, therefore not old enough to vote.

There are also professional groups and movements that incorporate large numbers of people. For example, the Lawyer bar association or the collection of environmental NGOs. Both groups have highly influential people when it comes to elections.

Also, you have all public workers that belong to trade unions. They are certainly in the hundreds of thousands and are also quite belligerent.

It can also be considered that university students or young professionals conform an important number of people that have like-minded interests: finding well-remunerated jobs in their field of study (no comment on that fallacy).

Also, there are the poor and those that consider themselves poor (compared to the rich that have or show much more). There are middle class families with that own a house, a car, that can afford to travel abroad to do some shopping and can take a week vacation at the beach twice a year, that consider themselves poor. This means that half of the population falls under this category. These people also swing and dance to the tune of political elections and use the criteria of "which government will do more for my level of wealth" when they cast vote.

Let's not even mention indigenous peoples, residents, migrants, temporary workers, illegals. Although only the first of them could vote, most of these people are not registered to vote. Yet, they influence the outcome of politics especially when it comes to governing effectively.

It is time that Costa Rica starts considering minorities as the leading force behind effective government. In the end, it does not matter much who wins. The best candidates that have become presidents in recent decades have been widely disappointing, and the least expected ones have performed better than expected. But none, so far, has had the talent to govern for all minorities, having their interests at hand when administrating public matters.

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