Free Elections: An Elementary Textbook

Free Elections: An Elementary Textbook

Free Elections: An Elementary Textbook

Free Elections: An Elementary Textbook

Excerpt

This book is the result of the author's experience as a visitor to East and Central Africa in the years 1952 and 1956. In the first year the idea of self-government based on an electoral system giving representation to all sections of the population was so strange that it was a matter of some delicacy even to discuss it publicly. By 1956 it had become axiomatic that this was the next step in progress, and there was lively controversy over the mechanism of elections in all the British and ex- British territories from Khartoum to Salisbury: the Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Tanganyika, Zanzibar, the Rhodesias and Nyasaland. This preoccupation with one aspect of the problem of self-government at first seems odd, but it is not illogical. The only consistent answer offered by the West to the problem of legitimate power is that government must be based on free elections. The problem of elections is therefore central, and its importance extends far beyond East and Central Africa. A question of the electoral system, that of the inclusion of 'coloured' voters on the same voting roll as 'whites', has been the symbol of the struggle for predominance between Afrikaner and British ideas of government in. South Africa. In India and in West Africa the introduction of direct elections with universal franchise has been the badge of nationhood; questions about elections stand in the path of further progress in many other colonial territories (Malaya and Singapore, Mauritius, British Guiana among others), as well as in the countries of French North and West Africa, and the new states of South East Asia.

Indeed, the problem is not merely one of colonial self-government. The catchword 'free elections' has become a badge of the difference between two ways of life reckoned to be in antithesis. Some people in the West object to the economic policies of communism, and believe they should be fought at all costs. But there are many others who would accept the proposition that a government is entitled to try what economic policies it likes, provided that it is a government truly representative of the people. This follows, after all, from the Western doctrine of the self-governing nation-state. But when is a government 'democratic'? To Marxists, if it is based on the leadership of the only 'democratic' party, the Communist Party: to the Western democrats, if it is based on 'free elections'. But when are elections 'free'? No election . . .

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