From here to nowhere and to an ‘Ahmadinejadian’ end?
â€œWe vote to get president. We get president. But where our vote, we don’t know” was a line that I had saved from a news report on the Iranian presidential polls in June 2009. What ever the man on a Teheran street wanted conveyed, it meant the presidential election results and their voting had no compatibility.
What will it be here after 2010 January 26 presidential elections ? The election campaign here in SL is now â€œofficially” over. Yet, there is campaigning going on. What would the result be ? Will it be â€œwe get president. But where’s our vote” story ? Just 02 days more for the polls, what could the answer be ? Those who said, â€œit could be either way” a fortnight ago, now prefer to say, one with the â€œbigger muscle power” could be the winner.
Will it be ? We have local election monitors churning out daily reports. There are foreign election monitors in town too. They talk of being neutral and say the same thing that we were told many times before, by international, Commonwealth and European Union observers who were here for previous elections. We may even have extensively documented reports thereafter. We have had such comprehensive reports before too. But no monitoring had been able to make elections any fairer and free. Made them less violent than what the contending parties and the government wanted them to be.
Therefore, despite these monitoring, the trend seems clear. Local election monitoring agencies have recorded too many violent incidents and abuse of State power to suspect an imminent outbreak of violence on election day and after. The most recent violent attacks with 04 deaths and grenades thrown, heavy abuse of State media, resources and power, show a chilling trend on election day and possibly after.
There were very meek and weak calls against violence by candidates and political leaders a day or two ago. But nothing serious and nothing substantial to date to seriously and firmly clamp down violence. None in the campaign has condemned these attacks and violence in a forthright manner, for the people to have faith in their condemnations and to expect a free and fair election.
Certainly, both leading campaigns have contributed for all these violence. There are many reasons for such dirty and violent decline at elections this time. This election is being fought by two, who are Sinhala political twins, both claiming glory for a brutal war against the Tamil Tigers that left 03 whole districts totally uprooted and 300,000 civilians behind barbed wire camps as IDPs. Its the same Sinhala political platform, with the same loud group that promised almost the same things 04 years ago from a â€œblue â€“ red” platform that is now promised from a â€œgreen â€“ red” platform with shifted loyalties.
Beyond the war claims, they could only throw out promises that would have nothing once the elections are over. Promises that have no relevance to any of the major issues this country is facing. There is no answer to the question of how the now divided and wounded society would be healed and reconciled. How the State would be reformed and democratised for a plural society to live in dignity. There is no answer as to how the economy would be salvaged and society developed to absorb youth with an economically viable, quality life.
How have they then made the difference to attract votes ? That came with personal comparisons. With condemning the opponent. Thus we saw an election that offered no sane answers to the issues that needs to be solved, but one that took more and more personal and private issues, some clustered as â€œcorruption”, some as â€œbetrayals” and some as â€œincompetence” in governance. All efforts, in packaging personal and private issues in political dressing.
This campaign with no serious politics has thus led to violence in forcing the voter to decide the way the Candidates want. That needs a show of power. This society has always preferred politicians with a “muscle”. It has always been the rough and the ruffian who bags the larger bag of preferential votes in any list. The educated and the disciplined in any list, has always been left far down in preferential voting.
That seems the social psyche which decides winners. It accommodates “force” instead of â€œprinciples”. Its the â€œpredator” politician and not the â€œprincipled” politician who commands demand among most voters in this society. At least in the Sinhala society. Campaigning at this election has further hardened that psyche.
In such an irresponsible, short sighted society, the Election Commissioner is expected by the international community and other local and foreign â€œrights” groups to deliver a well conducted, free and fair election, without any support from law enforcement agencies, the State media and without the authority of political respect to conduct such an election.
Robbed of the decent independent environment that could have been there with the implementation of the 17th Amendment, he is being reduced to a person who could only print and distribute polling cards, organise polling booths and then count the vote, for mobs to go on a wild frenzy of targeting opponents.
This election for the first time in our history is talked about as one that has splits in law enforcement agencies and the security forces. Minus the Constitutional Council and its independent commissions, political appointments have created divided loyalties in State organisations. Will they take orders from the incumbent, who is also a candidate ?
There seem very little space for a free and fair election, despite monitors going round to report on the conduct of the elections. The ground is laid out cold for the stronger of the two in mobilising violence, either to force a result or to resist such violence, not to win but to â€œgrab” the election.
This leads to a post election scenario with an unfortunate violent result. If the muscle power and abuse of State resources by the ruling party goes beyond the tolerant point of changing the final outcome of the election, it would be the Election Commissioner who would be in a dilemma in announcing his decision. Withholding results for re-polling or declaring results with many dozens of ballot boxes removed as tampered or stuffed, would not be passively accepted this time, as in the 1988 December presidential elections.
Then in 1988, with JVP the insurgency terrorising the rural areas denying free and fair polling, representatives of candidates R. Premadasa and Madam Bandaranayake signed and accepted the final result despite removing 47 ballot boxes. This election is different. It is so heated and is being heated, the Election Commissioner is caught in a â€œcatch 22” situation. No candidate would put their signature to accept such a result, this time. They can not afford to. For neither of the two can go back home as an honourably â€œdefeated” candidate.
It would thus be their supporters who would stay on the streets, demanding their vote be given due respect.
In Teheran, [quote]amid ensuing violence, Ahmadinejad remained adamant that the election was free and democratic. â€œAlmost 40 million people attended the free election and passed a huge democratic test in front of the whole world and chose the path of awakening, pride and dignity,” he said in a televised speech after the results were declared.[unquote â€“ 14 June, 2009 / IANS]
What could be the crowning speech of the winning candidate here ?