Riots at Egyptian polling stations

It's easy to have a non-violent election: just make sure that all the parties agree to lose the next election and/or the one after that.

Balanced News Blog reports on violence at yesterday's final round of voting for the Egyptian parliament. The government's claims that the riots were provoked do not seem to be backed up by foreign reporters (but then this is the crew that showed us the return of Ayatollah Khomeni to Iran in 1979 as the dawn of democracy in that country, and informs us that two car bombs a day in Bagdad is evidence of a massive insurgency).

A shockingly naive view of Islamist politics, but which contains details of government repression in trying to limit Muslim Brotherhood election gains can be found in the New York Times [subscription may be required].

I may be doing the Muslim Brotherhood an injustice (I would be happy to stand corrected). I recall that in October 1992 for instance, it was Islamic volunteer efforts, allied to the Brotherhood, not the government, which organized effective relief efforts (food, water, tents) after the Cairo earthquake. The suspicion remains whether the appetite for democracy by Islamist parties is down to their failure to effect regime change through violence, and if they would allow an election to take place in which a non-Islamic party took their place in power. The historical evidence appears to be non-existent on the latter score.

The Egyptian government should never of course have repressed its citizens for so long that only an Islamist party offers an alternative. The Copts (Egypt's Christian minority) must be looking South at the genocidal warfare in the Sudan and wondering if the same could happen in Egypt.


Traffic interruption

Apologies for no posting for a couple of days.

My laptop and online connection was commandeered in an emergency.

Business resumes in the morning.


Paper trail

Pretty good post on Count Every Vote.

Just to make clear, I don't buy the 2004 "Ohio vote was stolen" line, at least in the sense that I doubt if the Republicans did anything worse than the Democrats did. As for the canard of exit polls: the early returns in 2004 were wrong because they were unrepresentative. Period. Exit polls always will have discrepancies with the counted result because 1) older conservatives generally don't brag about it to pollsters, 2) whoever thinks they're the minority may feel intimidated.

My only quibble with paper voting is the ridiculous "push a pencil through the perforation" system that gave use "hanging chads", "dimple chads" "pregnant chads" and months of wrangling in 2000.

If it's reasonable to expect an illiterate person to sign with an "X", I can't see why putting an "X" in a box won't do on a ballot paper. Many countries put party logos on the ballot paper, which should be enough for someone who can't read.

The only exceptions I can think of are blind people and those who can't hold a pencil. Worst case scenario there is to have proxy voting, but I'm sure there are viable alternatives.

How to register to vote in Canada

Useful information here on how the Canadian elections authority puts together the final list of electors, and how latecomers should register.

Any lessons for certain parts of the U.S. we choose not to mention?

What those Canadian MPs really did

For all undecided Canadian voters there's a useful web resource: the "How'd they vote?" site.

It's a pretty easy to use tool for anyone interested in following Canadian parliamentary politics. I'd love to see one for the U.S. Supreme Court!

[Hat-tip M.D. Benoit on her Life's Weirder than Fiction blog.]

Palestinian Authority election: a multiple choice test

The Palestinian Authority election will be a multiple test. First there is the logistical problem of running the election. That could turn out to be the least of President Mahmoud Abbas's problems.

According to Israel National News:
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a veteran component of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization), will be running in January’s Palestinian Authority election under the banner, “Destroy the Zionist Enterprise.”

At the head of the PFLP’s list for the PA parliament is Ahmed Sa’adat, the organization’s chairman, who ordered the assassination of Israeli minister Rehavam Ze’evi in October 2003. Another prominent figure on the list is Mohammed Alrimawi, who led the hit men who shot Ze’evi.

Sa’adat and Alrimawi are supposed to be serving time in a Jericho prison for that assassination. The PA agreed to imprison the two men under pressure from the United States and Great Britain.

[Hat-tip to discarded lies]

The Palestinian Authority's parliamentary elections will no doubt influence the Israeli elections two months later. Widespread support for PFLP candidates will do nothing to create a climate of trust with Israeli voters. This is exactly the sort of banana-skin that Ariel Sharon's new party could do with avoiding.

N.B. The Palestinian Authority's website still doesn't carry any news about the legislative elections (which I find worrying). There is however a communiqué commending Javier Solano's endorsement of:
the Palestinian people's right to end Israeli military occupation "peacefully".

Sharon's new party has momentum

Interesting analysis of the Israeli election by Emanuele Ottolenghi over at Oxblog.

The signing up by Ariel Sharon of Shimon Peres is a coup, and its timing suggests that a well-focussed campaign strategy is revving up nicely. Kadima has a nicely defined political niche (right of centre between Likud and Labour), the two best known living Israeli politicians, and yet can present itself as a "kick them out!" alternative.

However, the one worry for the new party is the length of time until polling day: March 28 2006. A lot can go wrong between now and then and a new party doesn't have the tribal bedrock vote (yet!) to back the party through thick and thin.

Over to Likud...

Kazakh Presidential election results show lack of choice

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (O.C.S.E.) has welcomed improvements in the organisation of elections in Kazakhstan, which has resulted in the landslide re-election of President Nursultan Nazarbaev with over 90% of votes cast.

The OCSE press statement goes on to criticise the lack of pluralism in the Central Asian Republic:
OSCE Chairman-in-Office Dimitrij Rupel said the findings pointed to a continued need to open up the political life in Kazakhstan, in order to allow meaningful competition among candidates and political parties.

The Slovenian Foreign Minister, who is hosting the OSCE Ministerial Council in Ljubljana, said that the international observers had also acknowledged positive developments where they occurred.

"Sustained efforts are necessary, however, to bring about a situation where OSCE commitments on democratic elections and accountable governance are truly met" he added.

The B.B.C. reported the story negatively here.
Main opposition candidate Zharmakhan Tuyakbai, who secured just 6.64% of the vote according to official results, alleged there had been "multiple violations".

"We will take all legal measures to protest the official results of the voting and will press for this election to be declared invalid," Mr Tuyakbai said on Monday.

"The authoritarian regime of Nazarbayev is taking a totalitarian turn," he said.

The results were broadly expected, as illustrated by this poll published on Friday by Intermedia.

The problems of taking the polling and election figures at face value are the usual suspicion of electronic voting systems and the degree to which opinion poll respondents consider themselves free to express dissident views. Whatever reservations one may have on this issue, this was no Ukrainian fraud.