ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Calcutta Diary

Those in the poorer parts of the world have cause for glee. The misfortune of the better placed in any circumstances gladdens the heart of the weaker sections. Some positive effects could actually emerge from the convulsion gripping the American nation. A diminished United States of America implies a diminished western world. To expect a setback for neo-colonialism and neo-imperialism following this outcome is not a far-fetched proposition.

It has been, and continues to be, a long night which seems unlikely to end even when the last count comes home. Never mind, when it ends, or whether it ends at all, the sum total of the events that have happened and are yet to happen will, without question, dim considerably the lustre of the world’s superpower. The US, the poll impasse suggests, is evenly divided. Does it not mean that capitalism is split down the middle? If that is a bit of a hyperbole, the consequences of the electoral mess can still be both far-reaching and altogether unpredictable. Consider first the mechanism of the ongoing chaos. Even after the second count – and further recount – of the votes in some counties in Florida one of the candidates is ahead of the other by at most a few hundred votes. The postal votes have not reduced the uncertainty. Meanwhile, the lawyers on both sides have entered the fray. Threats of suits and countersuits have fouled the air. A manual count, this time of the total votes cast in the state, has failed to change the situation. In the circumstances, the agony of the wait could be prolonged, with accusations beginning to pile up, such as of ballot boxes deliberately not being counted, of voters being led astray by the trickery of the ballot papers used and, what is worse, the deliberate invalidation of nearly 20,000 votes in Palm Beach county and turning away a few more thousands from the polling booths with the admonition either that the booths had already closed or that ballot papers were exhausted. The Democrats have scented blood in Florida and, vociferous demonstrations apart, have gone to the courts on each of these issues. The judges would conceivably declare a moratorium on the formal announcement of the final results of the presidential poll. Since every action invites an equal and opposite reaction, the Republicans have not remained quiet. Their lawyers are also on the move and are planning to demand recounts in, for instance, states like New Mexico, Iowa and Wisconsin where the Democratic candidate has been declared elected by a very narrow margin.

All this adds up to a major slur on the American electoral process as well as American democracy. And yet what has happened is not altogether unprecedented. Way back in 1876, there was a similar row and, after a long hassle in the course of which the results of the poll initially declared for some states were revised, the Republican candidate won the election by a single-vote majority in the electoral college. On the present occasion, though, the legal wrangles promise to be prolonged, raising the possibility of no decision being reached by January 20 next, the scheduled date of inauguration of the new president. In such a situation, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, a genuine non-entity, is supposed to fill in as acting president.

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