Thursday, December 2, 2010

"The most loyal voters are the dead ones" - A practical guide to stealing elections in Africa; by Charles Onyango-Obbo

Strange events have characterized the beginning of December, and from the look of things, it seems to me that 2010 might just end on a most dramatic note. My only hope and prayer is that whatever the drama, no lives are lost and no one loses their limbs.
In Nairobi, Luis Moreno Ocampo ( the most powerful prosecutor in the world) and Kofi Annan (former UN Sec.General and Chief African village elder) have been making speeches that have been rattling many many snakes. The fall-out of Kenya's botched elections in 2007. In Abidjan, Alassane Outtara has been declared winner of presidential elections-but its far from over; the Constitutional Council is challenging the
Mr.Alassane Outtara
declaration.While i was mulling over these events, my favorite columnist and blogger on African politics, Charles Onyango-Obbo penned a piece, titled ' A practical guide to stealing elections in Africa'. It needs no summary or me he couldn't have said it any better, but i'd love to read your thoughts on it and so here it is,in full:

A practical guide to stealing elections in Africa

WARNING: This article is written with a very cynical tongue-in-cheek, and could be bad for your health. Please seek the medical advice before reading it.
Something strange is happening in Africa. The governments of today seem to have lost the art of doing something their predecessors had mastered – stealing elections.
We had elections in Egypt a few days ago. The ruling National Democratic Party swept the first round of parliamentary, but in the process, it mugged the opposition Muslim Brotherhood by yanking away nearly all the 88 seats the latter had in the 508-member house. The Brotherhood is screaming murder.
On October 31, Tanzania voted and President Jakaya Kikwete and his Cha Cha Mapinduzi (Party of Revolution or CCM) won.  Kikwete was returned with 61.17 per cent of the total votes cast (down from about 80 per cent in 2005), against runner-up Dr Wilbroard Slaa's 26.34 per cent.
Slaa rubbished the vote as stolen. The Tanzanians took a week to count the votes, forcing impatient pro-opposition youth to take to the streets in protest.
One of the strangest elections of the year just took place in Guinea. In the second round, it seems the “wrong” man won. Former premier Alpha Conde defeated the favourite Cellou Dalein Diallo. Now both men are in court alleging fraud, as their supporters battle out in the street alleys.
Also, in June, the good people of Burundi voted. The opposition boycotted the election, leaving President Pierre Nkurunziza to run largely alone, and defeat himself.
Our strongmen
Where did things go wrong? The first mistake our strongmen leaders make is that they forget the value of honesty. A big man who does not believe in a free vote and therefore doesn’t bother with elections, never comes under pressure to be democratic. A good example is Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.
Gaddafi doesn’t believe in competitive elections, and doesn’t hold them. When is the last time you heard the international community demanding that he holds elections?
So, the first lesson is that you are better off not having an election, than having one and stealing it. You show the whole world that you are a vote thief – and a dictator. If you don’t hold elections, you are better off, because then you are only a dictator.
The second rule of election rigging is that you can’t steal an election efficiently on voting day. You do so months before. One of the things you do is negotiate in advance with your main threat, and agree the terms of his defeat.
The idea is to get him to concede defeat on the day results are announced, instead of going to court or holding subversive press conferences.
Usually, a villa on the Riviera, a 500 class Mercedes Benz, and $25m in a secret account for the opposition leader will buy you cooperation.
Create a martyr
Otherwise, you make one of the worst mistakes of all and break the third rule—you create a martyr of the fellow you have robbed. One good example is opposition leader Dr Kizza Besigye in Uganda. Even the courts agreed with him that he was swindled in 2001 and 2006, not to mention that he was beaten, imprisoned falsely, and his relatives run of town or imprisoned. Besigye became a martyr, which gave him  pride of place in Uganda’s election history.
Fourthly, is the counting of the votes. Everywhere in Africa, and the world, counting the vote is taking too long, resulting in results being announced from two to 30 days after the vote (as in Zimbabwe). You see when you delay counting the vote, you create the impression that you are actually seriously adding them up. It often also suggests that the vote is close.
The trick is to announce the winner immediately after the polling stations close, thus catching the opposition by surprise, and preventing any unreasonable expectations that you are serious about counting the votes taking hold.
Fifth, some of our leaders have this wrong idea that you can win an election with only living voters. Crazy. The most loyal voters are the dead ones. Resurrected voters, even if they return to the ballot box 15 years after they died, are very consistent pro-government voters. At least, they are grateful that they got a piece of land to be buried in.
Living voters, seeing the politicians grabbing forests, road reserves, school grounds, and encroaching on ordinary folks’ land tend to think there will no land left to bury them. Right there you have an anti-incumbent voter.
So, never forget to register ghost voters. The art of election stealing needs to be taken seriously. Many big men are giving other poll fraudsters a bad name by messing up the great game.

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