Quote of the week

[Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro] possesses, however, few of his predecessor’s resources, lacking not just oil revenue but Chávez’s surplus of charisma, humour and political skill. Maduro, unable to end the crisis, has increasingly sided with the privileged classes against the masses; his security forces are regularly dispatched into barrios to repress militants under the guise of fighting crime. Having lost its majority in Congress, the government, fearing it can’t win at the polls the way Chávez did, cancelled gubernatorial elections that had been set for December last year (though they now appear to be on again). Maduro has convened an assembly to write a new constitution, supposedly with the objective of institutionalising the power of social movements, though it is unlikely to lessen the country’s polarisation.

Greg Grandin
London Review of Books
22 April 2009

Why the long queues?

I voted today in Sea Point. It took fifteen minutes from the time I arrived at the polling station to the time I had cast my vote. Most of the voters in my voting district (I assume, based on previous election results) were DA voters. On television I see that there have been long queues in especially poor areas (which, past results suggest, would be ANC strongholds). Queues of three or four hours seemed to have been standard in some areas.

My question is: why the long queues in some areas? Why the lack of ballot papers? Why not more polling stations in poor areas?

I would have imagined that the IEC would make sure that ALL voters – rich and poor, black and white – would have been treated the same.

Anecdotal evidence suggest that voters in especially poor areas were often required to stand in queues much longer than voters in the affluent areas. Why?

The Constitution guarantees the right to equality for everyone. But, unless media reports are wrong, poor people often had a far more onerous task in order to ensure that they cast their ballot. Why?

Is this part of the inherent bias of state institutions towards the middle and upper classes or merely bad planning on the part of the IEC? Who knows? Either way, the IEC should do better to ensure that ALL are treated more or less the same on election day.

The fact that many people still stood in queues for many hours to cast their vote is a good sign. It means people still believe that voting really matters. While one vote cannot change anything, if every person decided not to vote because of that fact, it would completely sabotage democracy.

One vote cannot get anyone into Parliament, but voting is always a collective matter. Election day is a day in which we are reminded that we are all in this together. If many persons thought their vote would not count, this could lead to the election of an unpopular party. This happened in Zimbabwe in the election before the referendum in 2000 where the vast majority of voters did not bother to vote, giving Zanu-PF an 80% majority despite the fact that only about 40% of voters actually cast their ballots.

And in 2000, All Gore lost the election because of a 300 ballot margin in Florida. And the poor people of Iraq and the USA had to live with the consequences.

Every vote DOES count. Saying that it does not seems to me astonishingly narrow minded and takes individualism to absurd heights.

But now it is too late to convince anyone to vote. We are all awaiting the results.

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