06 October 2008

Tutu says he might not vote

Desmond Tutu, the retired Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, has said he might not vote in next year's general election, because of infighting in the ANC.

Tutu says he might not vote: South Africa: Politics: News24:
Johannesburg - Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu said he would welcome the creation of a viable opposition in South Africa, after ruling party infighting forced former president Thabo Mbeki to resign, in remarks published on Sunday.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner, who turns 77 on Tuesday, told the Sunday Times newspaper he was dismayed by the turmoil in the ruling African National Congress (ANC), the party that brought Nelson Mandela to power after the end of apartheid.

One of the problems with this is that South Africa, unlike some other countries, has a pretty wide choice in elections.

In the USA, for example, if you don't support one of the two main parties, there's little alternative. There's little to choose between the two, because there's very little difference between the two main parties when the gain power. The more vituperatively and viciously the "campaigns" attack each other, the smaller the differences between them appear to be.

In South Africa, on the other hand, we are spoilt for choice. In one election we had the Soccer Party. It didn't get much support, but there were about 30 others to choose from. The problem with not voting is that it doesn't send a message to the government. Voter apathy can have any of a number of causes. But voting for an opposition party -- any opposition party -- sends a message, because in proportional representation every vote counts, while non votes count for nothing.

The only valid reason I can think of for not voting is floor-crossing. My children did not vote in the last election for that reason. They saw no point in voting because the whole process was meaningless. I think that is one reason for political apathy among the youth.

I have been told by someone that there will be no more floor crossing, and that it has been abolished. If that is so it is good news. But it has been very muted news. I haven't seen much publicity given to it, and if voters are to be roused from their apathy, it is quite important that they should know that, if it is true. If the people you vote for are likely to become crosstitutes within 18 months, there's really little point in voting at all.

Bishop Desmond has for many years had the knack of drawing attention to the ills of our country. At one time one of those ills was that the majority of people in our country did not have the right to vote. We do have that right today -- let's not throw it away.

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