The electricity shortfall in the country is reported to have reached 5,700 megawatts, and citizens are being subjected to power outages of up to 18 hours per day. It is only the beginning of the summer season and as it gets hotter, the situation will get worse. Meanwhile, the democracy circus is heating up in plush rooms air-conditioned by private electricity generators. What makes it simply revolting is the fact that these discussions behind privileged closed doors in the name of democracy are not held to find solutions to this or any other problem faced by the people. Clearly, the political machinations and jorr torr that seem to take up almost all of our political leadership's time and most of their energy, is aimed at other things. Had it been otherwise, the results would have been very different. We are reminded time and again that the worst form of democracy is better than a dictatorship. It would be interesting to find out what the source of this particular pearl of wisdom is, and whether the system of governance we are subjected to these days could be termed as a democracy in the first place. Those arguing for its continuation basically rely on the fact that the present government came about as a result of elections in the country, as if that condition, in itself, is enough to put the label of democracy on a system. They also point at the fact that the government is run by a Parliament and other constitutionally created institutions of the state, again a sign of democracy. But as we have discovered, these arguments are little more than excuses for the continuation of an oligarchy that is a hideous blemish on the face of democracy. We have been told by the National Database and Registration Authority that up to 45 percent of votes on the electoral lists are bogus. In the light of this startling revelation, what is to be made of the 2008 election results that gave birth to the present dispensation? Can we consider it representative of the popular will? The shadows of doubt cast on the representativeness of the reigning Parliament are further lengthened when one considers the large number of eligible voters that were not included in the 2008 electoral lists. And though theoreticians would not like to entertain the serious shortcomings in the first-past-the-post electoral system that our so-called parliamentary democracy is based upon, it is obvious that it flies in the face of the democratic principle of the rule of the majority. In our case, the democratic dispensation is actually supported by a very small minority, while the majority is either denied its voice or drowned in the sea of bogus votes. The argument about a democratic structure of governance is also hogwash. What we have seen is one man, an indirectly elected President, riding roughshod over the democratic structure, even after the Eighteenth Amendment. Whether it is Parliament or the Senate, the NAB or the ECP, the FIA or various ministries and departments, they are hostage to the whims of the President and his oligarchic coterie that passes off as the government. This unscrupulous band of power players has refused to play by the rules and found ways to subvert any constitutional hurdles in its way. One only has to look at the way they have treated the Supreme Court and its orders to understand that there is nothing democratic about their conduct. The institutions of the state are treated as tools to be used for self-perpetuation, and when some institution refuses to be used in such a way, it is fought and its functioning hampered. Rules are either disregarded or manipulated. Clearly, the democratic structure is a facade which is meant to hide a very undemocratic system of governance. The only problem for proponents of the present dispensation is that the facade has evaporated into thin air, and the farce is there for all to see, in full public view. When you consider that the political parties that participate in this democratic circus, that project themselves as the lifeblood of our democracy, are little more than personality cults populated by hordes of opportunistic yesmen, it becomes even harder to pass off this cruel game being played in the name of democracy as democracy. The political parties in our Parliament, each and every one of them, have never held elections within their parties. This is no small matter. For after all, the notion of building a democracy from the top is absurd. Those given tickets by these parties to contest elections are not chosen by the people but by their bosses, the same handful of individuals, who have perfected the art of keeping democracy on a leash and running it on their whims. So the claim over a party ticket is not based on the candidate's popularity in his constituency, but the influence he enjoys in the oligarchic inner circle of the political party. The argument advanced in favour of this fraudulent democracy is that it has a self-correcting mechanism and, if allowed to continue, it will correct these flaws and move towards something that is closer to the ideals of democracy. Unfortunately, this is not supported by evidence. Of course, one does not expect that it will be achieved in a few years. Yet, it is not too much to expect that the so-called political players in the circus would at least start moving in that direction. What one has seen instead has been a further erosion of democratic norms. Democracy within the political parties has diminished further and sycophancy reigns supreme. The political governments seem even further removed from the concerns of the people and are being driven by petty personal and partisans agendas that aim at little more than strengthening their hold on power in order to abuse it. Every time one exposes the fraud that our current democratic dispensation is, the politically correct pundits are scandalised. They see it as an invitation to martial law. They'd much rather get fried in the worst form of democracy, than to land in the fire of a dictatorship. The question is: Can we call the present dispensation a democracy in the first place? And, if we really stretch the definition of democracy to call it such, is it not important to question its feet of clay in order to make it slightly better than the worst form that we suffer today? The writer is a freelance columnist.