As I listened to world news over the past two weeks about presidential elections and how results are being contested in Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, and Haiti, I think about a very saddening fact. The search for democracy is more than about having free and open elections. People have to have a certain disposition.
In the case of the three republics mentioned, the votes actually cast cannot be established for a range of reasons, some natural, some man-made. Haiti was in the bind of a cholera epidemic and only months away from the devastatingly dislocating effects of a massive earthquake. Guinea had been through the trauma of decades without such a thing as free and open elections, and had for the first time gone through a sustained period of civil strife that involved much bloodshed and even a military coup and then the attempted assassination of the coup leader and his eventual departure from the country (not quite in exile, but as good as). Cote d’Ivoire had been fighting with itself–the Muslim north versus the Christian south–and was astonishing for actually getting elections to happen.
But, after the elections you had and have some persons who decided to tamper with the process of voting and registering the count. Those who want power, whether they are in office or want to gain the office, try their best to establish a reason for those who have doubts to cast them aside in favour of the power-seeker. Those who depend on the dispensation of largesse from the powerful are part of the battle, of course: they stand to gain or lose massively.
When I think back to the contentious results of the 2000 US presidential election, I still wonder how this country did not descend into some kind of civil strife. Enough ingredients exist in the US that could be bases for such strife. People in the USA are not the most peaceable, and to have such a key election tossed around by courts to determine its outcome and with so many facts arguing that those who claimed victory had nothing of the sort how was it that civil strife did not happen? Historians, sociologists, psychologists and others can ponder this and help us understand. Because until we do we have to ponder why civil strife occurs in so many other places for even lesser electoral transgressions. We have to ponder whether efforts to ‘instill’ democracy in some countries are inherently bound to fail.
No amount of belief in the goodness of humans or any such notions can take you past the fact that for power people will do almost anything and that includes kill each other. For all the horrible crime statistics that are part of the American landscape how is it that these do not manifest themselves at election time? Curious and curiouser.