Saturday, February 16, 2008

Pakistan - Election Problems

By Cernig

The kind of violence that Musharraf said would mean a security clampdown if carried out post election by opposition groups is rising pre-election and is aimed at anti-Musharraf parties. 37 have been killed by a suicide car bomb after a rally outside the offices of one PPP candidate.

Elections are on Monday and none of the main parties is expected to gain a clear majority - leaving the prospect of deals to form a coalition majority in parliament wide open.

However, there have been widespread allegations of dirty tricks by pro-Musarraf parties and by election officials to fix the result - maybe even giving his supporters a clear majority. Which is why the ban on exit polls is so interesting:
exit polls have been a crucial ingredient in color-coded revolutions from the Ukraine to Georgia to Kyrgyzstan.

Elections are held, the opposition cries fraud and cites the IRI exit polls as evidence of skullduggery, a big crowd of people stages a sit-in at some big square in the capital, the United States expresses its heartfelt concerns and anxieties for democracy in country X, NGOs provide material support for the protesters so they can keep country X in political limbo, the government finally gives up and quits...etc.

One can understand Musharraf’s desire to short circuit that kind of process at the earliest possible link.
Thus the primary group which carries out election observances on behalf of the US government - the International Republican Institute, famous for its exit polls which were the primary evidence for election skullduggery in the Ukraine and several other places - has pulled out. This left the Bush administration scrambling for a replacement who could help give legitimacy to Musharraf's continued rule.
The U.S. Agency for International Development then reached out to the last name on its list: Democracy International, a small, Bethesda-based consulting firm that does 90 percent of its business with the U.S. government.
The head of DI, Eric Bjornlund, has previously argued that exit polls shouldn't be conducted when they could lead to revolutions. Perfect!

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