Monday, October 18, 2004


Only two weeks to go until the US elections. Who's it going to be? Another four years of lies, obsfucation and deceit? Or four years of dithering, pandering and drift? I know who I'd vote for.

Meanwhile, that bastion of democracy and free elections, the "Republic" of Belarus is holding elections and a referenda on whether the President for Life should be allowed to serve more than two five year terms.

(Sidebar: the balloon incident)

"On September 12, 1995 three hot air balloons participating in the Coupe Gordon Bennett race entered Belarusian air space. Despite the fact that race organizers informed the Belarusian Government about the race in May and that flight plans had been filed, the Belarusian air force shot down one balloon, killing two American citizens, and forced the other two to land. The crews of the other two balloons were fined for entering Belarus without a visa and released. Belarus to date has not apologized or offered compensation for these killings."

President Alexander Grigoryevich Lukashenko ("notable for his in-depth understanding of events, hard work, sense of duty, realism, fairness and fidelity to principle") already extended his first 5 year term to 7 years. But, hey. Under the "democratic" constitution of Belarus (adopted March 30, 1994; revision by unrecognized national referendum of November 24, 1996, gave presidency greatly expanded powers and became effective November 27, 1996), the President will:

"...have the right to abolish acts of the Government..." (Art 84(25))

Heck, he can do pretty much as he pleases with impunity:

"The President shall enjoy immunity, and his honour and dignity shall be protected by the law." (Art 79)

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), bless their cotton socks, are on the case and have expressed concerns about the voting procedures. Also the BBC report ballot papers pre-ticked in favour of A.G. Lukashenko.

But, I'm being a little unfair. Belarus is not the only country with voting irregularities. The Ukraine has a bash in a few weeks time. That'll be another ballot stuffing, threatening the populous exercise.

And which country is OSCE talking about here?

"In line with regular practice, the state Division of Elections sent each county Supervisor of Elections a list of names to be deleted from the voter registers, which included those who had died or been judged mentally incompetent, and felons deprived of their voting rights. As part of this process a "felons list" was drawn up by a private company, contracted by the state, which contained the names of 3,000, to 4,000 people who should not have been included, either because they had never committed a felony or because their voting rights had been restored."

Still not sure?

"Moreover, in Florida former felons have to appeal to the Governor's Office of Executive Clemency* to have their civil rights restored. This procedure was found to be over-burdensome, time consuming and expensive. Furthermore, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission determined that African Americans suffered a disparate impact from the purging system. In Miami-Dade County, for example, the Commission found that 65% of the names on the purge list were African Americans, although they made up only 20.4% of the population."

* - The Governor was the brother of one of the candidates.

That's right, it's the Banana Republic of Florida.

"There was no uniformity in voting systems. Five different systems were used in the state: punch card, optical scan with central tabulation, optical scan with precinct tabulation, machine lever, and paper ballot systems. Moreover, a high number of ballots were counted as invalid, particularly when a punch card system was not able to detect a valid vote if the voter had failed to cleanly and completely punch through the ballot. Approximately 180,000 votes fell into this category. Furthermore, several of the counties experiencing the highest rates of invalid ballots had significant populations of African Americans, leading to allegations that the punch card voting system had disproportionately affected this minority group in violation of Section 2 of the Federal Voting Rights Act. The U.S. Civil Rights Commission reported that of the 100 precincts with the highest number of disqualified ballots, 83 were precincts where African Americans were the majority of the population.

"Shortcomings in Florida during 2000 included problems with voting equipment used by some counties resulting in a high rate of invalid ballots, a lack of sufficient guidance to county officials by the state Division of Elections, inadequate training of election personnel, lack of uniformity in ballot design and counting procedures, inaccuracies in the voter register, discrepancies in regulations for overseas voting, and a lack of resources for voter education.

"Serious allegations were also made that some of these shortcomings, in particular the wholesale disenfranchisement of felons and inaccurate maintenance of the felons list, had a disproportionate impact on minority voters, particularly African Americans."

The good news is that OSCE has reported that:

"In response, all levels of government reacted effectively [to address the problems highlighted by the November 2000 election]."

The bad news:

"Notwithstanding these significant measures at all levels of government, a number of issues remain to be addressed, including access for non-partisan domestic observers to all levels of the election administration, reform in the use of the felons list, and the development of more effective links between the state and county levels of election administration."

Maybe Mr Lukashenko is onto something when he says:

"As to the concern expressed in the West - it is not the first year that I confront it, not for the first time. I've been working for ten years, and for ten years you've always been concerned about something in Belarus. Perhaps, you should calm yourselves down and stop reproaching us a priori for alleged falsification or some other violations. I believe you have your own problems, both similar problems and others, more than enough. Turn to your problems and be resolving them. You've arrived in Belarus, we have not prevented you from coming here, if you see violations - just tell us. We'll be acting so as to uproot any possibility of violations if there are any.

"Therefore you shouldn't take so much care about us, about our elections. You have enough of your own problems."


Rest assured, OSCE is sending a mission to monitor the US elections.

:: Posted by pete @ 13:51