Fraud at the Polls
by Stephen Lendman
At age 25, Orson Welles co-wrote, produced, directed, and starred in Citizen Kane. It looks critically at the life and times of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst.
Welles played the lead character, Charles Foster Kane. The film retains its force today. After losing a gubernatorial election, his New York Inquirer headlined: "Fraud at Polls!"
It reflects real life electoral politics. It repeats under democratic and authoritarian regimes. Exceptions prove the rule.
The memorable line from Gilbert & Sullivan's HMS Pinafore explains, saying:
"Things are seldom as they seem. Skim milk masquerades as cream."
Media scoundrel misinformation features it. Fiction substitutes for truth and full disclosure. Explanations most needed are suppressed.
Over the weekend, Greece held second round parliamentary elections. Egypt held a presidential runoff. Results of both are suspect. More on Egypt below.
Based on pre-election polls, two dominant parties competed in Greece's election - New Democracy and SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left).
Support for Greece's former ruling party, PASOK, collapsed for good reason.
May 6 parliamentary elections favored anti-austerity candidates. Coalition talks failed. On June 17, new elections were held.
SYRIZA campaigned on "tear(ing) up the barbaric (Troika) accord." On Greece's NET TV, its leader Alexis Tsipras said:
"We are being asked to agree to the destruction of Greek society. SYRIZA won't betray the Greek people."
Whatever party emerges first gains an automatic extra 50 parliamentary seats. This provision alone makes electoral results suspect.
As important is how quickly campaign promises fade. Once in power, so-called liberal leftists often govern like right wing counterparts.
In America, little separates Democrats from Republicans. It's mostly the same across Europe. Greek politics fit the mold.
Nonetheless, popular sentiment supported ending austerity and retaining Eurozone membership.
SYRIZA promised both. New Democracy assured same old, same old. It won. SYRIZA lost. Something rotten in Denmark seems likely.
Final results showed New Democracy won 29.66%. SYRIZA was second with 26.89%. Both parties fell well short of majority control.
Coalition talks will try to form a new government. Earlier attempts failed. Whether this time proves different isn't clear. Will a third round be necessary? Does it matter? It always does when candidates gain power through fraud.
At issue is why would Greeks elect leaders favoring policies they oppose? Mass protests raged for months against them. New Democracy favors more of the same.
Retaining Eurozone membership is another matter entirely. Around 80% of Greeks support it. Reissuing drachmas assures huge devaluation losses.
Half or more of household savings could evaporate. Prices would rise dramatically. Growing poverty and hardships will escalate.
European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) disbursements depend on Greece observing Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies (MEFP) provisions.
Troika diktats demand it. They require punishing austerity when vital stimulus is needed. Essential services are eroding en route to eliminating them altogether.
SYRIA campaigned on ending cuts. At the same time, its former deputy parliamentary speaker, Tasos Kourakis, assured markets about "restraining expenditures and attracting new funds, like EU structural funds."
"(R)estructuring and rationalization of public administration" would follow. Most Greek debt would be repaid, he added. How he didn't explain. It's so massive, repayment's impossible. More bailout funds exacerbate the problem.
So does public rage. It's close to exploding. At issue is why would voters elect leaders favoring policies they oppose? As important is dysfunctional electoral politics. Ruling class priorities failed.
Greeks face protracted Depression conditions. Hard times are worsening. Help isn't forthcoming. Sustained grassroots activism alone can change things. So far it remains distant.
Egypt: A Profile of Entrenched Despotism
In February 2011, Mubarak's 30-year dictatorship ended. Another one replaced him. Egypt's military holds absolute power.
Authoritarian dominance is unchallenged. Elections are more theater than real. Egypt's multi-round process complicates them further. Lack of real choice corrupts them.
In 2011, parliamentary elections were held. Ahead of June's presidential runoff, Egypt's military junta reacted.
A two-step process was used. The military-controlled Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) annulled results. It claimed electoral law unconstitutional. It said one-third of seats were invalid because political party candidates won seats reserved for independents.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) then dissolved parliament and the constituent assembly tasked with drafting a new constitution. At issue is retaining junta control and preventing democratic change.
SCC judges also approved Ahmed Sahfiq's presidential candidacy. He was Mubarak's last prime minister. He faced Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi in weekend polling.
Egypt's anti-democratic tradition is longstanding. Parliamentary elections are corrupted by fraud. Whoever wins doesn't matter.
SCAF retains supreme power to propose and veto legislation, convene and adjourn parliament, appoint and replace the prime minister and cabinet members, and have final say on how Egypt's governed.
Elected officials serve them. Traditional authoritarian rule runs the country. Elections don't matter. They provide a veneer of democratic change, not the real thing.
Opposition interests aren't tolerated. Egypt's Emergency Law enforces power. First enacted in 1958, it remained in effect since 1967, except for a brief 1980 period. In 1981, its current version was enacted.
In January 2012, junta leaders provisionally lifted it. General Hussein Tantawi said it still applies in cases of "thuggery."
In other words, it remains in force against anti-regime activists. Anyone can be targeted without cause.
Warrants aren't issued. Civilians face kangaroo court justice. Guilt by accusation is policy. Since Mubarak's ouster, everything changed but stayed the same.
In fact, conditions are worse than ever. Promises made are broken. No one's safe. State terror affects everyone. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights director Hossam Bahgat said:
"For us the state of emergency has not been lifted. Police (still have) wide-ranging powers to stop, search, and detain anyone without a judicial warrant. On the ground, this will mean" nothing changed.
Baghat called Tantawi's announcement "a clever public relations move."
Emergency law tyranny still rules. Electoral results change nothing.
Junta control permits suspending constitutional rights, instituting martial law, enforcing censorship, curtailing anti-regime protests, marginalizing opposition, and restricting assemblies and free movement.
It also mandates arrests and indefinite detentions with or without charges, trials in military tribunals, and overall extralegal police state harshness.
Muslim Brotherhood (MB) ties to UK and US intelligence are longstanding. CIA funds supported it. Likely they still do. MB leaders are considered silent allies. Earlier they were used against communism and opposition to Gamal Abdel Nasser, Pan-Arabism, and nationalism.
In the 1920s, Britain established MB's precursor, the Society of Propaganda and Guidance. It backed UK colonial rule. Its journal, The Lighthouse, attacked Egyptian nationalists wanting self-determination. It called them "atheists and infidels."
Its Institute of Propaganda and Guidance taught regional Islamists political agitation methods to contest anti-colonialism back home. Hassan al-Banna was one its graduates. In 1928, he founded the MB.
Its leaders are pro-capitalist. They oppose class struggle politics on principle. They disdain poor, disenfranchised, and disadvantaged segments of society. In Egypt, they didn't make common cause with aggrieved workers or farmers.
They oppose unions and leftists. Earlier, they participated in strikebreaking. They're secretly supported by wealthy financial and business interests. Saudi money backs them.
They also created their own businesses and banks. In 1976, they established the Faisal Islamic Bank of Egypt. Saudi Prince Mohammed al-Faisal runs it.
For 90 years, Washington, Britain and other Western governments supported Islamists strategically against nationalist, democratic, and other anti-colonialist movements. Support continues today. Obama maintains a longstanding tradition.
On May 23 and 24, Egyptians voted for president. Numerous candidates competed. None won a majority. On June 16 and 17, MB candidate Mohammad Morsi faced regime loyalist Ahmed Shafik.
With most votes counted, unofficial results show Morsi well ahead. Final totals will be announced later in the week.
Mass abstentions showed disdain for what most Egyptians call dysfunctional, corrupt, and dismissive of democratic change.
On Saturday, turnout approached 15% of eligible voters. Few numbers showed up on Sunday. Fraud at the polls was apparent. Voting by military and police forces is prohibited. It occurred anyway.
So did vote buying on pre-marked ballots. Each side accused the other of vote rigging. Democracy never had a chance. Junta mandates prevent it.
On June 18, Reuters headlined "Egypt Islamists claim presidency as army tightens grip," saying:
Egypt's president "will be subordinate (to) military council" rule. Sunday night, SCAF "issued a decree (that) set strict limits on the power of head of state."
"Liberal and Islamist opponents denounced a 'military coup.' " Independent broadsheet Al-Masry al-Youm headlined "Military Transfers Power, to Military." It didn't exaggerate.
Junta powers were expanded and hardened. SCAF has full political, economic and military control. It's also in charge of the constituent assembly tasked with drafting a new constitution.
An addendum to its March 2011 constitutional decree states:
"(T)he incumbent SCAF members are responsible for deciding on all issues related to the armed forces, including appointing its leaders and extending the terms in office of the aforesaid leaders."
"The current head of the SCAF is to act as commander-in-chief of the armed forces and minister of defense until a new constitution is drafted."
"If the country faces internal unrest which requires the intervention of the armed forces, the president can issue a decision to commission the armed forces—with the approval of SCAF—to maintain security and defend public properties."
In other words, SCAF retains supreme power. Elections give them cover. Popular change remains distant. Egyptians were betrayed.
At issue is how they'll react and handle brute force confronting them.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
His new book is titled "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War" http://www.claritypress.com/Lendman.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening. http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour