Governing the right way

by Cherie-Lynn van der Merwe


A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go but ought to be. Rosalynn Carter


Time magazine suggested that 2024 is the election year. This may be because 64 countries plus the European Union are scheduled to hold elections this year. Every constituency has a particular context, but considering global patterns is also quite informative.


Russia’s Vladimir Putin – a staunch far-right conservative by decree type leader ( – remains firmly in place, and he seeks to encourage this form of government with like-minded leaders like  Kim Jong Un of North Korea. Neighbouring Ukraine was due to hold elections this year, but war has made that impossible. It might have been interesting to see the outcome.


Pakistan’s Imran Khan has a right-wing, anti-West, pro-Taliban reputation, but his intense focus on social services for the poor has a leftist flavour. Interestingly, there is a much higher young vote at play in Pakistan. Neighbouring India defied the polls, as the right-wing BJP won the majority, albeit with fewer seats than expected. News channel Aljazeera suggested that young voters were fed up with the rise in unemployment and the humiliating attitudes of some leaders.


The European Union elections also showed some surprisingly strong right-wing results. It should be noted many of the affected countries grapple with the influx of migrants and refugees fleeing from intolerable conditions of war and poverty. French President Emmanuel Macron, a young president at 46 with a centralist approach, responded by dissolving parliament and calling for snap elections. 


Mexico has elected its first woman president, Claudia Steinbaum, who has a strong right-wing stance. Could this country, which has struggled under large-scale, male-dominated organised crime and filled average citizens with fear, be looking for a creative way to find stability?


South Africa’s elections brought interesting outcomes. For the first time since 1994, the ANC was not able to gain an outright majority, forcing them to rethink their strategy. They opted for a Government of National Unity, which would include pro-business DA, conservative IFP and right-wing PA. The two strong left-wing parties of MK and EFF have declined involvement in the GNU, instead preferring to have their voices heard individually.


Why is this all so important?


No matter where our preference may lay on the political spectrum, we need to listen to those who agree and disagree to find a way forward.


The world has become an interesting playing field, with ideas being more readily shared globally. Young, fresh minds can process rapid change because they are comfortably open to interacting on the digital stage. Openness to discussion and debate of new ideas is welcomed. Young people, frustrated by slow change, thrive on inclusion and action. Is it any wonder that where young minds meet, change is not only expected, it is enthusiastically mobilised? More seasoned leaders could and should be called on to provide wisdom of experience, but one cannot help but wonder if the season of octogenarian leadership is rapidly ending.


Having said this, with change, there appears to be a cry for stability. Unemployment, fiscal restraint, crime and violence, and threats to faith or tradition can lead to a sense of instability or loss of identity. This could be the drive for the more right-wing or conservative thinking we see rising.


Healthy democracy enables citizens from across political, economic, and social contexts to contribute to the conversation. Given that both young, change-driven minds and the growing need for stability seem to be rising, one can perhaps wonder if the world is struggling to find a sense of healthy balance.


One thing is certain: we need to learn to listen more attentively and be prepared to consider all possibilities. 

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