Friday, January 27, 2006

get out and vote

I was watching one of those 'year in review' programs recently. Is it just me or was there an unusual number of political elections, real and ersatz, in the year gone by? Voting goes on almost everywhere, all the time, for all kinds of things. Kind of like the American Idol model applied to the world political scene...

Lots of noise over the Palestinian elections. The press banters about words like 'stunning' and 'shocking' to describe the Hamas leap in power, but I, like others, am not so sure how surprising it is. Did anyone really think that the Palestinians, so steeped in poverty and fear, so easily frenzied by radical religious and political discourse, would choose the path of moderation?

Back in July of 2005 the Iranians 'elected' the truculent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, one of six mullah appointed candidates to the presidency, as a clear sign of where their leadership wants to go.

Free elections may not be the panacea for the Islamic world that the US is looking for.

The electorate in Iraq chose a majority of Shiite leaders who pledge to rule by religious law, albeit tempered by internal political opposition and the nervous influence of the US. For some, the nightmare of the rebirth of a 'greater Persia', Islamic world power is just starting.

Viktor Yushchenko was sworn in as Ukraine's president on January 23 after a bizarre campaign and three failed election attempts.

George W. Bush began his second term on January 20.

The Saudis held municipal elections for the very first time ever in Riyadh. Interesting, though not exactly a major victory for the proleteriat: only a third of those eligible voted and women were excluded. When King Fahd bin Abdel Aziz al-Saud (82) died in August he was succeded by the younger, more reckless Prince Abdullah (81).

The Egyptian parliment said it might start thinking about thinking about having some sort of very controlled if not all together symbolic election of someone to some honorific post sometime in the undetermined and improbable future. That encouraging announcement was made in February.

Actually, Mubarak allowed elections when seeking his 'fifth term' later in the year. He shocked all the pundits by taking 98% of the vote.

After the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the Lebanese government was disolved to free itself from the pro-Syria faction widely believed to have killed the ex-prime minister. The incumbent prime minister, Omar Karami, was reelected and, unable to form a new government, resigned a few weeks later.

Kyrgyzstan had fraudulent elections. Zimbabwe held fake elections. Afghanistan had dangerous elections. And it seemed that everytime the news went on during 2005 the Iraquis were voting for one thing or another.

Liberia elected Harvard-educated economist Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf over former soccer star George Weah. How being elected to anything in Liberia could be considered 'winning' is beyond me.

Tony Blair won a third term, the Italians dissolved and reformed government at the usual rhythm and zee Germans elected Angela Merkel as their first female chancellor.

Check out Latin America: Tabare Vazquez in Uruguay (first time socialist rule); Evo Morales in Bolivia (Viva la nacion aimara!); Michelle Bachelet in Chile (mas de lo mismo)... all of whom can snuggle with Hugo in Caracas and Fidel in La Habana to make the southern hemisphere a worrisome place for Uncle Sam. And when the PRD candidate Lopez Obrador wins in Mexico on July 2, the fiesta can really begin.

The Equatorians threw out President Lucio Gutierrez and VP Alfredo Palacios assumed power. I believe the government of Equador remains basically pro-USA, so W can breathe easier...

Of course, Pope Benedict XVI was elected to succede John Paul II. Not a 'popular' election nor one born of democratic process in the strict sense of the term. Very newsworthy, nonetheless.

You know, now that I think of it, I don't believe I've ever voted in any election. I had better get with the program. This could be my year...