Vote Early, Vote Often

Zimbabwe has been to the polls and once again we optimists have been confounded by outright corruption triumphing in the face of not even half-empty rhetoric.

The screwed up newspaper footage tumbled hopefully by; MDC supporters forming long, untidy yet photogenic queues day after day - could this be South Africa c.1994 all over again?... It wasn't, it was Zimbabwe in the twenty first century and the 'free' world was duly outraged when everything turned out exactly as everybody had said it would all along. Though, clearly, not so outraged as to be inclined to do anything about it.

Before, during and immediately after the inevitable result was announced Jack Straw regularly flitted in front of the cameras denouncing, denouncing, denouncing: "We do not recognise the result nor its legitimacy", one would not have been surprised if he had continued sotto voce off camera "In fact, we intend Zimbabwe completely." For while Tony talks of "healing the scar that is Africa" we have yet to see him laying on hands.

The dictator Mugabe dictates at will the image of the racist western whitemen and our unwelcome imperialist interference in Africa's affairs to Zimbabwe's state-controlled media., So incumbent is this interference that no-one in the West seems able to lift a finger to stop him (Straw will not even ban

"Look dad! I is the President!" -

of African self interest, man of the people, - for who is it that is railing so loudly, so impotently, so insincerely about Mugabe's white George Bush. A man who would have difficulty finding Africa on the map, let alone Zimbabwe.

George Bush Jnr, 'President' of America - champion a way that would have many African despots blushing with embarrassment at its blatant perversion: son of a former president (who had also been head of the secret service) supported by corrupt financiers and global oil companies keen to plunder his countries natural resources. He gains an acknowledged minority of the popular vote but steals the election thanks to electoral misconduct disenfranchising minorities in a state controlled by his brother. All this democratic process then needed was rubber stamping by a Jeb Bush appointed Florida Attorney General and the Bush Snr appointees to the Supreme Court.

The same George W Bush while complaining so loudly about democracy and human rights in Zimbabwe, Iraq, Sudan, North Korea and others, conveniently overlooks his own bombing of civilians in Afghanistan and is kinda forgetful about the US provision of armsto Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Columbia, countries not exactly feted as open societies.
(Noam Chomsky

"It's my party and you'll do what I say!"

And then there is Tony Blair.. Emperor Blair, a very schizophrenic democrat; one day he gives us the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the GLA, the very next he rigs the Labour party's internal elections for the candidates for the same. Happily the devolution genie was out of the bottle and popular choices Rhodhi Morgan and Ken Livingstone succeeded despite their party's politburo attempted puppetshow. Tony has no such worries a sitting Labour prime minister cannot be removed by his party. Even the Tories are more democratic than that, as Mrs T. would have told you. (Or she would have done before last week's announcement that she has officially lost her mind. Was this news to anyone?)

Despite his seemingly enormous popularity with the electorate and what he had promised before he attained power, he doesn't trust us to choose who should go into the second chamber of parliament. Although he "believe(s) that a modern Britain deserves better than an Upper House based on birth and privilege", he thinks that removing its independent elements and packing the benches with appointees grateful for his patronage is an improvement.

"In my view, the second Chamber is a revising Chamber. We do not need two Chambers competing against one another. This Chamber is the proper Chamber for democratic authority and overall control, and that is why I do not believe in a fully elected second Chamber, which my right hon. Friend (Tony Benn) believes in." T.Blair 1/10/2001

"Voting with our feet up."

Actually Blair is not as popular as his massive majority suggests, more people voted for Major's Tories in '92 than Blair could inspire in '97 or '01. Maybe Zimbabwe is more democratic than UK, in their election turnout was greater than 70% with MDC supporters queuing for days to cast votes they probably knew would get lost on the way to the count. And even better in Zanu PF strong-holds where in some cases the turnout was 112%.

This is in sad contrast to our last General Election where there was a pathetic turnout of 58%, the lowest since 1918, as voters shunned the process. Now, unlike Australia Britain is a free country and voters can stay at home if they so choose, I am happy with that, but it delighted Jack Straw too and this really, really annoyed me. He had the pomposity to claim that the millions of people electing not to elect him were demonstrating "the politics of contentment", that

"We will find after the election there are loads more people who wanted a Labour victory than actually turned out to vote."
"So the state of the moral authority will paradoxically be greater than that of the vote."

What a democrat! Even Mugabe could learn a thing or too from that!

What should we do to improve this situation? First of all sign up with Charter 88 ( Then I have a few modest proposals of my own which I will present next time...

Part two: "The Politics of Contentment; Apathy rules UK", here

Wednesday, 5th September 2001