WTF Friday, 1/16/2015: Sri Lankan Election Edition

Last week, President Mahinda Rajapaksa was unexpectedly unseated in an election in which nearly 82% of eligible Sri Lankans turned out to vote. I was there, and wrote about how exciting it was for the The Washington Post’s political science blog, Monkey Cage.

I left a few highlights out, though, so to supplement that post, I give you my top 5 WTF moments of the Sri Lankan presidential election:

1. In the last week of the campaign, Rajapaksa made a visit to Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka, where he asked Tamils to vote for the “known devil” (himself, the commander-in-chief who presided over mass bloodshed in the region at the end of the civil war) over the “unknown angel” (Sirisena). Shades of Charles Taylor’s “he killed my ma, he killed my pa, I’ll vote for him“, anyone?

2. Campaigning ended on Monday, January 5 at 11:59pm and all campaign posters were supposed to come down at that time. They didn’t. A day or two later, someone got around to blacking out Rajapaksa’s face on billboards around town. This is what it looked like:

campaign poster

3. In the final hours of the campaign, state-aligned media paired coverage of the terror attacks in Paris with graphic footage of LTTE bombings, reminding voters that Rajapaksa had been responsible for the defeat of the insurgency.

4. On election day, Rajapaksa went to cast his vote accompanied by a doppelganger of his rival Maithripala Sirisena (now the president). The look-alike was one of several “joke candidates” fielded by both sides in an attempt to confuse voters. You can see him here.

5. In the days following Rajapaksa’s ouster, a number of things have emerged, not just coup attempt rumors and allegations of corruption, but secret helicopters (actually a persistent campaign issue symbolizing Rajapaksa extravagance) and illicit elephants.

WTF Friday, 12/16/11

As commenter “Tanuki Man” points out, this one is a little white man’s burden-y. I understand the frustration at the large amount of money spent by UN, EU, UK, etc. resulting in what seems to be a flawed election in DRC, but maybe that (as well as history) should tell you that democracy might take more than dough and trying hard. Advocating redirecting these funds toward health measures might make sense, but is that any less of a shrug?

Womp womp…

“A year after the self-immolation of a vegetable vendor in Tunisia sparked a political tidal wave across the Arab world, it’s hard to point to much positive change in the North African country. Unemployment remains high, Islamists won a plurality in elections, and women fight to wear the niqab in public.” Well, when you put it like that…

WTF Friday 12/2/11

Vladimir Putin appeals to voters and politicians to not “make politics a circus.” Yea, this guy.
I though this article was actually going to explain how Egyptian voters have figured a way to “boycott boycotts.” It did not. I even Googled “how to boycott a boycott.” Nada. Would it just be to vote? If anyone has a creative solution to this I’d love to hear it.

WTF Friday, 11/11/11

Karel du Guct, the EU’s trade commissioner, on EU-Africa Economic Relations: “We should have a comprehensive vision of where we want to go to, but I never get the feeling when we discuss with them that we have the same vision; and I believe our vision is the right one.” Wow I really wonder why people can’t see eye to eye with this guy.

I’m not gonna link to this HuffPost article but let’s see if I can’t paint a picture. Headline is “Somalia Famine: Baby [Not Republishing Name] Back From Brink of Death,” followed by “before and after” photos. Yo this is not a Dan Marino weight loss commercial, this is not a Proactiv commercial starring Justin Beiber, this is a malnourished child, and this is inappropriate.

George Weah takes a dive. I might let it slide cuz he also did this.

WTF Friday (Err, Saturday), 2/19/11

Voting going pretty well in Uganda. Oh, except for this little incident. Gotta admit that is a pretty good prank, though.

Oxymoron of the week: “CNN interviews Bahrain’s special envoy to the U.S., Abdul Latif bin Rashid al Zayani, who says ‘we need to have dialogue … we need to calm down.’ He also said Bahrain’s king is ‘committed to democracy.'”

Somebody’s got a bday coming up! The folks from Reporters without Borders are definitely not getting invited: “The time when Zimbabwe was southern Africa’s breadbasket is long gone. No matter. Monday is his birthday. Like a boy, that’s all he can think about right now.” 87 and young at heart. What a guy.

WTF Friday, 11/5/10

The military junta in Burma has decided to cancel elections in several regions populated by ethnic minorities, shunning the ever-popular dictatorial move of rigging elections. Nice. Way to cut out the middle man.

BBC has apologized to Bob Geldof for running a series of reports insinuating that Live Aid money has been used to purchase weapons. This was in March. It is now November. Timely. Especially considering that, according to the BBC, there is “no evidence for these statements.” I think they at least owe him a fruit basket.
Zimbabwe has reached the 5-peat for the lowest ranking on the UNDP Human Development Index despite the life expectancy for the country increasing from 37 to 47 since a few years ago. Kinda calls into question the whole point of this list…

Get Your Act Together, New York!

I just voted. It was kind of ridiculous.

As has been widely reported elsewhere, New York has recently switched to paper ballots from their previous mechanical-voting machines, whose drawbacks (didn’t really work for casting votes with, too heavy) were finally deemed to outweigh their benefits (didn’t really work for casting votes with, too heavy to steal). Unfortunately, in what I assume was some sort of political compromise, they’ve been replaced with paper ballots that don’t really work for casting votes with either.

I thought I was prepared. I am kind of an election-law nerd, (I usually vote early so that I can volunteer as an election-protection adviser, but this year I don’t have time), and I had been following the kerfuffle about the ballot problems pretty closely. So, even before I arrived, I knew that the instructions for filling out the ballot would be vague, but that I should fill in the circle below the candidate’s name. And I had heard on NPR this morning that there would be more voting opportunities, including a referendum on term limits, printed on the back of the ballot, but that this would not be indicated anywhere on the front of the ballot.

And yet. First of all, the print on the ballot was ridiculously small. Honestly, I think the party names listed under each candidate were in the smallest print I have ever seen on a paper document. And I am a lawyer. Small print is kind of my thing! And then, despite the warning from NPR this morning, I totally got lulled into a false sense of satisfaction after filling out the front of my ballot and seeing no sign that I was supposed to flip it over, and so I forgot to fill out the back, and didn’t remember until I had just walked out the door of the polling place. The voters of New York will just have to decide those referenda without me.

In other “sometimes New York just sucks” news, Kate just brought this to my attention:

Sometimes it seems as if some of Coney Island must die so that the historic amusement district can be saved — even if it means the death of Shoot the Freak.

Early on Monday, the owners of Shoot the Freak, Ruby’s bar, Coney Island Souvenirs, Gyro Corner, Beer Garden and four other boardwalk operators were informed that their leases would not be renewed. And the operator of the Cyclone roller coaster is also leaving Coney Island.

It’s almost enough to make a girl want to move back to her home town on the prairie.


Oh Britain, I Just Can’t Quit You

From the BBC’s guide to voting and polling stations for today’s election:

Dogs may not yet be entitled to vote but they are allowed to come and watch as long as they don’t disrupt the vote. According to previous guidance issued by the Electoral Commission, dogs must be in an “accompanying” role rather than “free-range”.

In cases where a voter has two or more dogs and will struggle to control them while casting their ballot, polling station staff may hold the dogs’ leads. Rural constituencies might have cases of voters riding to the polling station. In such cases, horses and ponies should be tethered up outside. There is no guidance on other animals such as rabbits, ferrets or pot-bellied pigs, so any decision will be at the discretion of presiding officers.”

The guide also answers other frequently-asked questions, such as “can I vote if I’m drunk?” (yes), “can I wear a giant rosette?” (no), and “I’m a member of the royal family, can I vote?” (surprisingly complicated, but apparently depends on how fancy a royal you are).

WTF Friday, 4/30/10

  • Mother Jones highlights a photo series by Jonathan Torgovnik featuring women who had children as a result of rape during the Rwandan genocide. Unfortunately, I don’t feel like MJ’s headline, “Can You Love a Child of Rape?,” is really the right way to frame this. Doesn’t posing the question that way place “not loving them” as the default, and “loving them” as the exception? Doesn’t that make you kind of uncomfortable? Would really like to hear from our readers on this.

  • Speaking of rape and eye-catching headlines (as we tend to do), there has got to be a better way to convey that there has been a lot of rape in the DRC than calling it the “rape capital of the world.” I mean, shouldn’t the UN have some sort of “special representative on sexual violence in conflict” who would handle these matters more delicately? Oh, they do? Oh, she said it? Cripes.

  • FP has a great piece called “The World’s Worst Immigration Laws.” I find it interesting that Italy fines illegal immigrants while Japan pays them to leave. Wacky world we live in.
  • Lastly, from the “forgone conclusion department,” Bashir wins in a landslide.

Iranians Bizarrely Unwilling to Relinquish Dreams of Democracy

Via my second semi-anonymous Iranian, this is a video of protesters in Tehran singing the pre-Revolution Iranian national anthem. My source points out that it is striking that the members of the younger generation in the crowd know the words to this song and adds that “if the regime was going to get nervous this would be the moment.”

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that a senior panel of election monitors has admitted that there were “discrepancies” in the vote count. The authorities claim that these irregularities do not violate Iranian law, will not affect the election’s outcome, and are certainly not legitimate cause for any protesting. (The Revolutionary Guard’s website warns the opposition to stay off the streets or face a “revolutionary confrontation.”)

And if you are looking for an eyewitness account comprising more than 140 characters, I recommend Salon’s anonymous Tehran dispatches, the latest of which is here.