We could do worse than to look across the border to learn some lessons in politics and governance. The Indian presidential election has proceeded as smoothly as most such events in that country, with its advantages of a well-entrenched democratic system which follows the dictates of the Constitution clearly and visibly. This stability is something we badly need in our own country where so much anarchy prevails over many political matters, including the precise interpretation of the Constitution. Without much controversy, Pranab Mukherjee, the former finance minister of the country, has become the thirteenth President of India. The manner in which the transition has taken place, with none of the innuendo and suspicions which surround similar events at home, is testimony to the way in which systems have been institutionalised in India, making it virtually impossible for anyone to tamper with them or create a gap in the running of democracy. Sadly, we have over the past six decades faced just the opposite fate. This is one reason why our democracy has been unable to remain stable or durable. With our perpetual political upheavals and military interventions, democracy in Pakistan has failed to establish itself as a force that cannot be disturbed by any outside element. While the military cannot be spared of the blame, politicians, unfortunately, have not done any good for their own cause as well.
There is also something else to consider when comparing our divergent political fates. Mukherjee is a highly respected and experienced figure, and as a candidate of the United Progressive Alliance led by his own Congress Party and backed by several smaller groups, he drew widespread respect as a man who had served his country well and steered largely clear of major controversy. This may be one reason why he collected such a large number of votes, pushing him well ahead of his rival. The ability to command the loyalty of people is of course vital for anyone holding the post of president – a figurehead position but one that carries with it considerable power as symbolising the state and contributing to the unity within it. It is important then that the person who occupies the presidency is an individual unmarked by scandal, and able to rise above petty political matters. This too is something we need to learn. Many of our own problems stem from the acts of the president himself and his dual role as head of the ruling party. We can be sure that Mukherjee will be able, with his vast experience, to do a good job in his new post simply because he enjoys status as a leader who has risen through a stable democratic system and is looked up to by his people as a man they can trust. We can only wish we could follow suit.