Waking up to the news each morning, I can’t help but feel a slight surge of self-respect for abstaining from voting during the last legislative and presidential election. The feed of actuality grossly resembles a stream of pus squirting from a super-infected tumor. Yet, as obscene as it is, we couldn’t have expected it to be otherwise.
I wrote in Nawaat in early 2011 that the planned ARC election was a maneuver to tame the 2010 popular uprising. At the time, we were still high on the newly acquired freedom. We just took down the puppet government of Mr. Ghannouchi after El Qasba 2. That was arguably our last outburst of pride as a unified nation. Since then, we preferred to delegate our public affairs to various mobs of greedy, incompetent, unpatriotic, power-hungry people. Theory has it that it takes roughly 9 months to kill a nationwide popular uprising. That is exactly how long it took Washington to propel the brotherhood to the top of the Tunisian (and Egyptian) governments. With the grassroots leftists violently repressed while the organized left is kept on leash by its perfidious leadership, the troika smothered the upheaval and absorbed the momentum of the rolling dissidence. They worked so hard to lower the standards to the point that the ex-RCDs felt worthy of such baseness.
After all, why not? Enter Nidaa Tounes, the purple people. It’s a species that thrives in a rotten environment, a fungus that grows on political manure. What a shame that those who hid in panic in 2011 are our leaders today. Needless to point out the fraud that occurred during the elections: if you choose to play against the purples, you have to live with that.
But it all comes down to the question: to vote or not to vote? I don’t mean to play captain hindsight but only idiots don’t learn from their mistakes. So let us remember our mistakes.
Voting is the ultimate form of political participation and we know of no other way of getting people to decide for their public affairs. Any form of governance we should ultimately embrace must be based on a voting/referendum system. Yet voting is a double edged blade as it could be the rope they hand to us to tie ourselves. In the Tunisian context, “they” refers to the people who are lending us money (they basically own us). The concept is to create the illusion of choice, then funnel these choices into vague ideologies under the banner of the brothels we call political parties. The recent marriage between Ghannouchi and Essebsi should not come as a surprise if you see them as what they really are: two right-wingers serving the same master. So if the intentions are not clear, do not vote.
The voting system in itself favored the big parties and allowed the sneaky introduction of incompetent representatives as well as corrupt business people into the ARP. The bulk of the ARP members are nothing but voting robots on behalf of their supreme leaders and their providers. A simpler, more direct vote on individuals, on a local basis is necessary to guarantee a minimum of representation and accountability. Again we shouldn’t be surprised to see the unanimous vote of confidence by an “Islamic party” for a minister of foreign affairs who used to be Ben Ali’s Zionist connection. So if the process is rigged, do not vote.
Voting should also be on projects and programs not on ideologies. It is utterly inexplicable how during the three elections we had since 2011, no one bothered to present a specific, action oriented, realistic or time-bound plan. We just keep getting bombarded by the usual worn out slogans. In such critical times, we need CEO-grade politicians who give exact figures and answer specific questions. So if the program of your party is to “fight corruption” and “promote human rights values”, do not vote.
Perhaps the most vicious deception in all of the election business is the “tactical voting”. “Le vote utile” is even sexier in French, which translated into thousands of otherwise reasonable people voting for the RCD (or Nidaa if you want). I would guess that in Tunisian, that would translate into “shmeta vote”. But it is far from being a Tunisian tradition, Americans having been victims of this charade for a couple of centuries now. So if it is against someone, do not vote.
I should also mention the media but that will make me puke violently. But here is a trick: learn to ignore it.
Additionally, the ISIE logistic handling of the electoral process should be described as scandalous. Needless to say, the whole governing body needs to be revised to guarantee absolute impartiality. Introducing the concept of electronic voting (perhaps on cellular networks) could be used to back the ARP votes on critical issues. Electronic voting could be used along conventional voting at the ARP and the presidential elections to cross check the accuracy of the results. Implementing the technology is not much of an issue compared to the issue of monitoring the integrity and the veracity of the system. Again, it all comes down to the human factor. It’s a shame that on a whole nation, it’s a too-ambitious task to find a handful of honorable people to oversee a fair electoral process.
As the late George Carlin put it:
People like to twist that around. But if you voted, you have no right to complain.
Voting in a corrupt, fraudulent election is providing legitimacy to organized financial crime. Not until basic transparency criteria are met, could we have a fair election on a national level. Considering the rotten political reality, the only alternative available is the street, as populist as it may sound. The money lenders don’t need your “valuable” opinion until they finish harvesting the crop they’ve sown. Meanwhile, we are losing our sovereignty and our independence on a daily basis.