Re: Voting for an American President

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Posted by Nick ( on April 23, 2002 at 14:42:22:

In Reply to: Re: Voting for an American President posted by Grant on April 22, 2002 at 15:48:39:

Hi Grant,

Part of the answer to your question re "choosing by preference" lies in the quotations from our scripture. A Baha'i should always use these as a basis, because our own thoughts are not authoritative. Anyway, those quotes I gave indicate that Baha'is CAN vote providing they are not aligning themselves with a Party in doing so.

The reasons why I would not vote however, are the following. I am a Politics student, and just through my study of this subject I have become aware of the numerous, numerous flaws and weaknesses that are associated with our current system of democracy. Most people seem to be of the opinion that this is the best system that will ever be. As a Baha'i, it is an article of my Faith that the administrative system that Baha'u'llah has brought is divinely inspired, perfectly suited to the needs of this age, and lacking all of the disadvantages engendered by the current system.

Baha'is are trying to build a new world. I feel that this can best be done through the channels of my Faith. The current political system is after all, one of the causes of some of the problems afflicting mankind right now. All over the world, people are expressing their disaffection with modern politics. The system does not work. The old world is going to fall apart, it does not need my help, participating in the current world order, to bring it about. The number of Baha'is is small. We are instead, trying to build a new world order for everyone.

As for expressing my opinion in a vote in the UK. Well if I could vote for Tony Blair, maybe I would, because I think he is a good man, with good qualities. However, the nature of our voting system means I have to vote for only the names on the list presented to me, none of whom I have ever met, nor have any idea whether they are suitable for governing the country. There are some politicians I would vote for, completely not in relation to their political ideologies, but because I think they may be able to do the job.

I can only vote for the politician representing my constituency, and this is one of the limitations of this current political system.

As for politicians making promises, and voters voting for them on the basis of those promises... well it is easy to say nice things, but the ability to speak well, look good in front of the camera and excite the masses does not make one a responsible leader.

As I said, Baha'is have a working system of democracy which has a national government in 185 odd countries, and which is functioning in over 200 territories worldwide. This is the system we want to give to the world as a model. In my local community, which I meet with at least once every 19 days for community gatherings, I can vote for many more people than I would do in a local non-Baha'i election. I know personally all, if not virtually all, those eligible for election, having met them at these regular meetings. I get 9 votes. In a parliamentary election, people actually stand up and demand that people vote for them, pitting themselves against other candidates, indirectly suggesting they and their ideas are superior. Are these people necessarily the best to lead us? What about the millions of people who do not advocate themselves? Is Blair the best PM Britain could have produced? Or maybe there is an office worker somewhere in Bracknell who could actually have done the job better.

In a Baha'i election no one is allowed to place themselves forward. This rules out pride and disunity for a start. I vote for those I want to on the basis of their spiritual qualities: loyalty, trustworthiness etc. If I don't know the candidates in my local non-Baha'i election, how do I know what qualities they have? All I know about them is that they are vain enough to claim they are the best for the job! I would prefer my leader to be humble and surprised even that he was selected at all. Baha'is do not aspire to reach the NSA or UHJ or even on the local level the LSA. The concept of leadership is wholly different, turned on its head. It is a position of service to be rendered.

Modern democracy does not involve much participation by the people. We get asked once every 5 years to choose between 2 increasingly similar choices of government. It's not even a choice really. In the Baha'i system, elections are annual, and one has regular contact with those governing us on the local level through meetings at feasts etc. Every 19 days there is an opportunity to discuss with the community and make recommendations which can be then discussed at the LSA meeting. One of the reasons people feel disaffected with the runnings of politics today is lack of involvement. Yet this system seems to offer a solution to that problem.

As for Baha'is themselves... we have our own faith as a guiding system of principles. That is in effect the "ideology". Abortion is covered under Baha'i teachings (according to my understanding). I don't think a Baha'i would vote here, unless the measure was to make abortions mandatory or something, because we do not seek to impose our beliefs on others. Baha'is are guided by our principles in such matters, and the very situation you described above, whereby one Baha'i wishes to vote one way, and another, the other way, is, I feel, antithetical to the aims of the Faith. In a Baha'i election, the "ideology" is clear already. We are all in the same party because being Baha'is we all accept the teachings of Baha'u'llah on any given subject (though our understandings may differ). Thus this issue would not arise. Again, we would be voting on spiritual principles, not political issues.

Of course if I thought my vote was going to make the difference between Tony Blair and the leader of the BNP coming to power, then I would vote. However, in all likelihood this is never, ever going to happen :-)

Baha'is do co-operate with many NGO's and INGO's who are pursuing the same goals as us. We are not going it alone. Civil society has a great influence on how governments form policy. The Baha'i International Community was one of the first registered INGO's in the world, and is almost certainly the only truly democratically elected one. Baha'is play an important role in international conferences, such as the Rio Summit, and the Beijing Summit. Baha'is even get invited (without even requesting) to speak at these prestigious events, when there are tens of thousands of NGOs clammering for a place on the auditorium. The recent Millenium Summit which presented the views of civil society to the main meeting held later on was chaired by the Baha'i International Community. All over the world Baha'is are involved in socio-economic projects. We are not avoiding the duty of trying to improve the world. Out of all the different communities, you will find that Baha'is are disproportionately active relative to their small numerical strengths in such fields of service. Next week for example, Prince Charles is launching an inter-faith movement called "Respect" which was mentioned on the front page of the Sunday Times a few weeks back, and which has the full involvement of the UK Baha'i Community.

To be involved in making the world a better place is not solely confined to the arena of political parties. For the reasons outlined in the quotations I mentioned before, this kind of participation is often detrimental to realising those very goals. Ridding the world of poverty, of promoting male-female equality, stamping out racism, improving education, building world peace - these ideas were all laid out, many of them for the first time in history, by Baha'u'llah 150 years ago. They are the primary tenets of our Faith. Achieving them is our goal.

Hope this helps answer your questions,

Best wishes,


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