Third-world voting system in UK? No, not really
The airwaves have been filled with comments from furious voters who were unable to cast their ballots last night. We Brits think we can go around the world lecturing other countries on how to hold democratic elections, they say. But we can’t do it ourselves! We’re no better than those third-world countries!
I certainly wouldn’t want to minimise the frustration of the hundreds of people who wanted to vote and were not given a chance because of administrative mess-ups. I would be absolutely livid if it had happened to me.
Still, it’s worth putting things in perspective. Despite the hitches, Britain’s election was extraordinarily well-run compared with what goes on in so many less fortunate countries around the world.
The last time I covered a major election was in Nigeria in 2007. Now THAT was a truly awful election.
In many parts of the country, polling stations failed to materialise altogether. Even the president of the senate, the third most important person in Nigeria according to the constitution, was unable to vote in his home state of Enugu for lack of a functioning polling station.
A friend of mine who was acting as an independent observer in the state of Kogi said she arrived at a polling station at 11am to find there were no ballot papers in sight. When she queried this, she was told that every single person in the ward had already voted. There was no one in sight and the result, giving a huge win for the ruling PDP, was already agreed.
In Delta state, the number of people reported to have voted for the PDP was greater than the total number of residents of the state.
For my part, I visited a polling station in Yenagoa, the capital of Bayelsa state, where electoral officials were busy stuffing ballot boxes with stacks of ballot papers that had been marked in advance for the PDP. Some angry youths approached me to say they had been promised money by the PDP for “thumb-printing” hundreds of ballot papers, but they had not been paid yet even though they had upheld their part of the bargain.
A BBC crew in the neighbouring state of Rivers filmed thugs bursting into a polling station while voting was under way, snatching the ballot box and running away with it.
A European Union observer reported that in the impoverished state of Jigawa, he had seen men sell their votes to the PDP for 200 naira (90 pence). The price for a woman’s vote was 100 naira.
These are just a few snapshots from an election that was condemned as “not credible” by the European Union. Talk about disenfranchised voters. Nigeria has a population of 140 million. Only a tiny fraction of them were able to vote in a normal, peaceful way and to have their vote counted.
So yes, I do agree it was a terrible thing that hundreds of Britons were not able to vote last night. But do spare a thought for those Nigerians.