Before media analysts release statistics, I can confidently report that the US elections are the most covered this year. The US is regarded as the most democratic nation in the whole world, and certainly the most developed.
Being at the forefront of almost everything; from politics to the economy, when the US elections come, the world doesn’t go to sleep until the new American President is sworn in.
Pundits say this year’s US elections are the hottest ever. Since the African-American Senator Barack Obama beat Hilary Clinton in the Democratic Party preliminaries, opinions polls trickling in indicate that he has led the Republican candidate Senator John McCain all through to November 04.
To Africans, this has been good music to their ears. On Saturday November 02, Obama while in his final campaign stretch in the swing states vowed: ‘I will change the world if elected the American President”.
Looking at both candidates’ campaign trails, and specifically at their respective manifestos concerning, among others; healthcare, foreign policy, economy (tax cuts), energy and climate change, Obama managed to stay on top because his policies are better than his opponent’s.
That aside, as Africa celebrates a list of Obama successes, a number of lessons need to be drawn from the US elections.
Firstly, the organization of the elections: In many African countries elections are a mess from the very start; registration of voters to the polling day.
Many voters find their names missing on the polling day even when they have genuine voters’ cards….meaning most African election commissions do not keep accurate voters databases. If they do, perhaps they “doctor” them for reasons best known by themselves.
In America, voting starts weeks before the final polling day. If proper systems (IT) are put in place, why can’t we also do it to minimize chaos on the last day?
Secondly, the quality of the campaigns. The campaigns by the two candidates; Obama and McCain hinged on very critical issues to the American government.
These were; economy/taxes, foreign policy, climate change, energy, among others. Candidates were weighed and gauged basing on how they faired on these issues.
It was really hot and interesting. Obama and McCain would openly debate on these issues for America to decide who is better. At the end of it all, you find citizens voting basing on real issues.
In Africa, this rarely or never happens. Yes, candidates normally have manifestos but citizens never find opportunity to question how contradicting candidates were with their past manifestos or else failed to deliver on them.
Thirdly, the influence of the current president. In most African constitutions, greed for power is managed by instituting term limits to Presidents.
But some (presidents) have violated their “own” constitutions to extend their stay through manipulated referenda.
What I saw in American elections, President Bush carried on with his mantle of solving the financial mess, and his own wars in Middle East as McCain and Obama battled.
In fact, a Whitehouse Spokesman said President Bush would spend the day at Camp David with Laura Bush on the polling day, and will be in the Whitehouse a day after, watching as results trickle-in.
On contrary, most African Presidents are incumbents during elections. You find that some important national duties are kept on hold because the President is busy in campaigns.
Lastly, it should be noted that the on going elections in the US is purely an American concern. Though the outcome will have an indirect impact on Africa, it is a waste of time for us to be bothered a lot.