Monday, April 23, 2007


Two elections were held over the weekend. In France, the highest turnout in 50 years saw socialist Ségolène Royal and authoritarian Nicolas Sarkozy move on to contest the second round. All eyes are now on the centrist voters who backed François Bayrou, and the election really depends on which way they swing. I'm hoping for a Royal victory, but its by no means assured. Still, at least this time Le Pen didn't make it through. More on European Tribune here and here.

Meanwhile, Nigeria was also trying to elect a President. Unfortunately, this being Nigeria, the election tactics were rather different. Ballot papers were not delivered, armed thugs intimidated voters and stole ballot boxes, election officials were abducted by "men disguised as police" (a sordid euphemism also used in Iraq to mask police abuses of power) and one group even tried to blow up the electoral commission HQ with a truck bomb. The conduct of the poll was so bad that Nigeria's largest election monitoring group has called for the whole election to be re-run. As for why its so bad, partly its a matter of growing pains - Nigeria was a dictatoship until recently, and previously power has always changed hands at gunpoint - but its also a matter of corruption. Being in power means that you and your cronies have access to billions of dollars in state revenue to distribute; being out of power means you have nothing. So, in a sense, the stakes are simply too high...