Every election, Bangalore voters get lectured. Voting percentage in the city is a dismal 45% to 50% in most elections. Turnout is even lower in municipal elections. Accusations of voter apathy, disinterest in democracy, not doing one’s civic duty and indifference to government affairs are constantly hurled at Bangalore citizens. The Election Commission, advocacy groups, business and political leaders conduct blitzkrieg campaigns urging citizens to make their choice on Election Day. But this begs the question – does high voter turnout facilitate the entry of quality candidates and pave the way for a superior government? Evidence from countries across the globe suggests that high voter turnout has no correlation to quality of contestants nor does it necessarily lead to good governance.
Politicians in most of the European and Latin American countries, where a large number consistently vote, have failed to deliver solutions to big problems. And the Australian parliamentary democracy, where voting is compulsory and turnout is 95%, does no better and has many shortcomings comparable to those of our own country.
The parliament in Greece, where voter turnout is as high as 86%, makes a mockery of democracy and governance woes of the country are well known. In Italy, another country where voting is close to 90%, voters are not averse to electing porn stars and mafia dons to parliament. In fact, pundits were appalled when Italians overwhelmingly voted for a comedian in the most recent election. Other countries like Spain and Portugal that witness high voting percentage also suffer from low quality politics and non-transparent government. Latin America is another example of high voter turnout combining with low governance quality.
So, Indian notables asking for higher voter turnout should focus elsewhere. The problem in India is of entry barriers in politics. Entrenched interests in the system have erected high barriers against new participants. Plus, strategies adopted by political parties are akin to that of corporate world.