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Monday, July 26, 2021

Letters:How to steal an election (Part 1)

Dear editor,
Elections are seen as a cornerstone of any democracy and that includes the unabashedly pretentious democracies like the United States. To buy legitimacy, even the vilest of dictators would hold periodic elections in order to claim legitimacy and be a “government of the people, by the people and for the people.” It gives buffoons like Museveni the label “democratically elected”, because the elections were conducted in a “generally” “free and fair”manner.

Consider the case of President King of Liberia. They had only 15 thousand registered voters but somehow, President King ended up having more 200 thousand votes. Yes, you read that right, 200 thousand people voted for him when they only had 15 thousand registered voters at the time. And guess what, he was also “democratically elected.”

Oftentimes, election results are what is used to declare a leader “democratically elected.” And here in Africa, unless people pick up machetes or guns and go after each other on a large scale, the elections are considered “generally” “free and fair.” Even though elections are a cornerstone of any democracy, somehow, the process of electioneering itself does not have to align with democratic norms for the “winner” to be declared “democratically elected” or for the elections to be considered “free and fair.”

Hold elections every few years, results are announced and a winner is declared and the loser is expected to concede. Then the drumming and celebrations kick in. The winner is sworn in and everyone goes home until the next time there’s an election. Then the winner declares themselves “democratically elected” and the elections is called “free and fair” by observers who only show up within a month or less before the day of voting. All that matters is the outcome of the voting according to some “independent” referee who is usually at the mercy of the “winner”. The process of electioneering may be flawed with several illegalities employed, but so long as there is a winner, and “observers” declare the voting “free and fair”, the process of the elections itself becomes a footnote in history. This “win” what the “winner” and their supporters will use to claim they have a “democratically elected” government. If elections outcomes are all that matters and not the electioneering process itself, then President Charles King is also “democratically elected”, if you can ignore the small matter that the jinns voted for him too.

Right after the elections results are announced, everyone may go home but incumbent presidents don’t go home. They don’t go home because they understand that elections are not won or lost on the day of voting itself, you win elections in the months and years leading to the actual day that voting takes place. I am not talking about legit campaign work that goes on before the actual voting. That is a given. I am referring to the serpentine maneuverings that incumbents and their supporters usually employ in the months and years before the first ballot is cast. The stealing may be coronated on the day of elections itself, but the process of stealing the elections starts way before the first ballot is cast. I wonder who’s paying attention!

Alagie Saidy-Barrow

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