The democracy bug is fitfully catching on

July 28, 2010

But the news is by no means all good. A cursory look at several recent polls shows that too often they are travesties. In Burundi the incumbent, Pierre Nkurunziza, won unopposed with 92% of the vote (see article). In Ethiopia those opposed to Meles Zenawi’s ruling party won just two of parliament’s 547 seats. And in Sudan’s election Mr Bashir won against an opposition that had largely boycotted the event.

In the language of international election observers, many of these elections fall “below international standards”; in plain English, they are rigged to ensure that the incumbent or his ruling party cannot be ejected by the voters. Moreover, though even the nastiest leaders now feel obliged to hold elections, they are also getting more adept at fixing them. In Sudan, for instance, the regime manipulated every stage of the electoral process long before the actual voting, from the census in 2008 to keeping the opposition off the television screens just before the vote. Mr Zenawi has become similarly expert, passing laws before the poll to muzzle dissenting voices and hamper opposition. Read more