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The most important factor of democracy is that the people choose the government. Almost anyone can decide to run for office, if he wishes and if enough people want him to hold office, he will. The issued as to who should hold the office is decided by secret ballot, once every few - usually five - years. A day is set aside for the people to make this big decision. Theoretically, everyone has the power to overthrow a government if he or she wants to. In many countries, voting is compulsory. On polling day, people take turns to go and choose whom they want to lead them. But is this the best system?

First of all, the system assumes that everyone knows how to make a wise selection. This is not necessarily true. All of us like to be thought of as being wise and being able to make good choices but, this may not necessarily be so. People have a tendency to look at the government from personal points of view. The writer knows a man who has decided to vote against the ruling party because he was sentenced by the courts to clean Changi beach, as he had thrown litter near the Esplanade. Now is that a good reason to decide who should run the government? Even though one example does not mean that many of us think that way, it is still reasonable to expect that personal reasons do come in when we make an important decision like voting. Hence the one man one vote system that we are so religious about does have its drawbacks.

Before elections, candidates are given a period of time to sell themselves. Usually they and their supporters are full of fire and promise the voters a whole list of things if they come to power. In a society where the voters are educated and engage in that difficult past time, known as thinking, hot words are usually seen through. But not everyone thinks deeply in every society. For example look at advertisements. Do we always see through them and decide for ourselves on what to buy? Many of us are taken in by colorful advertisement language. Often we fall victims to snob appeal. Statistics show that products which are well advertised sell better than those which are not. The some thing happens during elections. People often 'buy' the candidate who sells better, without really questioning the 'product' that he is selling.

In some countries vote buying is a racket. Simple people are often coaxed into voting for candidates who pay them small sums of money. The people, being simple, are generally honest and it does not usually occur to them to take the money and then vote as they please. An alternative to vote buying is the use of the threat of force. Thugs hired by candidates threaten voters into voting for their bosses. Again it is difficult to convince the voters that their vote is secret and that the thugs have no way of knowing who voted for who.

The problem seems to be, that before people are given the heavy responsibility of selecting political leaders, they have to be educated on their rights and on what voting means. Without a full appreciation of their rights and power, the power of the vote means little. Now we have come to a vicious circle. Only enlightened politicians will seek to educate the voters. Enlightened politicians can come to power only if people vote for them. As for villainous politicians, it is to their advantage that voters are kept ignorant. However, come what may, there does not as yet seem to be a system which is better than the one man one vote system. Until such time, is seems to be all that we have got.

  1. (a) What are the most important factors of democracy as given in the passage ?
    (b) Why does the writer use the word 'theoretically' in paragraph 1 ?
    (c) Why does the writer disapprove of using the elections for personal vendatta ?
  2. (a) What happens, according to the passage, during election campaigns ?
    (b) What different reactions to 'hot words' are possible ?
    (c) Why does the writer use the phrase 'difficult pastime' to describe thinking ?
  3. (a) Describe the racket of vote coaxing in some democracies ?
    (b) What is the solution suggested by the writer ?
  4.   For each of the following words give one word or short phrase ( not more than seven words ) which has the same meaning as it has in the passage.
      i.   ballot   v.   engage
      ii.   overthrow   vi.   alternative
      iii.   compulsory   vii.   vicious
      iv.   drawbacks   viii.   villainous
  5. In your own words ( not more than 160 ) describe the problems with the one man one vote system in some democracies. Use only material from the passage for your summary.
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  1. (a) People have a right to choose the government; that is the most important factor.
    (b) He means that that is what is supposed to happen, but quite often does not.
    (c) It does not seem sensible to use single personal reasons to make such an important decision as choosing a government.
  2. (a) Candidates persuade the people that they are suitable through talking and fiery speeches.
    (b) People may be misled into thinking that a person who talks so well must be good; or they might think that he is not good because he talks too much.
    (c) People do not generally like to think, so the writer is using a sarcastic remark.
  3. (a) Before elections thugs are employed to buy votes from voters. They are paid sums of money to vote for a certain candidate.
    (b) The writer suggests that education is the solution.
  4. i vote
    ii depose
    iii obligatory
    iv the negative part of a situation
    v take part in
    vi choice
    vii savage
    viii crooked
  5. The democratic system has a few weaknesses. First of all, people vote out of personal feelings. If they feel that the government has done some injustice to them, they will vote against it. The writer recounts on incident where a person he knows intends to vote against the ruling party because he had been punished with a CWO for littering. Secondly, the oratory of the candidates has a lot of say in persuading people to vote for them. Hence the situation arises when people vote for a candidate because he argues his points better than because he is a better person to represent them. Thirdly, in some countries, candidates manage to buy votes. People being simple are faithful to the candidates who pay them even though their vote is secret. An alternative is persuading through the threat of force. Hired thugs threaten to harm people to vote for their bosses and people who are easily cowered vote for them. ( 160 words )

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Comprehension 1


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