A political system in a country is influenced by and embedded in the country’s political culture. Political culture is the broad set of values and ways in politics. Many times, these are based on traditions, beliefs, attitudes, and other things that form the overall culture or cultures in a country. That means that the political culture cuts across political parties, although there can be specific forms that belong more to one party than another. In any case, it is important for political parties to behave in such ways that are appreciated by people, especially those who are their voters and sympathisers. The opposite can also be the case, namely that people dislike the ways politicians behave, what issues they discuss and the decisions they make. However, politicians depend on the people’s and voters’ interest and support for their work. Lack of it, indeed lack of trust, is feared by the politicians.

In a young democracy, like Pakistan, the political culture is still being shaped, more so than in older democracies, such as Norway, my country of origin, and the UK, the country whose political system is certainly a model for many countries, also Pakistan; neighbouring India has a similar history, but it is at the same time on its own path. The traditions of other countries, such as the superpower USA, are different and do not in the same way form a model for Pakistan. China, the most important country in Asia, and soon the world’s largest economy, has an entirely different political tradition than the Western democracies.

Until now, few countries have tried to learn from China’s political tradition, which may however be difficult if one is not Chinese. Yet, many countries around the world admire China’s economic growth and the uplift of millions of people, away from poverty into prosperity. In future, I believe that we will look more to China and draw lessons when possible, and probably also focus less on negative aspects of its development and the lack of democratic participation. Since the West sees China as a challenge and competitor to its economic and other leadership, there will still be plenty of criticism.

Russia is the largest country in the world in land size; its natural resources are massive, but the land is sparsely populated with a total of 145 million people. Some time in future, Russia will (again) be a superpower, as it was seen as during the Soviet Area (1917-1989/91), and even earlier during the Tsar’s rule. But Russia has never had true democratic traditions. During the communist or socialist Soviet Area, there was international interest in how Russia organized its society, but not in its political culture and how it made decisions. Generally, there was resentment, but that also had to do with basic ideological differences between communism and capitalism, and the propaganda on both sides, indeed on the West’s side.

More examples of different political traditions and cultures could have been given. I shall instead emphasize on the fact that parties with different ideologies, still operate within the same, or a similar, political culture, with similar ways of thinking, debating, and ways of achieving the results they want. Some of the ways are specific to each political party, even with local variations from capital to regions and districts.

In many countries, indeed in Pakistan, the result of an election, with winners and losers, doesn’t mean that the winners are to be accepted and allowed to stay in power for the time they have been elected, such as the five-year parliamentary term. The opposition shall keep the government on its toes, but it shall also be a constructive opposition, not seeking to oust the winners from power. In Pakistan, the political culture is such that too much time and energy are focused on changing the government even during a parliamentary term. A no-confidence vote should indeed be rare. I believe far too much time was spent on politicking to oust Imran Khan’ government from power; it took away time from real debates and implementation of decisions. But the political culture somehow called for the ways the opposition behaved. Currently, when the situation is as it is, with the Shehbaz Sharif government in power, the opposition should ‘rest its case’ and let the government rule till the next general election next autumn, not spend time on trying to topple it or calling for early elections. The contest and the people’s verdict will come in the elections. In the meantime, the opposition should focus on being constructive, yes, keeping the government on its toes but also supporting it on key issues in a time of inflation, price increases and growing living difficulties.

In all countries, there are important institutions outside the parliament and the government, so also in Pakistan. The judiciary is particularly important, monitoring that business is implemented in accordance with laws, rules and regulations. Other key institutions are the civil service and the military. I believe Pakistan has a competent civil service, which should be politically neutral. Having had military rule for a good number of years after Independence, the military has a strong position also in politics, but that role should be reduced over time. It is the role of the politicians and the political culture to refine these issues so that the key institutions do not interfere in, or are lent upon, in the ordinary work of the parliament and government. Again, it is the parliamentarians that form the elected members and thus have power from the people, and the political culture must work towards improving the work of all.

And yes, politicians must improve their political culture when it comes to being more principled and honest. Politicians everywhere are good at ‘horse-trading’ and working in all kinds of ways to get the results they want. However, this must be done in ways that are fair and acceptable. The political culture must not accept too much wheeling and dealing, which will, among other things, lead to reduced trust for politicians.

Corruption of all kinds, which usually involves money, but there can also be intellectual and corruption, must be reduced and ended. However, that can only happen if there are control mechanisms in place, based on the right political culture, and stern measures taken when corruption is discovered. In Norway there is little corruption and anyone caught loses faces disgrace and is finished in top politics for long or for good. This year, several parliamentarians were caught for rather ‘petty corruption’, namely taking undue advantage of travel and housing rules for parliamentarians. It led to serious consequences for those who were caught. However, what was more serious was that it seemed to be based on a political culture, where it was almost seen as acceptable to bend the rules in your own favour.

Finally, today, since I have drawn attention to several negative aspects of the political culture, let me stress that there are also many positive things in all countries’ political cultures, and it is only the people themselves, the politicians and the voters who can improve the way the systems work—and we must always work towards improving the political culture in our democracy. In all countries, it is important to strengthen the good traditions and create higher participation and trust for our democracy and the politicians.