On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Third World-like American polls

Like a sore loser, the Democratic candidate said the
election battle was not over.

In all likelihood, the results would probably be disputed and taken to court,
throwing the nation into disarray.

The two candidates are holding onto the edge of their seats for the tabulation
of several thousands of ballots in the mail from overseas. These votes would
not all be counted before Nov 17 – 10 days after polling.

Postal votes, like in the Malaysian electoral system, could now decide the
outcome of the presidential race in a complicated voting system which nobody
seems to understand – not even Americans themselves.

The tally thus far shows Bush having won 29 states for 246 electoral votes,
Gore has 18 states plus the district of Columbia for 255, with 270 needed for

But the incomplete popular votes total shows Gore ahead with 49,145,883 votes
or 48%, and Bush having 48,940,963, also 48%.

The fate of the next US President could well be decided by a Marine standing
guard at the American Embassy in Timbuktu.

If we laugh at some illiterate Malaysian voter for drawing the dacing or the
moon on the ballot papers, rest assured that it doesn't just happen in this
part of the world.

A number of Gore supporters cast their votes for Pat Buchanan of the Reform
Party because they were confused by the design of the ballot.

For Malaysian campaign workers who shake their heads at spoilt votes, they will
be glad to know that over 19,000 votes in Palm Beach county, Florida, were
rejected because they were marked for more than one presidential

The comedy of errors continues. Oregon, the home state of computer giant
Microsoft, is still counting the votes.

The click of the mouse isn't working there, it seems. No wonder American voters
are now saying they smell a rat in the whole voting process.

The votes in Oregon are so close, according to reports, that the likelihood of
an automatic recount was “pretty high.''

In New Mexico, the votes are now being counted by hand. The most wired country
in the world has realised that manual work is sometimes more reliable, just
like in the Third World.

You would have thought that a recount, by whatever method, would usually have a
small margin of error but the world is now hearing that results are changing

In New Mexico, Gore may now end up the loser. This must be terribly confusing
for both candidates.

And if you have been following the American presidential race on CNN, you would
notice that most of the anchor broadcasters are horrible at maths.

The biggest boo-boo, of course, is to tell the whole world that Bush had won,
which led to a flood of congratulations from leaders of various countries for
the Republican candidate.

But the red-faced politicians shouldn't worry. Bush, we are told, is hopeless
at Geography and he may not even know where some of these countries are

Gore must be upset with the brave people of Florida. Just a month ago, he had
no complaints about the voting system; now his campaigners are set to challenge
the system.

He may be right, finally. Americans are crying out for reformasi or doi moi of
the entire political system.

As in all democracy, the Americans must understand that it should be made
simple for participation by all. That's what civil society is all about –
participation in the running of a government.

A democracy is also not perfect, as the Americans are now telling everyone.
Many Commonwealth countries, which modified the Westminster system to suit
their countries, have long told them that.

The first-past-the-post system, which we adopt, seems unfair but it works. That
is the most important.

When you have a system to pick someone to vote on your behalf, as in the
electoral college, it's bound to be mind-boggling.

Americans now realise that the popular vote doesn't really count.

Whoever wins, Gore or Bush, should heed the advice of Indian Chief Commissioner
Manohar Singh Gill.

The US should invite independent observers from all countries to watch the
presidential election just as Washington does to see polls in other parts of
the world.

In fact, these observers should also have the right to reject or accept the
election results, as the Americans usually do.

Finally, if Bush or Gore goes to court to challenge the results, the Dewan
Rakyat should seriously table a motion demanding a fresh trial if we are not
happy with the verdict – particularly if Gore wins the case.

Whether they be bushed or gored, the public would have had enough of the
Hollywood comedy American Presidential Elections 2001.

The sequel, if there were to be one, would be anything but good – as with most