Despite what Fox News might have you believe the United States does not actually hold the patent on freedom and democracy. A concept that is reflected by the fact that occasionally there are elections in this world that do not involve Iowa or New Hampshire. We’re going to take a look at these rare unicorns of democracy in this month’s edition of Meanwhile in Countries Not Called America…..Election Season.
For our first stop on our global goodwill tour of democracy we go across the pond to America’s closest ally the estimable United Kingdom. General elections are scheduled to be held in the other half of the “special relationship” on May 7th. The election is a tight one with David Cameron’s Conservative Party (Tories) polling at 34% and the Ed Miliband led Labour Party just barely trailing at 33% according to this morning’s BBC poll of polls. As Britain is governed in the parliamentary fashion with these numbers it is almost certain that whoever wins will be forced to form a coalition government. Such was the case with the previous government when the Tories and Liberal Democrats partnered together to govern for the last five years. This election cycle seems to hinge on the Austerity measure brought about under that conservative-led coalition specifically those dealing with the National Health Service (NHS) and the Minimum Wage. The approaches of the parties may be different but all are focused on economic issues (a referendum on the UK’s membership in the European Union is on the table but seems unlikely no matter who ends up in charge). Honestly whoever wins I find the most disturbing thing to be that UKIP, the islamophobic ultra-right wing nationalist party, is polling at 13%. All in all this is definitely an election to keep your eye on in the coming weeks. (By the way check out the my manifesto tool on the BBC’s website here: http://www.bbc.com/news/election-2015-32320814 It’s telling that I never see anything like this on CNN’s website.)
We go from one longstanding American ally to another. Israel held elections last month and incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party garnered the largest number of supporters with 23.40% of the vote. This despite a strong push from the Zionist Union, a coalition formed by the Labor Party and Hatnuah with the stated intent of removing Mr. Netanyahu from power. The victory was short lived however, as Mr. Netanyahu has failed so far to rally the support needed to form a coalition government. With an April 22 deadline quickly approaching it is beginning to look as if Isreal may be headed back to the polls.
In another election from last month Nigeria elected its new President Muhammadu Buhariin an electoral effort that is notable for a few reasons. The Nigerian election was the most expensive election ever held on the African continent and marks the first time an incumbent president has lost a bid for re-election in the country’s history. It is the belief of many observers that former President Goodluck Jonathon’s failure to adequately respond to the kidnapping of 276 Nigerian school girls by Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram was the major deciding factor in this election. President Elect Buhariin is no stranger to Nigeria’s top chair as he ruled the country from 1983 to 1985 following a military coup d’état. Buhariin has publicly taken responsibility for the actions of his military regime and has pledged himself to the democratic process. Whether or not that commitment holds now that he holds the reins again remains to be seen.
And we’ll close this out with some quick notes from around the globe. In Burkina Faso the interim government has passed a law banning politicians associated with deposed President Blaise Compaore’s twenty seven year reign from participating in its upcoming elections. It’s unclear at this time whether or not that ban will hold up under scrutiny. In Finland Prime Minister Alexander Stubb faced defeat yesterday in his country’s general elections, losing to the opposition Centre Party led by tech millionaire Juha Sipila. The loss was not unexpected with Finland’s unemployment rate currently standing at 9.2%. Mr. Sipila will now have the chance to form a coalition government. On a dour note President Omar Al-Bashir of Sudan remained in power after the opposition party boycotted the polls sighting concerns over the vote’s legitimacy. Al-Bashir has ruled the Sudan for 25 years and is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide. Finally the first two Cuban opposition candidates in decades conceded defeat today in local elections. Their election even to the very limited neighborhood councils would have been an unprecedented event under the Castro regime.
That’s it for this edition of Meanwhile in Countries Not Named America…….Election Season.