As El Salvador goes to the polls on Sunday, Maria Renée Palomo offers her countrymen and women some advice on how to choose the right candidate, advice which has a relevance beyond the borders of El Salvador.
Why not go and vote? Many of us see politics as such a big problem that we prefer to bury our heads in the sand like the proverbial ostrich so as not to have to face it.
That is what often happens in my country, El Salvador: we see something so dirty and corrupt that we prefer to pretend we don’t see it and don’t go to vote. The elections are not far away, and it is up to us to elect our deputies. But how do we choose them, what are the criteria?
It doesn’t take more than 10 minutes to read a candidate’s key campaign proposals (you can easily find them on social media and you will see that most of them are similar).
Let’s not forget that the budget is essential, the candidate has to be realistic and not promise heaven and earth and, in the end, fail to deliver. Indeed, candidates have to stop making unattainable promises, they have to measure the consequences of their proposals and explain how they will put them into practice: we want something CONCRETE.
The party is not so much what interests us (because there are brilliant and capable people in almost all parties), but the candidate’s advisors and their entourage is. As the saying goes, “Tell me who you hang out with and I’ll tell you who you are”; if they are competent, honest and hard-working people, they will know how to advise and guide the candidate along the right path.
One important question to ask is, who finances the candidate? Often those who finance have interests that go against the welfare of the majority. Illegal or shady financing can lead to corruption or favouritism. A good candidate is one who is transparent in their campaign financing, declares their assets, pays taxes and behaves in an exemplary manner.
The most important thing is the person and his/her career: are they running in the interests of the community or their own or those of a restricted group of people?
In other words, one has to ask whether they are self-centred or have a real vision for the development of the country.
It is important that the candidate wants to serve their people, is polite and respectful of the opinions of others (not wasting time criticising the work of others, but rather focusing on their own efforts). What are the most important values for us? The parliamentarians we elect are the ones who will defend the values that are essential to us. Democracy is one of them.
Then there is the question of background. Where do they come from? This is not to say that the past defines the future, but it says a lot about what that person can achieve. What is their professional attitude and ethical stance? Have they been involved in any illegal dealings? Have they managed their business or jobs well?
Let’s say I want to start a business, would I want that person to be my partner? Are they trustworthy and honest in the management of their accounts, do they know how to keep a budget? The candidate must be aware of the magnitude of the responsibility of managing public funds. He or she will have to take a strategic view of the economy and invest in projects that will ensure prosperity in the future.
There are many things to consider when choosing who to vote for, but with these questions we can already get an idea.
Let’s not get carried away by candidates who spend their time discrediting their opponents but concentrate instead on their programme and the facts of their past. Let’s not hide our heads like ostriches, let’s not turn a blind eye. Just as we spend hours looking at our friends’ profiles on social media, let’s ‘stalk’ the candidates!
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