A Tale of Three Elections
In the Russian state of Georgia, where democracy is a new and fragile thing, the snap election called by President Saakashvili looks as if it has been conducted fairly - according to the legion of foreign election observers - and has resulted in a victory for the reforming Mr. Saakashvili. As such, it marks a useful milestone on Georgia's road to the democratic community of nations, and potentially lifts her up as a lodestar to surrounding nations in the tortured Caucasus region. (The Economist comment prior to the election result is an illuminating one, and is here.)
In America, the candidates had one of their vaunted television debates today, and all eyes are on New Hampshire to see if the weather will blow the same way as it did in Iowa. Hillary Clinton is falling in the polls as the Obama bounce takes hold, but even if she should fail to gain victory in New Hampshire, it would still, I think, be too early to write her off. These two caucuses/primaries count for nuts when it comes to actual delegates; it's the 'big mo' that's crucial. For the Republicans, McCain is the apparent 'Comeback Kid' of this year's campaign. He seemed dead in the water last summer; now he's headed for victory in New Hampshire. Go figure.
Finally, there's Kenya. As already noted, there couldn't be a clearer test case of how to abuse an election and ruin a country. Although there is some progress on the political front - opposition leader Odinga has hinted that he may agree to be part of a coalition government with President Kibaki - the net result of Kibaki's corruption now has been to see food convoys head into Kenya. That's the thing about elections. When they're good, they offer the people a voice. when they're bad, they are capable of casting the people into despair.