Picture of the Day: Tahrir Square in Cairo. Several thousand protesters filled the famously revolutionary Tahrir Square on Monday night to protest the presidential election, angry at being given a choice only between a Muslim Brotherhood candidate (Mohammed Morsy) and Mubarak’s former prime minister (Ahmed Shafiq). Many are torn between a reluctant vote for the MB and not voting at all. Shafiq’s nearby office was set on fire. Protests were also held in Alexandria, Port Said and Suez.
(translated) On Wednesday, December 21, Muscovites had a flashmob in the subway for an honest election. Participants of the rally went for an hour on the subway with mouths taped with white tape, “They stole our votes,” “Give me back my voice,” “More silence is impossible.”
Egyptians line up to cast their votes in historic election
Voters stood in long lines outside some polling centers in Cairo well before they opened at 8 a.m. local time (1 a.m. ET), a rare sign of interest in political participation after decades of apathy created by the mass rigging of every vote.
“We are very happy to be here and to be part of the election,” said Wafa Zaklama, 55, voting for the first time in a parliamentary . (source)
Iran’s fraudulent 2009 elections were a critical moment…for it was then that Iranians realized how polarized their country had become. The hopelessness of Iranians is…palpably there—in the hardening of people and the decay of public manners, and in the cynicism of friends who used to be unfailingly optimistic… Some of the country’s brightest activists, journalists, and filmmakers have been silenced or gone into exile. Bloggers and pop musicians operate in a penumbra of semi-illegality…Asghar Farhadi’s film Nader and Simin: A Separation, is a fine account of Iran’s predicament; anyone interested in the mysteries of change and tradition—the difficulties faced by many people as they try and reconcile themselves to modern values and norms—will learn much from it.
Journalist Peter Godwin secretly went to Zimbabwe to witness the 2008 President Election. This is what he saw: “They tortured tens of thousands of people. But interestingly, they didn’t kill thousands of people. They killed hundreds of people but they tortured vast numbers of people. And then they released them back to their communities so they acted like human billboards — they were advertisements for what happens if you oppose the regime.” [complete interview and book excerpt here]
In December, when electoral officials announced the results of Haiti’s presidential election, people rioted. Following much outcry and many accusations of fraud on the part of President Rene Preval’s party, an Organization of American States panel conducted an investigation. The OAS panel recommended election officials drop Preval’s handpicked and deeply unpopular candidate, Jude Célestin, from the upcoming runoff ticket; election officials said they may or may not. So, now you’re up to speed on why the UN, which has a huge peacekeeping force in Haiti, is worried about what’s going to happen [today] when election officials finally announce which candidates are advancing to the next round.
The incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo lost a November 28 election to challenger Alasanne Ouatarra. Gbagbo is refusing to step down and is using his control of the army to foment violence, including direct assaults on the building in which Outarra has set up his government in waiting.
This kind of election related violence is nothing new for Africa. A similar situation unfolded in Kenya in late 2007 when partisans unleashed mobs of supporters to attack each other following a disputed elections. In that case, the African Union and others intervened and agreed upon a power-sharing arrangement. That was the expeditious thing to do at the time, but it did re-in force the notion that all one has to do to stay in power after losing an election is to foment violence.
Since the end of the Cold War, elections have been de rigeur in most of Africa. Most of the time the incumbent or his party wins handily and that’s that. Other times, the incumbent uses violence to reinforce his position. Sometimes challengers use violence to reinforce their position. But only once has an incumbent peacefully transferred power after losing an election.
What is remarkable about Cote D’Ivoire is that, so far, everyone is saying: “Enough is enough.” The African Union, the regional group ECOWAS, the UN, France and the United States are calling on Gbagbo to step down. Full stop. ECOWAS has even issued an ultimatum to Gbagbo: give up power, or we will intervene and forcible oust you.
This is a big test — both for the prospects of free and fair elections in Africa and of the ability of the African Union to support democracy across the continent. If African-led diplomacy is able to engineer Gbagbo’s ouster, other leaders might think twice before fomenting violence after losing an election. If they reach a “compromise” that lets Gbagbo enter into a power sharing agreement with Ouatarra, well the lesson is that elections don’t really matter so long as you control the military.
This is why the Cote D’Ivoire situation is so important, and why it deserves more attention than it is currently getting among blogs and the mainstream media. At stake is nothing less than the prospect of democracy in Africa–and of African institutions emerging as a forces for progressive change throughout the continent.