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Ways of the World

Carol Stone, business economist & active Episcopalian, brings you "Ways of the World". Exploring business & consumers & stewardship, we'll discuss everyday issues: kids & finances, gas prices, & some larger issues: what if foreigners start dumping our debt? And so on. We can provide answers & seek out sources for others. We'll talk about current events & perhaps get different perspectives from what the media says. Write to Carol. Let her know what's important to you:

Saturday, December 29, 2007

An Update on Kenya's Elections: Not as Easy as It Looks

See the post below for earlier commentary and a reader's comment.

By 3:30 Saturday afternoon in Kenya, things are getting tough, at least according to media reports. Reuters and AFP (the French-based news service) tell of riots and looting and claims that the incumbent party is "stealing votes" from the opposition. In the latest announced count, the opposition candidate Odinga still leads the current president Kibaki by a slim margin. We can't tell how really widespread the violence is, of course, since the media don't report about calm and quiet places.

Nevertheless, elections are hard. Economists even have theories about them; they have "sub-optimal" outcomes because the result can't be divided according to the vote and many citizens will be dissatisfied. The losers have to decide they can manage. Do you realize how sophisticated this is? We in the US are busy complaining about our long primary season and the silliness of campaigning during the week between Christmas and New Year's. But in truth, we have little to fret over. Our system and our people can manage. If we don't like Mr. Bush, for instance, we know that on a predetermined schedule, he will be retired to the ranch at Crawford and, moreover, he'll go willingly. It wasn't that easy in the beginning, of course, and the first efforts at a federal government in the new United States, the Articles of Confederation, failed. Even with our great Constitution, we still weren't really together, fighting a bloody civil war over States' rights some 75 years later.

So we find this morning that, besides the good people of Pakistan, we also have to pray for the citizens of Kenya and those everywhere who might feel disfranchised. We also need to recognize that democracy can't just be thrust onto a people; it is sophisticated and they must internalize a new mindset about how they are governed. At least they are taking the courageous steps of conducting open polling for all the world to see. Good luck to them in the rest of it!


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