Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Elections, elections, elections

Note: Sorry to all readers for my hiatus. Things have been pretty crazy the last few weeks but I hope to resume regular blogging now.

The South African Institute of International Affairs in Johannesburg has an analysis of the upcoming elections in Africa this year.

It notes that Angola, Rwanda, Swaziland, Zambia, Côte d'Ivoire (in theory) and Ghana will all have parliamentary and/or presidential elections between now and the end of the year.

The analysis offers some very detailed explanations of the flaws in various electoral systems.

Cited in the Zimbabwean and Kenyan crises are some problems with wide resonance: Elections can create a winner-take-all mentality. There is too much at stake for leaders to admit defeat gracefully and vacate State House quietly. Voter registration is restrictive, voters' rolls are suspect and constituency maps gerrymandered, all to suit incumbents.

State institutions - including those overseeing voting - are increasingly militarised, and not averse to ballot box stuffing. State media churn out pro-government stories. Voters are intimidated for months before elections, even if polling day is peaceful.

Observers appear oblivious, complicit or impotent. Ethnic and economic cleavages are manipulated. Vicious violence ensues. It culminates, at best, in messy, compromise pacts among elites, bloated cabinets and unresolved issues, left to fester until the next vote.

One country whose elections have been plagued by these problems but will not be holding polls this year is Guinea. The country's Independent National Electoral Commission has announced that legislative elections originally scheduled for June 2007 and already postponed three times will be pushed back again and will not be held in November of this year.



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