The End of Elections

The impasse in Cote d’Ivoire; the failed power-sharing governments in Zimbabwe and Kenya; the gulf between the political ideology enshrined in the South African constitution and the opinion of the man in the street; the rise of the right-wing in Europe; Obama’s dreams deferred*…

The idea of elections as the ultimate democratic device is in deepening crisis across the world.

For the majority today, political participation takes its form as either resignation or violence, political truth arrives in the shape of media campaigns or armed “peace keeping” forces and governance is synonymous with corruption. Division, violence, resignation and corruption, have become the ways in which we understand and negotiate politics.

We explore the failure of representative democracy and popular sovereignty, with a specific focus on Africa.

In these post-democratic times, how are elections used to suppress rather than give voice to the masses? Has the expansion of state power, legitimated by voting, now outgrown any control by the participation which made it possible?

How is democracy possible in situations where popular consensus itself runs counter to democratic principles and ideologies?

How can one-man-one-vote count for anything in countries that are so divided that each vote is canceled out by an opposing ballot?

How can impasses be resolved in an age where the very institutes and bodies developed to uphold democracy have lost all legitimacy?

How is the process of participation limited and controlled by the very powers put in place to forward democracy?

How is democratic progress possible when the threat of elections dictates short term policies over long term visions?

And finally: what comes after The Election?

*these are contemporary events but it was no different in 2008 with Cote d’Ivoire’s power-sharing agreement in turmoil, uncertainty following Zimbabwe’s March 2008 elections (see Power Sharing) and the end of the Mbeki era etc

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