South Africa -- The whole world is watching.
for the most part, it's giggling.
inability to elect a president has captured the imagination of the
rest of the planet. Yet -- despite suggestions by Republican George
W. Bush's campaign that any delay in finalizing the count could
undermine America's authority internationally -- political leaders,
editorialists and ordinary folks around the world seem more amused
than troubled by the unsettled contest in what British commentators
are describing as "The Disunited States of America.''
suffering through years of admonishments from Americans about the
failings of their electoral systems, commentators abroad have delighted
in the past week's tales of butterfly ballots, intimidation and
fraud, miscounted votes, partisan lawsuits and general chaos in
the contest between Bush and Democrat Al Gore grows more and more
confused, folks in Yugoslavia, Zimbabwe and other lands say -- with
sarcastic tongues planted firmly in cheek -- that they stand ready
to provide electoral advice and assistance to the world's last remaining
seems our virus of election manipulation has now found its way to
America,'' smirked Yugoslav pol Velimir Illic, who says he is prepared
to lend to Gore forces the bulldozer he used to break through barricades
to the Parliament Building where Slobodan Milosevic's forces were
fiddling with the results of Yugoslavia's Sept. 24 election.
elections chief Alexander Veshnyakov encouraged the United States
to imitate Russia's strides from totalitarianism to democracy by
ditching the "undemocratic and confusing'' Electoral College.
Castro's Cuba offered to send "democracy educators'' to help south
Floridians organize free and fair elections. Rome's La Republica
newspaper simply labeled America's muddled Nov. 7 election "a day
worthy of a banana republic.''
no international reaction to America's most muddled election will
top that of the Africans, who have long bristled at intimations
that their fledgling democracies are inferior to the U.S. system.
can't help but chuckle,'' says South African Trade and Industry
Minister Alec Erwin, one of the architects of his nation's transition
from apartheid police state to freewheeling multiracial democracy.
"So much of what's been said about African elections is now being
said about an American election.''
chuckling has been widespread in Africa during the past week, as
has sarcasm born of long frustration with American lectures on all
at the oddity of what is being called "the recount of a recount
of a recount'' in Florida, Zimbabwe's Herald newspaper wondered
"whether the Americans would have accepted a recount in African
elections if the ruling party candidate had been beaten, as happened
in Florida.'' Pointing to the very real prospect that America will
"elect'' a president who failed to win the popular vote, Zimbabwe
government spokesman Jonathan Moyo said, "We could not get away
with something like that in Zimbabwe without the threat of (economic)
Zimbabwe, a history of election-related violence, intimidation and
fraud has made the presence of international observers a regular
feature whenever the country votes. As is the case in many African
countries, Zimbabwe has gotten used to election day visits by former
President Jimmy Carter and other global governors of democratic
practice. A failure to do so, it is generally assumed, could lead
to cuts in assistance from the United States, the International
Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other sources of Western aid.
Africans and others should send observers to help Americans deal
with their democracy,'' Moyo joked.
idea of African democracy corps being dispatched to the United States
has become a favorite subject of speculation on the continent.
respected Mail & Guardian newspaper, which circulates across
English-speaking Africa, began an editorial in this week's edition
by observing that "the sight of the 'world's greatest democracy'
getting its credentials in a knot over who should be pronounced
winner in the United States presidential elections should remind
us that friendship is a two-way process. It is a shameful reflection
on our continent that, in their hour of need, we were not there
beside our American brothers and sisters to help and advise where
we could, in the same way as they do when our elections come around.''
a keen eye for the relative weaknesses of the Republican and Democratic
contenders, the Mail & Guardian continued, "We should, no doubt,
have established a pan-African Society for the Promotion of Democracy
in Primitive Parts, which would have established a friendly rapport
with the main political leaders -- using sign language in the case
of George W. Bush and reminding Al Gore of the perils of perjury
on all possible occasions.
the onset of the contest itself, we should have set up seminars
in the main rural centers, where the various models of democracy
would have been explained, including the detail that it is 'the
people' who are meant to rule and not 'the Electoral College.'
would have been proud to assist voter literacy courses to show officials
how to draw up legible ballot papers and printed guide books on
why it is necessary to only vote once. And, from our long African
experience of these matters, we could have shown (Gore or Bush)
how to be a bad loser.''
Copyright 2000 The Capital Times