Elections in the third world

By Abdul Ali

The aftermath of election, quite often in weakly democratic third world countries, is followed by trade of accusation by loser parties onto the majority winning party of pre poll, polling day and post polling rigging. opposition parties remain at loggerhead with ruling parties condemning it over stealing election and defeating will of people, which often soars to coup d’état or premature dissolution of elected houses.

With swelling allegation by disadvantaged parties in election 2013, one wishes for peaceful, rigged free; notion of democratic spirit, similar to recently conducted referendum in Scotland. Whether people like an independent Scotland or ‘united together’ with UK? People democratically exercised their voting rights, applied their conscience for betterment of her nation and coming generation. Seeing the opinion of people through ballot contrary to his estimation, Alex Salmond, the first minister graciously announced his resignation. In multi party truly democratic countries, people consciously use power of their voting rights to harbor his country in secure hand for development and enriching heritage for their posterity.

If ministers and presidents happen to be running business empires, then probable existence of conflict of interest is high enough. Politicians hailing from two main political parties are in elite stratum and those joining their league are in quest of nouveaux riches. Quaid-e-Azam was leader of Pakistan Muslim League, he was; without any slightest speck of doubt, true statesman and leader, who willed his wealth to schools and charity houses. Given the elitist political game, arrival on the scene of PTI and PAT is welcome sign. The followers of former are bulging youth while the latter’s poor and dejected mass.

In the country’s chquered history, the electoral houses had been place of feudal and land lorded politicians, who use their clout to evade taxes by submitting zero income tax statements. The middle working stratum is burdened with array of taxes; withholding and presumptive taxes on interest income, rental income, income of exporters, importers, suppliers, contractors, indirect sales taxes on consumptions and surcharges on services, fixed levies on electricity and telephone etc. The billionaire Sharif duo brothers, do not pay any income and wealth tax despite having declared assets of Rs 676.8 million in form of 4 sugar mills, 7 textile mills and other limited companies and foundries. The 11-member Sharif family paid total (income, wealth, agriculture) tax of Rs 0.94 million, in fiscal year 1997-98.

Leafing through political histories of some countries, resignations, removal and dismissals through mass appeal haven’t been outlandish idea. Of the very recent is Mr. Yanukovych of Ukraine, who remained governor(1997- 2002,PM(2002- 2004),but his election for presidency was nullified by Ukrainian Supreme Court in the face of mass protest at Kiev’s Independence Square ( Orange Revolution). The election was labeled fraught with allegations of fraud and voter intimidation. Though he enthroned himself to presidency in 2010 but this time round his country came to the brink of civil war by choosing Russian loan bailout and closer ties with Russia instead of pursuing EU association agreement. He fled the capital for Kharkiv, travelling next to the Crimea, and eventually exile in Russia. Ukrainian parliament voted, despite lacking in number under Ukraine’s constitutional legislation to remove him, issued a warrant for his arrest, accusing him of “mass killing of civilians”. Will anyone imagine the same like dispensation here for mass killing in Model Town, Lahore? Nobody has been held responsible yet.

Our country’s story verily resembles with an erstwhile French Colony- Madagascar, characterized by turn by turn power changing hands. Since its independence in 1960, Madagascar was being presided over by Philibert Tsiranana. In May 1973, an army coup led by Maj. Gen. Gabriel Ramanantsoa ousted him and Cdr. Didier Ratsiraka was named president in 1975. Repression and censorship characterized his regime but got reelected in 1989 in a suspicious election, which later led to riots. In 1991, Ratsiraka agreed to share power with opposition leader, Albert Zafy, who then overwhelmingly won the presidential elections in 1993. But Zafy was impeached by Parliament for abusing his constitutional powers during an economic crisis and lost the 1996 presidential election to Ratsiraka, who again became president in 1997. The 2001 presidential election proved inconclusive and Ratsiraka proclaimed martial law and set up a rival capital in Toamasina. The country had, in effect found itself with two presidents and two capitals. Later vote recount declared Ravalomanana the winner. Ratsiraka fled to France and Madagascar’s six-month civil war ended. In 2006, Ravalomanana won reelection with 54.8% of the vote. But twice reelection and claim of mass mandate for governorship couldn’t be taken for guaranteed. At most the country might have been between devil and deep sea in choosing from given limited options; giving in to lesser evil! Madagascar and Pakistan though different countries but have same story.

The nascent PTI thinks robbing it of its due votes. Are the duo major political parties divesting and bleeding our country bit by bit? The ECP prides itself of free and fair election while PTI alleges the ruling regime of engineering election results- stuffing ballot box of over 70,000 unidentifiable fingerprint cast votes, shutting down of UN monitoring system etc. It dejectedly claims, the country is in the tentacles of kleptomaniac corrupt dynastic fascist elite kings, who come to power not by power of people but money and it has shrunk democratic space and hopes for young voters of PTI. Nothing more than Plato’s totalitarian republic; characterized by the aims of Kallipolis’ rulers.

Same like imbalance in money power parity case has been with the serious challenger Ali Benflis to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in April 17,2014 election in the Algerian capital-Algiers. After 15 years in office, Bouteflika ran for a fourth consecutive term following a controversial 2008 constitutional amendment, which scrapped a two-term limit. Bouteflika is credited with bringing stability to a country ravaged by the brutal 1990s Algerian civil war, which killed around 200,000 people. The longstanding president has the support of Algeria’s powerful military and ruling elites, the country’s bureaucracy and trade unions. For election campaign to defeat the ever powerful President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the only resource, Ali Benflis has, quintessentially equipped with ‘Algerian can-do’ spirited committed volunteers. A former Algerian prime minister and veteran human rights activist, Benflis lost to Bouteflika in the 2004 presidential election amid allegations of electoral fraud. The Benflis team was pitted against the well-funded, colossal machinery of the Bouteflika campaign, a David v. Goliath battle that the opposition claims is exacerbated by the incumbent’s use of state resources on the campaign trail. Benflis told his supporters that due to the scale of the alleged fraud and irregularities: “Our history will remember this date as a great crime against the nation by stealing the voice of the citizens and blocking popular will.”

Of late, citizens have recognized value of system rather than personalities; to which our democracy has been tagged to umpteenth. In this fast age of information, strong democratic system must be in place, so that everyone can play its constitutional rights in state affairs. If didn’t, we will be soon closer to what happened in Liberia. The king of Liberia had been Attorney General (1904-1912), Secretary of State (1912- 1919) and president (1919- 1927). He was challenged in the presidential election of 1927 by Thomas J.R. Faulkner. According to an official statement King had received 234,000 votes; however, at the time Liberia had only 15,000 registered voters. This won King the dubious achievement of being listed in the Guinness Book of Records for the most fraudulent election reported in history.

Democratic norms require democrats bearing moral and ethical values in private and public life. What led to the resignation of 37th president-Richard Nixon in 1974? It was the fight for independent Vietnam; which killed over half a million troops in Vietnam and high school protesters protesting the war. ‘The Water Gate Scandal’, where five of Richard Nixon’s men were trying to steal information from the Democrat Party from the hotel- the Water Gate.

Why the incumbent PM regards his resignation damning one-way exit strategy of PTI? Why ousting of a single prime minister is attached to winding up of democratic process? If PM believes in judiciary, can’t he regain his lost seat and glory? When he could emerge victorious in 1990 in Supreme Court over corruption allegation leveled by President Ghulam Ishaq khan, why hesitate this time around?

The writer is an ACMA.

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