Let’s face it - the US (in the opinion of many) may be Machiavellian and hegemonic in terms of its foreign policy, but the recently concluded presidential election has once again provided ample proof of how it attained its present status in the global pecking order. I have always watched US elections with academic interest and am fascinated at the political maturity with which these are held.

The American system is presidential in nature, where the Head of State (the President) is elected indirectly by the people, through an Electoral College. Each state is allocated a number of electors, equal to the size of its delegation in both Houses of Congress combined. Generally, the ticket that wins the most votes in a state wins all of that state’s electoral votes and thus has its slate of electors chosen to vote in the Electoral College.

There has been only one instance in US history (the Bush versus Al Gore elections), where the losing candidate’s (Al Gore’s) aides mildly hinted that some irregularities may have occurred and Al Gore took some time in the traditional congratulatory telephone call that is made to the President Elect. The election campaign itself has all the fire that presidential hopefuls can muster, but while the failures of opponents with reference to public and policy issues are highlighted, there is neither personal rancour nor violence.

It is unfortunate that while we fervently ape everything from across the Atlantic, we have not learnt anything remotely close to political dignity and integrity in the way governments change hands. Our election campaign is run by thugs, who are conveniently called activists. These individuals are employed by political rivals and public meetings are filled with people, whose presence is hired with the prospect of free food, some fun and free transportation. The content of election speeches often transgresses the bounds of decency and becomes personal. As the heat rises, so do tempers to reach a point that turns into violence and loss of valuable life. The balloting itself is marred by accusations and counter-accusations and no losing candidate is prepared to gracefully admit defeat, what to speak of telephoning his winning opponent and congratulating him on the success.

Announcement of the election results is followed by mustering the right numbers in Parliament to form a government. This is usually done by buying out independents or through lucrative coalition offers. The net result is a sordid display of political hijacking, as elected members are taken to and cloistered in places such as Changa Manga.

Whosoever forms the government, first rips apart the fabric of continuity however sensible the policies of the previous rulers may be. This not only takes everything, including growth, to square one, but entails a colossal amount of expenditure. The successful party then goes about demonising its predecessors and blaming them for everything that ails the country, while the losing side labels the government as inept, corrupt and unsuitable to rule.

Then follow five years of constant mudslinging and name calling, with long marches, strikes and sit-ins adding spice to the mayhem. And while the party in power and those in the opposition are busy in what is actually ‘kettles calling the pots black’ and in fattening their already fat overseas bank accounts, the people continue to sink deeper and deeper into the tar pit of cold hearths, dark homes, hunger and unemployment.

If the government survives the five year mandate, its leaders suddenly seem to remember the poor voter and the fact that the next elections are around the corner. It is then that the leaders and their goons begin their charade once more to dupe this gullible nation.

A long time ago when writing my post-graduate thesis on “Does the form of government in Pakistan suit the psyche of the nation”, I happened to interview a professor from a Western university, who was on a flying visit to Pakistan. According to him a democratic parliamentary system can work and deliver effectively in states that have the following basic elements i.e. a high literacy rate, an industrialised economy and an advanced level of urbanisation.

What he said next was profound and provided much food for thought. According to him, nations that have been under prolonged colonial rule find it difficult to adjust to a classic parliamentary democracy and their salvation lies in a unicameral presidential system that transitions them into a bicameral democracy in the longer term. As I look around me, I wonder if the worthy Professor was actually suggesting a solution for the political mess in Pakistan.

The writer is a freelance columnist.