Posted by: Frangipani | March 13, 2012

Why boycott elections?

I was in Cairo at the end of 2011 when the “2nd revolution” was taking place. Colleagues in the office would be in Tahrir Square every evening to protest the previous day’s killing and maiming with trajically misplaced use of teargas. “We stopped campaigning for the elections a few weeks ago. These people have to realise that they cannot behave like this; killing their own citizens. We want to stop the elections, and if they do take place, we will boycott them.”

My heart sank; it reminded me of when I was in Eastern Turkey in 2010 and the word went out to boycott the referendum on the constitution. I understood that both options were not what the Kurdish people wanted, but no-one could explain to me what would be achieved by the boycott. Whoever took note of millions of people not voting? The news presenters speak about and we wait to hear the voting results from the people who did take part in the elections. “They will see all the people who did not vote.” I am afraid they will not, since they just made themselves invisible. It is the votes that are counted and the votes that count.

Similarly, Kurdish politicians boycotted parliament for months. Think what they failed to achieve by not being there. What goodwill was gained by being absent? And so it came to pass in Egypt in December 2011. Whenever democracy is born, should we work with the system? As I see it, opting out goes precisely nowhere. But perhaps I am wrong. Help me to understand, “why bycott elections?”


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