I remember reading an extract from the Guinness book of records that announced that the most rigged election was held some time back in China, where the voter turn-out was even higher than the country's entire adult population and in the about 5 parties contesting, the ruling one scored over 100% votes (forget about the dead, etc).
I know that governments strive to live on and on and on. In so doing, amny especially in the developing world, will do everything, both legal and illegal to try and retain state power. Remember our own 1980 elections, where ballot papers were intetionally sent to wrong polling stations and candidates detained before polling day?
And many times because the elite are aware of these things (and supposed invicibility of current regimes), they opt to become apolitical. They will not register to vote and try to keep away in their NGO/Private sector life and leave public affairs to the thugs. "It will make no difference in my life," they argue. I need to testify that i subscribe to that school of thought myself.
However, are regimes as invicible as we suppose they are? Is it true that we can pay taxes and let them waste away because we are powerless? Are things God-ordained the way they are? We shall get to this a little bit later.
Back to the crave to retain power. In our own courtyard, events have been following the same the script. After the 2006 presidential elections in Uganda, several petitions in court, saw a couple of MPs being dethroned of their seats, either because they cheated or lacked necessary academic qualifications.
The classic case was that of Kirunda Kivejinja, the Third Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Information and National Guidance (a mouthful of a title...?). The 71-year-old gentleman (hard pressed to refer to him thus), was found guilty of bribing and intimidating supporters of his major opponent, Abdu Katuntu.
A re-run was ordered; and guess who goes to Bugweri to campaign for Kivejinja? President Yoweri Museveni. He tells the people there that Katuntu, a candidate of the opposition FDC party, will have no impact in the House. That he will be a mere figure-head.
We all know that Katuntu is a distinguished lawyer. In the 7th Parliament, he engineered great legislation, including moving a private members bill on accountability. He was voted by the whole House to represent Uganda in the Pan African Parliament. Surely, this can not be an empty tin.
My concern though, is the President's party, has over 250 MPs in a House of 300 MPs. Does he surely need a Parliament saturated with his loyalists only? Won't having a sensible opposition contribute to his own strength as people help point out weaknesess in his govt? Is it fair for leaders to crave only for loyalists and suppress even the least voice of dissent?
So, with the stage set, the people of Bugweri vote Katuntu and old Kivejinja is floored, despite 3 days of the President's lodging in their constituency!
This brings me to the earlier question i posed: are we powerless? The people of Bugweri, despite being peasants and despite the heavy military deployment, showed that voices of the common man, once united, are difficult to suppress.
In 1830 qnd 1848, when the ruling monarchs in Europe had become a problem, students and intellengetia took to the streets and led the whole of Europe into riots and protests. The monarchs came down crumbling.
It is about time that the elite (especially in Africa) shake off the lethargy and become active. It is about time that we realised the potential of united man.
And for leaders---it is not true to suppose that any opposition in any form is bad.
When one Russian Tsar wanted to retire, he called together his advisers and asked them whether he could go ahead and leave the throne. Many of them, cognisant of the fact that their material survival depended on him, urged him to cling on. However, one of them, asked the group to follow him outside. The whole troop went, not knowing what he was upto.
The single adviser led them to a cemetery; where at the gate as they entered, was a signpost: "We were once like you". He took them (with the Tsar ) around the cemetery and as they were getting out, they saw the other signpost: "And you will also be like us".
The Tsar, went to the palace and announced his resignation, appointing the lone adviser his successor.
I rest my case.