Democracy as it was created in the West, means representative government. This is when a group of citizens elect a single person to represent them in the government. That representative themselves gets one vote in the legislature. Hundreds, thousands, or hundreds of thousands of citizens' voting power gets condensed into a single vote. What that means is that one candidate who who wins an election with half a million votes, will have the exact same voting power and a representative colleague who win their election with 100,000 votes.
A candidate who builds a vast coalition that encourages high voter turn out in their district, will have the same power as a candidate who works hard to suppress the votes of some groups of citizens so that their narrow coalition can eek out a narrow win. A representative from a depopulated region will have the same voting power as a representative from a more bustling urban center. How is this representative government?
Many democracies have tried to make their governments more representative through proportional representation and rank choice voting, but they all miss a fundamental flaw in this system of representation: some citizens' votes will not have as much power as others in Western representative democracy. The flaws of Western style democracy are numerous and have contributed to polarization and some segments of the population to yearn for authoritarian strong men to take charge. Many states within and nearby Iranshahr, have tried to recreate Western style democracies, only to see their countries slip back into the orbit of corrupt dictatorships.
If Iranshahr is to build lasting democratic institutions, its people need to start thinking of solutions beyond the narrow Western lens. The West's focus on competition and individualism creates exclusionary forms of democracy that encourage the political representatives to seek out the smallest coalition possible to win. Iranshahr's cultures feature stronger collectivist and consensus building values than their Western counterparts so its democratic systems need to incorporate communal representation. A representative's power needs to match the political will and vigor of the communities they serve, a citizen's vote must be equal to every other citizen's vote for them to have confidence in democracy.
The small solution I propose to this is called stewardship representation. Within stewardship representation, citizen's transfer and entrust their single vote to candidate during an election. If that candidate wins and becomes the representative, they receive that citizen's voting power for the duration of their term. Meaning, if a representative received 100 votes in a small town election for the town's council, that representative will be able to cast 100 votes in every measure that the town council votes on. If a representative of the country's national legislature receives 100,000 votes in their district, they will be able to use all 100,000 votes when voting on bills.
By equating the power of a representative to the number of votes they garner from their constituents, this will encourage candidates to not only try to win the office, but to also win the biggest coalition they can. Minority voters would also have a greater chance of their issues being taken seriously because when every little vote means actual more power vested in the candidate, that candidate is going to listen to the concerns that will build their power.
I believe stewardship representation could change the calculations of politicians and steer them away from polarization because in order to have greater impact in the political body they would work in, they would need more votes. This would encourage them to reach out to groups of constituents to win their support that under the more traditional circumstances, they would avoid. As the peoples of Iranshahr fight for democracy, the must avoid the pitfalls of liberal representative democracy to ensure the freedoms they secure, stay secure.
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Latif Simorghi is an activist, blogger, and author.