Thursday, March 11, 2010

Election malpractices in Rotterdam: a journey backwards

Nine days ago, the municipal elections in the Netherlands were held. I reported my impressions of the elections on this blog and have received many comments on that report. Shortly after the elections, there were complaints about some sharp practices in Rotterdam. The papers report/allege that:

  • One polling station was left unstaffed for several minutes. Voters were required to take their own ballots. Some voters took several.
  • Some polling stations had the flag of a political party on display.
  • Party members or supporters were present at some polling stations to persuade voters to cast their vote for a certain party.
  • Two or more people were found in polling booths simultaneously dozens of times. The law only allows handicapped people to receive assistance.
  • 2.500 voters received two or three ballots at home.
  • Some votes were counted double.
  • One ballot box turned out to be empty at the end of Election Day.
  • It has been reported that staff of some polling stations offered explanations to voters in Turkish or Moroccan, perhaps even doling out advice on who to vote for.

The Mayor of Rotterdam, Ahmed Aboutaleb, may order a recount of the whole votes. A preliminary recount of about one-fifth of the votes show that some 100 votes were not counted in the first count. These 100 votes belonged to Leefbaar Rotterdam, a new party that lost to Labour by a few hundred votes. It is speculated that a recount may not alter the overall results (It did not alter it against Bush in Florida) but it certainly will put speculations to rest. Some in fact are calling for a return to the polls for fresh election.

These incidents are a child's play compared to what happened in Nigeria but it is certainly not a good example coming from the Dutch. Several hundred years of democracy and the Dutch still have issues with elections and voting. Democracy is indeed a journey but this one is a journey backwards. I trust the Dutch government to learn lessons from these incidents and to block the loopholes against future elections, the same way it stopped computer voting when that raised questions of confidentiality and trust. No perfect democracy exists. Which is why Nigeria must get serious with amending the electoral act.

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