- an official order or commission to do something: a mandate to seek the release of political prisoners
- the authority to carry out a policy, regarded as given by the electorate to a party or candidate that wins an election: he called an election to seek a mandate for his policies
The freshly elected government announces it is about to implement the policy it announced before the election. “We have a mandate to do this”, they point out, and conclude that the Opposition parties have no right to block this implementation.
Which raises the question, “why have an Opposition at all?”
Our form of democracy means each adult in a region known as an electorate votes, in preferential order, for all those who stand as candidates. Once elected the successful candidate, now our representative in parliament takes part in the debates and votes on legislation on our behalf. Whether or not the representative is our first choice that representative will vote in parliament (and/or their Party meetings) as they choose. Sometimes we will agree with decisions made by representatives from our electorate. We might never agree with some of the representatives.
It is not only unreasonable but also impossible for our representative to only ever vote according to our wisdom – they cannot keep all their electors happy all the time.
This means that although a government might seek to implement a pre-announced policy – following its mandate – the opposition also has a mandate to implement its policies, albeit as an opposition. All representatives are free to vote against a motion or seek to amend it.
Even members of the party in government might, on reflection, change their mind! In this case, to avoid being disloyal to their party or even being disciplined perhaps they should follow the rules of their party (presumably they agreed to them when they joined) and argue their case in a party meeting prior to voting in parliament.
Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.
Sir Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965), Hansard, November 11, 1947
Last Updated on May 19, 2015 by Ken Joyce