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Democracy?

Here is another article which, apparently, ran afoul of Mr Putin. Quite why, I cannot say.

I should add here that I cannot be certain of the reason except for nearly 5 years I had no columns returned by the Strategic Culture Foundation, then I was told that columns about Russia or Russian policy (such as in Syria) were off limits and then I started having columns returned.

Perhaps they simply wanted to get rid of me in which case a letter would have sufficed.

Incidentally, I was paid a pittance for these articles so I’m not being a crybaby!

There are, it scarcely needs saying, many forms of so-called “democracy” going back to ancient Greece and Athenian democracy. Perhaps there is a common thread – the voice of the people is heard through voting for their leaders. The ‘franchise’ as we call it. The importance of the “election” is such that even the most egregious of dictators holds them – on schedule – then solemnly announces that he got 98.6% of the votes and trumpets his popularity and how essential he is to the nation.

The recent vote in Zimbabwe shows how this is now refined by the dictator so that there is apparently an Opposition and Opposition leader but, alas, they just didn’t get enough support so “better luck next time”.

Like many brought up in a “democracy” I’ve clucked my tongue with the best of them when these sorts of elections take place and thank my lucky stars that I live where the voice of the people counts. Except it doesn’t and those of us in Canada and the USA  have entrenched electoral fraud.

Let’s look at the so-called parliamentary democracies under the British system and I’ll stay close to home because I need go no further. Then we’ll look at America.

Under our system, the country is divided into constituencies. And since British Columbia, where I live, had an election as recently as last May, let’s look at them first.

Since 1928 there have been 23 elections in BC and only once has the winner had over 50% of the vote and in only three of them was there a coalition needed to have a majority government. What is even more alarming, never has the popular vote come close to giving each party the seats warranted by their share of that vote. In the one huge landslide, 2001, the losing New Democrats had 21.6% of the vote yet had only two seats in the 75 seat  Legislature. Even this doesn’t tell the whole story for the Green Party, which had 8% of the popular vote in 2013 and got one seat, the question is what popular vote would they have obtained if the selection was proportional to that vote, Proportional Representation, (PR) instead of “first past the post”. For therein lies the problem – not only does PR allot seats in accordance with the vote achieved the way people vote changes because they know it will count even if their choice doesn’t form the government. The consequence is, of course, a minority government or a coalition but surely it can’t be bad for people to have a say in government even if they don’t support the largest party.

The “first past the post” system prevails in all ten provincial governments plus the federal government. The rule of thumb is that 40% of the 60% who bothered to vote gets 100% of the power for 4 years!

That’s democracy?

Let’s turn to the USA, the self-proclaimed paragon of democratic virtue.

To start with, appearances to the contrary, the people don’t elect the president, they elect delegates to the Electoral College made up of 435 members. The vote is state by state, each getting delegates to match their allotted Congressional representatives being the number of Congressmen plus two senators. The largest, California, gets 55 while a midsize state, like my neighbour Washington State gets 11, 9 for its members of the House of Representatives + its two senators. These delegates are pledged to vote in accordance with their party but are not compelled to. So far they always have. This means, though, that although they invariably give the leading candidate the presidency, often he does not have over 50% of the vote. Indeed, out of the past 44 elections, 29 winners had less than ½ the votes cast and four didn’t even have a plurality including George W. Bush in 2000.

Twice in my lifetime, the presidential election may well have been fraudulent. In 1960, John Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon by 119,000 votes and he won it in Illinois where the infamous mayor Richard Daley Sr. who achieved an astonishing turnout in Chicago of 89% – compared to the national figure of 62.8%. Despite losing 93 of Illinois’s 102 counties, Kennedy was eventually declared the winner by 8,858 votes and all Illinois’ electoral votes, enough to win the election!

George W. Bush won a US Supreme Court Decision where the Republican controlled Court did legal handsprings to take away from the State of Florida its constitutional right to run and count the election.

The corruption of the US system goes even deeper due to a process called Gerrymandering defined by Webster’s as : “to divide (a territorial unit) into election districts to give one political party an electoral majority in a large number of districts while concentrating the voting strength of the opposition in as few districts as possible”. The term arose when Elbridge Gerry was governor of Massachusetts. In 1812, Governor Gerry signed a bill into law that redistricted his state to overwhelmingly benefit his party. One of the new “redesigned ridings” looked like a salamander bringing the term “gerrymander” into the American political lexicon. This evil to this day is perpetuated, especially in the South, to disenfranchise Afro-Americans. The problem arises because while a federal electoral commission allots the number of seats a state is entitled to by its % of the 435 members of the House, the state gets to draw the borders.

Dr David Brin, a noted American scientist states “out of 435 seats in the US House of Representatives, only a couple of dozen are considered “open” or truly competitive in Campaign 2006 - emphasis mine (See more at: http://www.davidbrin.com/gerrymandering1.html#sthash.miueCl6G.dpuf)

It is not my case that this all makes Robert Mugabe into a democrat nor that crooked elections can thus be accepted.

No, my point is simple – Canadians and Americans rig their elections by using, often timeless and traditional election procedures that ensure that the public will must be thwarted no matter how they vote. Remember, the Canadian government of Stephen Harper and the provincial premier of British Columbia have the support of 25% of eligible voters and 100% of the power. The American system is simply corrupt from top to bottom. It surely must follow that we have no right to criticize elections elsewhere at least until we start to clean up our own acts.

2 Responses to “Democracy?”

  1. e.a.f. says:

    there need to be changes to how we elect politicians in Canada. As you have pointed out, there are problems. The system only works well if the politicians abide by the rules, written and unwritten. when we have politicians breaking the rules, we as a society need to find a new system. however, the politicians may just find another way around it. Perhaps we need to look at a system which requires all citizens to vote, its a rule and there is a financial fine if you don’t, attached to the income tax system.

    We may need a system where we vote, and then if no one has 50% of the vote, we vote again. I still like the system of having our own m.p. or m.l.a., but there ought to be an additional system whereby seats are awarded on the basis of the popular vote.

  2. Mike Fowler says:

    We can have a system where we retain our own representatives (MLA, MP) and still have proportional results. They did it in New Zealand. The New Zealand referendum process is a good model as well. A separate distinct referendum asking firstly whether voters want to keep First Past The Post and then choosing from a list of alternatives.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electoral_system_of_New_Zealand#MMP_in_New_Zealand

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