23.1.12

Triumph, but not yet


The votes have been counted, the winner has been declared. The results are exactly as predicted – they have to do it all again.

Observing the machinations of the Finnish Presidential elections has been fascinating. I’ve been reliably informed “presidents don’t really matter,” by a source who would rather remain anonymous. The campaigning is peaceful, if not a little dull, but occasionally spiced up by television shows on which presidential candidates are likened to bananas (apes like them both).

Following yesterday’s elections the winner and the runner-up – Sauli Niinistö and Pekka Haavisto will proceed to the second round. This second round is made essential by the “fifty plus one” system that makes it virtually impossible to win an outright majority in the first round.

Watching the progress of the elections brings to mind the drive for fifty-plus-one system to be included in the Zambian constitution.

Could it work in Zambia? Resource implications aside, would voters willingly trudge through the heat and dust for a second round of voting.

Of course they would. Perhaps begrudgingly of course. 

In Zambia, more rides on the presidential elections than in Finland. In Finland the public face of the government will change certainly, but little else. However in Zambia a president rules, he is in power – a president is the thin line between democracy and dictatorship, between tottering at the edge of the precipice or plunging into the abyss in which nations such as Uganda and Zimbabwe are engulfed. Dictatorial tendencies are enshrined in the presidential culture. How often does our press attribute words such as “instructs,” “summons,” to the president. As such those with presidential ambitions will do whatever it takes to assume power, thus the gap between the first and second round of voting could be a time of coercion and corruption to ensure that the next round is won.

Though in favour of a change in our voting system I believe of critical concern is the degree of power vested in our presidency. I must emphasise that i don’t mean the power vested in him on paper, but that bestowed by our political culture.

Real change would be when the president and members of parliament are no longer seen as the “big man” but as supplicants to our citizens. When elections come around, it is the aspirants that should fall upon their knees begging for our votes, not standing on shaded podiums as we wilt under the sun.

The real lesson of the last Zambian elections was the need for humility; I wait to see if anyone learned it.

Art; Olmofin

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