I saw elections in Denmark, and I'm impressed
Elections in Denmark were the essence of democracy - something that we all pine for in Pakistan.
While we’re still arguing about whether democracy is a good form of government or not in Pakistan, the people of the Kingdom of Denmark have elected their first ever female Prime Minister. Interestingly, the 15th of September is celebrated as World Democracy Day; the same day democracy has won in this Scandinavian country.
While Denmark has enjoyed an excellent reputation for respecting human rights and promoting equality among its citizens, for the period of a decade it has had stringent immigration laws on visa applicants in order to restrict immigration. The country already has one of the most restrictive immigration rules in Europe and this has surely hampered the nation’s image on an international front.
In the current elections, Danes have spoken of human rights and equal treatment for all, irrespective of religion, race, language, or colour. They have given a strong statement by telling the world that there is no more space for xenophobia and they rejected discriminatory laws against the immigrants made by the former government. The people of Denmark have ended the far right's 10-year grip on the government by voting in a centre-left coalition led by Helle Thorning-Schmidt. However, her "red bloc" secured only a three-seat majority of the 175 at stake in mainland Denmark while the Faroe Islands and Greenland elect two members each making 179 members who are directly elected by universal adult suffrage for a maximum term of four years.
Election Day in Denmark followed regular protocol and there was no national holiday on this day. As I entered the polling station to observe the election process, I was surprised to find chocolates and sweets on the table as the first thing that will make you happy to cast your vote. Unlike long queues, security, and the various hassles in our part of the world, I witnessed a very smooth process of casting votes, and there was an air of serenity and peace in and around the polling venue.
Polling started at 9am, and ended at 8pm. By midnight we had the results. The former Prime Minister congratulated the new one and accepted his defeat wholeheartedly - something we all need to learn from. The happiest nation on earth was blushing with joy. Congratulations to the people of Denmark!
It is expected that the new government will want to take some decisive measures considering immigrants and immigration laws. However, since there is a strong opposition and a fragile collation, it is a tough task to make any significant changes, at least for some time to come. It must also be known that Denmark always had a hung parliament, yet it is an institution where Danish democracy has flourished.
During my stay here in Denmark I have seen a prosperous nation where children learn to ride a bike and swim about the same time as they learn to walk; where a garbage man can live in a middle-class neighbourhood and hold his head high. It is a nation which has the best welfare system in the world, where its citizens pay high taxes -between 50 and 70 % - but in exchange, the government covers all their health care and education, and spends more on children and the elderly than any country in the world per capita.
If we want to see democracy in Pakistan one day like the one Denmark cherishes today, it is crucial that we take sincere and concrete steps in our country to heighten the awareness of students on democracy and democratic values in our schools. This will also help us in finding ways to handle extremism at schools, educational establishments and in our society. From an early age children should learn about the pillars of democracy, the development of democracy, and terms like citizenship, citizen and world citizenship. We need to inculcate in our children that we are first human beings and this should come before being anything else; after all, what brings us together is that we all are human beings.
From my interaction with young people of all ages from across the world, I have not an iota of doubt in the fact that the world is with Pakistan. I have met with a number of young Danes who have all the ingredients to be the future leaders. I know there are so many young people in our country who are doing remarkable voluntary work, and despite various impediments in situations of conflict they are standing together for a peace-loving society. This is the young generation that we don’t talk about much. They are the silent majority - the ones who will take our country to new heights.
Elections in Denmark were an unprecedented experience for me to taste the essence and power of democracy - something that we all pine for Pakistan.