Thursday, March 11, 2010

Trouble in the Netherlands - election fraud?!

The main story in the Dutch newspapers is the announcement of an official investigation into allegations of electoral fraud during last week’s local elections; the Public Prosecutors’ Office has launched an “Investigation into the hunt for proxy votes”. A councillor for the local party Leefbaar Rotterdam (Liveable Rotterdam) violated electoral laws when he called on party candidates to solicit proxy votes. Earlier, it became clear there had been numerous incidents in which two people went into voting booths together. There were also reports of officials at polling stations who helped voters fill in proxy voting forms. Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb has decided to hold a full recount, bearing in mind that the difference between the two main parties Leefbaar Rottterdam and Labour is just a few hundred votes.
The Rotterdam based newspaper AD reports that “Electoral chaos is widespread”. The paper writes that after the initial reports on irregularities in Rotterdam, there were an increasing number of  incidents reported elsewhere in the Netherlands, mostly involving more than one person entering voting booths at the same time.
According to AD, the electoral commotion in Rotterdam may even lead to a second ballot. A political science professor says: “The discussion has been politicised to such an extent that nobody will be able to end it. The question is whether this should lead to a second ballot. That is a quite a step to take.”

The recount currently taking place in Rotterdam is a rare occurrence, but is the only solution now that serious doubts have arisen about the elections. The events in Rotterdam do not immediately justify comparisons with Kabul or Harare, but make a serious investigation into the incidents no less necessary. A second ballot would be a far-reaching decision because the results will never be identical to the first, but regrettable as this may be, it can never be an argument to leave open to doubt the results of the 3 March elections. It would not only undermine the council’s legitimacy, but also damage the standing of politics in general.

Day Opening - March 11