Get your TMN Headlines Mondays–Saturdays.

Subscribe to get your TMN Headlines Mondays through Saturdays. Sign up for our daily dozen-plus links!

In Hindsight

Campaign Relief

In March, politicians around the world were campaigning and citizens were wincing. And just like here at home, impropriety was as prevalent as democracy.

In case you hadn’t heard, there’s a U.S. presidential election this November; and if indeed you’d somehow missed all the campaigning, debating, and very unexpected Tonya Harding comparisons, the rest of us would like to drop by the rabbit hole you fell into. And we’re not the only ones: Around the world in March, people were in various stages of electioneering. For those in Zimbabwe, this meant showing up before 3 a.m. and waiting in line until 4 p.m. the following day.

Under the slogan “New Labour Your Britain,” in March Prime Minister Gordon Brown launched the campaign for the May 1 council elections by pledging to put a neighborhood policing unit in every community. With reports of falling home prices and other concerns about the economy, British voters are turning from Brown—who would be advised to know a neighborhood police force is unhelpful if you can’t afford to live in your neighborhood anymore.

But hope is not lost for Brown; on March 28 it was reported that the Labour Party won two by-elections in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, proving you can’t call the race before the general and council elections on May 1. Until then, we can obsessively follow the council election campaigns in Britain with this very detailed “dynamic political map.”

There are less than five weeks until the British elections, but approximately 18 months before the next election for premier of Queensland, Australia. That hasn’t stopped Lawrence Springborg, head of Queensland’s Opposition Party, from running a mid-term campaign ad in March to rally support for “the Borg” in 2009. (Watch the video here.)

Perennially deposed Nepali Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba is campaigning for the PM position once again. Expected to “trounce” the opposition during the April 10 elections, Deuba has been campaigning in over 30 districts. Responding to security concerns in the country, Deuba recently declared: “In the present context when security is not adequate in the country, mobilization of [the] Nepal Army may help.”

Confirming the high-risk atmosphere surrounding the Nepali elections, on March 27 Bloomberg reported Maoist rebels from the Communist Party of Nepal have been terrorizing voters and disrupting the rallies of other political parties. But Deuba and Nepali voters shouldn’t worry: On March 25 The Himalayan Times reported that Sting is vacationing in Nepal.

As U.S. voters are well aware, violence outside a country can affect a political campaign. The recent unrest in Tibet endangered the chances of Taiwanese presidential hopeful Ma Ying-jeou. Ma was criticized when he threatened to boycott the Beijing Olympics “if China continues to crack down on the Tibetan people, and the situation in Tibet continues to worsen.” But for the most part, Ma focused his campaign on reviving Taiwan’s economy through tourism and transport links with China across the Taiwan Straight—and solidly won the presidency on March 20.

One election we’re sure Mugabe never had control of is the mock ballot Zimbabwe exiles held in Britain on March 29. While the results of the March 29 elections in Zimbabwe are still unknown, plenty has been reported on President Mugabe’s campaign strategies. According to a March 24 article in the London Times, Mugabe ordered food prices to return to February 12 levels to “create a feelgood factor among his suffering voters.” Despite Mugabe’s promise of temporarily lower food prices, it seems “no one” Times correspondent Christina Lamb spoke to in Zimbabwe supports the current leader.

If running against Mugabe in Zimbabwe, your best campaign strategy is offering reward to those who can prove he has rigged the election—which is exactly what an organization called Zimbabwe Democracy Now has done. And Mugabe’s campaign strategies of intimidation, deception, and voter fraud may not be as successful this time as in the past: “Not only does Mugabe’s rejection seem so overwhelming that it could test even such a master of electoral manipulation, but the police are also giving the opposition unprecedented freedom to campaign, suggesting that Mugabe has lost control of the state machinery.”

At the time of this article’s publication, the ballot counting continues, and we’re still waiting to hear if Mugabe has lost control of Zimbabwe. Three days after the elections, delays have Zimbabweans and the world on edge, fearing they are evidence that the ballot is being rigged in Mugabe’s favor as we speak.

One election we’re sure Mugabe never had control of is the mock ballot Zimbabwe exiles held in Britain on March 29 “to highlight the marred ballot at home.”

In Puerto Rico, Gov. Aníbal S. Acevedo Vilá has been charged with violating federal campaign laws, committing wire fraud, and illegally using campaign funds for his personal use. If true, it’s certainly contemptible—but it’s not like he’s Mugabe or anything.

Also in the dodgy category is London Mayor Ken Livingston, who never declared a £20,000 campaign donation from the train drivers’ union. Again, he’s no Mugabe, who denied medical care to activists and members of the opposition party after commanding police to beat them up.

Closer to home, in March the New York Public Interest Research Group uncovered a number of state lawmakers who’ve made inappropriate use of campaign funds, including Sen. Kenneth Lavalle paying a $310 bill at Jack’s Oyster House in Albany with campaign funds, Assemblyman Joseph Lentol paying his bar association dues with campaign funds, Sen. Bill Stachowski buying $2,764 worth of Buffalo Bills tickets with campaign funds, Sen. Catharine Young purchasing a $25,000 car with campaign funds, and Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell traveling to Ireland on campaign funds.

And a word of warning to all the would-be corrupt campaigners out there, follow the lead of Missouri Governor James Blunt, who previously paid for private jets with campaign funds, and is now “regularly boarding state planes for official business after he announced Jan. 22 that he would not seek re-election this year.” That’s right: It’s time to quit the racket.


TMN Editor Nicole Pasulka believes she could beat a lie detector. When she sits in a chair she almost never puts her feet on the floor. Even though she likes the internet a lot, she is convinced that people will always read magazines and she is secretly building one in her basement. More by Nicole Pasulka