Thursday, June 25, 2009

Of Elections, Rigging and Protests

For some time now, every election which has been conducted has in one way or the other been alleged to reek of rigging and fraught with voter intimidation and oppression. It is not uncommon to find sitting governments complaining of rigged elections (as occurred in Ghana). However, complaints from oppositions have dominated the gubernatorial and parliamentary electoral scenes. One cannot forget so easily the Orange Revolution that shook Ukraine, which led to dioxin poisoning of the main opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko. There was a re-run of the election and Yushchenko won, but not without complaints from the government in power.

Similarly, one can talk about the civil unrest that brought Thailand to its knees. These occurred in three phases. First there was a coup on September 19 2006 and led to the overthrow of Thaksin Shinawatra. During this period, supporters of the the ousted Prime Minister--The 'Red Shirts'--frequently held rallies and protests against the military regime. The problem was resolved when in the general election of 2007 pro-Thaksin groups led by Samak Sudaravej was declared the winner. However, his time as a Prime Minister was to be fraught with protests, rallies and demonstrations by the then opposition group known as the 'Yellow-Ribbons'. The unrest and demonstrations whose object was the overthrow of all Thaksin-affiliated parties, went into full force. In the end, the judiciary bowed to the excessive pressure and Thailand's Constitution Court dissolved the ruling government and parliament and a general election was held. This election brought to power Abhisit Vejjajiva (the minority candidate of the 'Yellow Ribbons). Again the Red Shirts claimed that the elections were unfair and began to protest.

These vacillations of power and anger show that in most elections, unless in situations where there is a clear popular majority, there would be at least two groups of people struggling for power. It happened in Ghana, and praise to God, Allah, Buddha, Infinitum and the other Supreme Beings, we solved it peacefully (something which the newsmakers of the world blatantly failed to report on because it does not fit their agenda for and description of Africa--a land of struggle, war, hunger, atrocities, conflicts etc. It clearly remained inconspicuous in their newspapers and news bulletins).

The main point of this article is that the fact that Moussavi has supporters does not necessarily means that he won the election. The fact that he can point to rigging does not mean they occurred or even if they did he would for that matter win. Don't get me wrong. I am no fan of Ahmedinijad or the Khomeinis and Khameinis. I am no fan of the abuse of human rights and the slaughtering of innocents protesters such as Neda (the voice) on the altar of power--something which we cannot outlive. However, there is one question we fail to answer. Should the table turn presently, wouldn't we have on the streets of Tehran, the numerous, presently silent, supporters who voted for Ahmedinijad? They would pour onto the streets like crude and would flow to overtake the country. Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that each candidate obtained 50 percent of the vote cast...it would be clear from this that each candidate has the men to support his cause, to demonstrate against any government and to bring government to its knees if it chooses to do so.

Hence, let's not be the judges and claim that for every election for which there are protests and accusations of rigging, the opposition or the accuser is right. No! In any election, even in America, there would be some aggrieved persons. Even if one candidate pulls only 20 percent of the votes and the remaining 80 percent goes to the winning side, there would be 20 percent of the total voters who would feel aggrieved. Assuming that there are 10 million eligible voters, this would give 200,000 voters. These voters can surely make their voices heard in any protest and demonstration. Thus, somebody is bound to ask 'Where is my vote?' as was shown in CNN. Your vote is part of the 20 percent. What do you expect? That you single vote should let your candidate win? This is the rubrics of democracy that the people have still not got it right. It is the rule by the majority not by the boisterous minority.

In the end, if Moussavi had won there would be protesters of Ahmedinijad on the streets as there are protesters of Moussavi on the streets of Tehran. We should therefore not be prejudiced into thinking that the masses of Iranians are supporters of the opposition candidate. There have even been reports suggesting that the object of these demonstrations is at best inchoate and diverse with no homogeneity of purpose. There are some who are genuinely supporters of the 'reformer' Moussavi and there are those who do not support either candidate but are willing to see 'absolute' change in Tehran. Let Iranians solve Iranian crisis...simple. The manoeuvrings of the west in such issues which borders on the personality of Ahmedinijad does nothing to change the situation...if anything at all it escalates and raises tempers. For Iran as a state can decide to own whatever they deem important in the protection of their country and their people. As a matter of fact Americans own nuclear weapons, Israel own nuclear warheads, and many other countries, so why not Iran? Why not Ghana (I am not joking)? Unless each country is prepared to declare and destroy its nuclear weaponry, there is no philosophy that says 'you can have this but not you' except that which exists in the novel of George Elliot and has oft been quoted by equal right activists.

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