There have been a lot of close elections in recent years in the
world’s nations which use voting to choose their leaders.
Of course, many totalitarian states, new and old, employ the
ruse of voting to justify remaining in power, either by allowing
only one party or one candidate to run for office, or by making
it so problematic for opposition parties and their candidates
to win that the outcome is really determined before a ballot is
When the voting is close and the nation is large, the closeness
of the election makes governing more complicated, especially
in those democratic nations which employ the parliamentary
system with numerous political parties. The U.S. employs an
electoral college system to make the actual choice of its
president and vice president so that on rare occasions the
winner of the popular vote does not take office. This happened
for the first time in more than a century in 2000, and its
It does appear to be true that in representative democracies
electoral “landslides” are relatively rare, and the sense of this
has been heightened in recent years.
One election in recent days, in the British Falkland Islands,
has been a true rarity, that is, a genuinely free election that was
nearly unanimous. The Islanders by a 99% margin voted to
remain British, in spite of claims by Argentina that the
Falklands belong to them. (That should settle the issue once
and for all, but it probably won’t.)
Another election now going on, with an even smaller electorate,
will be decided a two-thirds majority. This is the election of the
new leader of the Catholic Church by 115 “princes” or cardinals
of the faith. When the choice is made, it will be embraced by all
the electors, and virtually all Catholics.
In Venezuela, there was the phenomenon of an elected dictator,
but he has now died, and his successor will now be chosen in a
This was not true in North Korea where, on the death of the
dictator, his young son automatically became head of state. In
South Korea, interestingly, there were free elections, and a
woman for the first time won as president.
The key point is that elections in themselves do not guarantee a
democracy, even if they are free elections. On the other hand,
there can be no representative democracy if there are not free
As we can observe today in the Unites States, Great Britain, Russia,
Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Japan, Indonesia and virtually every
nation on our little planet, the greatest challenge in our own time,
not unlike in earlier times, is how to govern, and particularly how
to govern well. In the past, however, national interests,
demographics and resources were almost always more clearly
defined and established. At the same time, when leaders and
governments made mistakes in the past,the impact of what they
did was limited, Today, small places, petty leaders, and isolated
locations can lead to much larger consequences, greater
catastrophes, more irreparable harm.
If we do not take more interest in what is happening in the world,
we do that at our peril. There is no going back to a simpler time.
Copyright (c) 2013 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.