What is a politician?
A politician is a person who is professionally involved in politics, either holding or seeking an office in government. When in office, they help to produce the policies which govern a country. Otherwise, they may engage in party politics, campaign for particular issues and debate with fellow politicians.
Why do politicians matter?
Politicians matter for the same reasons that politics matters. As we care about how we are governed and how power is shared in society, we should also care about who governs us and who wields the power. If we want to protect democracy, for example, we must ensure that politicians introduce laws according to the will of the citizens and remain accountable to the people.
What makes a good politician?
It is important to know what makes a good politician so that we can evaluate our own leaders as well as being in the best position to enter the world of politics ourselves. Much of what makes a good politician depends on one’s perception of the right way of doing politics.
In democracies, politicians need to be able to effectively represent the people. They should be able to listen to voters and determine what they want. Politicians should also be honest and follow through with their promises in order to remain credible and trustworthy. They should be willing to compromise in a system where there are a variety of views to reach consensus.
In non-democratic countries, politicians need to be strong-willed to keep social cohesion. It is also important that they have similar outlooks to their citizens so that they maintain high public support.
In all regimes good politicians should be compassionate, confident and able to lead. These characteristics will help politicians work out the most beneficial course of action and secure high public approval.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – a successful politician
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf became the Liberian president and the first democratically elected African female president in 2006. Much of her success as a politician came down to her compassion and commitment to women’s rights and education as means to end poverty.
Her ability to lead effectively and her vast experience in the World Bank and United Nations Development Programme enabled her to improve Liberia’s economy, national security and relationships with other countries. Criticising previous governments over corruption and always striving for equality and justice, she was a politician with high integrity.
Omar Al-Bashir – a controversial politician
Al-Bashir seized power in 1989 from the democratically elected al-Mahdi. He alienated the people by dispersing all political parties and shutting down private media outlets. He has shown no compassion or concern for international relations after directing acts of violence against South Sudan. He has lost all credibility after siphoning $9bn out of his country’s funds.
Good politicians come in all different shapes and sizes. But what they all have in common is a concern for their people and an ability to lead. It is important to know what makes a good politician so that we can hope to have them!