One of the big questions in the run-up to the 2012 Presidential Election was what the turnout would be. Would the supposed “enthusiasm gap” lead to lower turnout amongst some of the key demographics behind Obama’s 2008 victory, like African-Americans and college students? Would the absence of the extraordinary volunteer mobilization seen around the Presidents’ first campaign leave his re-election effort without the capacity to expand the electorate through large-scale voter registration efforts and an extensive and intense effort to get out the vote?
While the Global Commission report on Deepening Democracy provides insightful recommendations on strategies for improving electoral integrity, we must remember that elections are just one step in the democratic process. Certain precursors need to be made right in order to make the report’s recommended strategies achievable. Having lived in Nigeria and experienced the democratic process there, I am of the opinion that one vital measure needed to strengthen its nascent democracy is to drastically reduce the excessive financial incentives that accompany political positions. The quest for political leadership must be guided by a passion to lead and make changes. Sadly, these are noble incentives overshadowed by the “what is in for me?” mentality of personal gratification that has eaten deep into the fabric of the country’s political space.
The Money Trail: TV adverts are the most costly, but campaigns still spend big on old fashioned buttons and yard signs
From the coverage of the US election in the UK news media it would be easy to get the impression that we are witnessing a single battle of giants, or a least of the giantly funded. In mid-October the Center for Responsive Politics reported that the campaigns of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama had raised almost $900 million combined. But the presidential election is not the only place where money talks loudly.
On the first of October, 2012, Georgia held parliamentary elections. In Western capitals and analytical circles, it was widely believed that Mikheil Saakashvili’s ruling United National Movement (UNM) would be returned to power. Most polling on political rankings supported this expectation. Some analysts had suggested that the highly unequal impact of Georgia’s impressive growth record was generating significant social discontent, undermining the ruling party’s position. Deepening inequality, sporadically high inflation, persistently high unemployment, and deepening poverty might translate into opposition votes. These people were dismissed as misinformed or deluded cranks, me included.