International experts expressed strong disapproval of the current rules regulating the American presidential election. According to the Global Commission on Elections, Democracy, and Security, headed by former-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the non-transparency and utter dependence of the candidates upon large financial donors undermines American society’s belief in the principles of equality and democracy. In its report, the commission, which consists of a number of former world leaders and Nobel Prize winners, said that there’s an alarming tendency evident all over the world showing a sharp growth in the influence of the financial élite on election results. The commission is convinced that one can see this process most clearly in contemporary America.
According to the report, so-called political action committees (PACs) are one of the main reasons for the loss of trust in fair elections by the American people. PACs support this-or-that candidate or bill and can receive and spend a legally-specified amount of money in the course of their activities. By a decision of the US Supreme Court in 2010 (Citizens United), so-called super committees (Super PACs) became legal, which are independent groups that don’t support a particular candidate, but they can receive unlimited donations from whatever source. Referring to statistical data provided by New York University, the report claimed that a majority of Americans think that candidates use Super PACs to gain support bypassing legal regulation, and that they pose a serious threat to the democratic electoral system. The commission believed that American elections have become the plaything of the country’s financial élite, which calls into question the idea of equality as such. Besides that, the commission criticised some state laws in the USA, which have the aim of depriving minority elements of their electoral rights by means of new and stricter requirements to access the voting process.
Ahead of the upcoming presidential election, the problem of the deficiencies in the American election process seems very urgent, especially if we take into consideration the expected vehemence of this contest. Examples of serious errors made by election boards continue to surface with frightening frequency. Some time ago, a team of independent observers (Voter Integrity Project) said that voting lists in North Carolina contained at least 30,000 “dead souls”. Then, a scandal arose around the decision of Florida election authorities to remove more than 2,500 local residents from the voting lists as having no right to vote. Only after human rights groups intervened, 2,625 people had their electoral rights fully restored. The activists justly said that the Florida authorities violated a federal law that bans removing voters from the voting lists less than 90 days before the election.
The abovementioned incidents are only the tip of the iceberg. The American electoral process has proven, yet again, its inability to conform to the democratic principles praised by the American government. However, as long as the imperfect American political process enables candidates to carry out their political machinations, the situation, as before, will remained unchanged.
13 September 2012
Voice of Russia World Service