the important and the not-so-important, horribly conflated.

Election Madness

In human behavior on February 9, 2010 at 7:46 pm

Sunday’s Ukrainian election was decided by less than 5 percentage points—close enough for the results (which have been certified by the UN’s elections commission) to be challenged by Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Election fraud claims should always be taken seriously (see: 2009’s Iranian Elections), but both the vote in Ukraine and the Tymoshenko camp’s reaction appears consistent with an emerging global trend:

Elections, with some recent exceptions (see: Germany), are becoming increasingly polarized and closely-decided affairs. The causality is complicated: An obvious explanation is the increasing gap (in opinion and influence) between the rich and the poor in developed nations. But issues of nationalism and religion can both amplify and (more importantly) distort these disparities.

Far more crucial wedges between modern political ideologies are the media and communication technologies. Very few people of voting age are completely isolated from TV or Radio news, and when everyone has a cell phone, marching orders are one text away. The problem is not the wealth of information—it’s the bias: not only can anyone access the news. Anyone can plug into the news they want to hear or see.

No one loses a close election anymore; they lose a court decision.

Or, if you decide to run against the incumbent in Sri Lanka, you lose your freedom. General Fonseka, the leader of the Sri Lankan military during last year’s successful campaign against the country’s Tamil rebels, was arrested for contesting the January Election that he “lost”.

Can a fair election be conducted in an area of civil (or armed) conflict? Recent contests in Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Sri Lanka suggest not. But the extraordinary efforts of some individuals and groups in these countries to overcome corruption have not gone unnoticed—indeed, the media and the internet can be used to elevate their voices and stories above the clangor created by their “leaders”‘s own media machine.


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