In November 2002, at a reception in a small despotic West African country, I met an American purportedly in the country to advise the president on running true and fair presidential elections, to be held a couple of weeks hence. I was told the president had been strongly urged not to claim a win of over 87% of the vote. His suggestion was however ignored. The PDGE (Partido Democrático de Guinea Ecuatorial) won by a resounding 97.1%. The next presidential elections held in 2009 were won by the same party with a slightly smaller margin of 95.36%.
Now the cynical among us may consider those elections rigged. President Teodor Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and his family have after all been in power since October 12, 1982, and Equatorial Guinea is not a country known for her openness, freedom of the press, or human rights.
Having lived in a number of countries not known for their transparency, and with what might be called a dodgy moral compass, it seems lesser known countries are not the only ones with dubious voting practices or ‘procedural challenges’. Cambodia, Serbia, Chad, Uganda are listed for the former, and the UK and the US fall into the latter category. Think hanging chads.
The Nevada GOP caucus yesterday appears to have done their best to create a chaotic setting for voters. Lines were long with little thought given to possible voter turnout. Photos popped up on Twitter showing registration volunteers wearing Trump swag – buttons, caps, tee shirts. Something the Nevada GOP were quick to comment on saying, “It’s not against rules for volunteers to wear candidate gear.” Well it should be.
Complaints about double dipping with regards voting are being looked into. Unsavoury to say the least. I imagine some of the issue is that caucuses are not governed by federal law, with state party organizations imposing different rules. I would though have thought it a relatively simple exercise to ensure enough ballot papers were printed. Left overs could always be recycled. At one voting station in Reno, Double Diamond Elementary School, ballot papers ran out. Little pink slips, with the candidate’s name written on it by the voter, were used as a back-up.
So too an up-to-date list of candidates. Ballot papers listing eleven names, six of which had withdrawn from the race; Bush (Feb 20), Christie (Feb 10) Fiorina (Feb 10), Huckabee (Feb 2), Paul (Feb 3) and Santorum (Feb 3). I could just about accept Jeb Bush still being on the ballot, having withdrawn only three days earlier. Printing issues and so forth. Politics might well be a murky business mostly conducted behind the scenes, but at least try and make the public face of it run efficiently.
The right to vote has been fought for, is still being fought for in some places, and so I have always believed voting is a civic duty, whichever candidate is supported. Occasionally though a candidate appears who truly horrifies, and I can only hope that great swathe of the country who cannot usually be bothered to get off their idle bottoms, will actually be galvanized to vote no. Otherswise this wonderful country just might find itself being governed by a man called Donald J Trump. A man whose flirtation with the truth is well documented. So much so George Bernard Shaw could well have been writing about him when he said, “He knows nothing and thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career.”
Then I hear an interview of a young man being asked why he voted for Mr Trump, winner of the Nevada caucus. His response was along the lines of, “Well Trump’s gonna get China to pay for the wall.” That would be the wall many seem to want built to keep out immigrants from heading over the borders along the southern states. When it was suggested perhaps the young man might mean Mexico, he replied, “Oh yeah, Mexico, but one of them will have to pay anyway.” Perhaps as well as presenting voter IDs, we should be made to pass a basic general knowledge test. One that perhaps also shows a map of the world.
Campaigning in America has become an obscenely over-funded game, wherein naive voters are being wooed by soundbites and fear, pandering to misplaced prejudices. Equatorial Guinea is a dictator-run country, the US is not, but both will be holding presidential elections in November 2016. Wouldn’t it be nice if both countries could be proud of their political process?