Latest episodes in this series
Business Unusual - Elections of the future08 May 2019 | 7 Minute Listen
South Africa’s first democratic elections took place 25 years ago. Not much has changed in the way we cast our first ballots to the way we cast them in 2019, but digital change has tended to be exponential. It means things change slowly at first then suddenly. South Africans equate their ability to vote with democracy, and it has always been a vital part of the process but as the majority of South Africans also know, many governments claimed to be democracies while limiting who gets to vote. For many nations, rather than being actual democracies they are anocracies. It means they have elements of autocratic and democratic rule. South Africa before 1994 was an anocracy. While the ideals of democracy were applied first in ancient Greece, it was less about moving towards something to be more inclusive rather than moving away from something which was too authoritarian. In that respect, no democracy has managed to be fully inclusive. First, because those in a democracy don’t have a direct influence on state decision-making, but instead elect representatives that then act on their behalf. The Greeks excluded women, slaves and foreigners living in Athens from their elections. While democracies are intended to be inclusive none provide everyone with a vote. Women for the longest time have not been allowed to vote. The French Revolution is often seen as the founding of modern democracy for its ideals of liberty, fraternity and equality. The iconic image of Liberty leading the people is of a woman, but women did not get to vote in France until 1945 and then had to prove they were literate. It was only in 1965 that all women over 18 were able to vote. Saudi Arabia permitted women to vote in municipal elections for the first time in 2015. Women are still not allowed to vote in Vatican City, but there are fewer than 100 women with permanent residence there. Women’s suffrage began in earnest in the late 1800s and was first granted in New Zealand. While a significant cause was the effort by female advocates, another influential factor was the male-dominated governments understanding that they would need the support of women in war efforts and began to introduce reform after World War I. Other excluded groups were racial groups not in a majority. Minorities are typically marginalised by design as democracy favours majority rule. This was supposed to be in the contest of ideas but in many countries, those ideas are associated with ethnic, racial or language groups and so the most significant demographic population often also determine the majority rule.