Wednesday, November 10, 2010

American Democracy: The View from Zimbabwe

I was sitting in a taxi, stuck in commuter traffic between Pretoria and Johanessburg, the day after the midterm elections in the US. The radio was tuned to a program I had never heard before, some talk program out of Zimbabwe. After the usual morning cracks about the trials and tribulations of the working masses midweek, the discussion got a little more serious when it turned to the recent elections.

While most Americans seem to be oscillating between disgust, anger, frustration and total apathy, the Zimbabweans went straight to the silver lining of the Republican take-over of the House. In America, so they claimed, there are no second chances. If an elected official tries, and then fails, to meet a campaign promise or the duties of the office, that's it. After just a couple years in power, the Democrats are out. In Africa, on the other hand, the people are far too forgiving. "He just needs more time. He'll fix the economy in the next term," the people say. They've been saying this about Robert Mugabe for thirty years now.

So while our political system may grind to a halt as the parties bicker, at least it is unlikely that any of our newly elected officials are likely to stay elected for long. Meanwhile who knows how long the current governments will maintain their iron grips on the continent of Africa?

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