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December 09 2011

Europe u-knighted: King Arthur proves how European the British are

With the EU in turmoil, David Cameron would do well to remember that King Arthur, hero of British folklore, has in fact enjoyed a long reign in European cultural history

King Arthur must be turning in his grave – or emerging from his cave on Snowdon to save us all. That would be cool.

Arthur of the Britons, defender of Albion against the invading hordes – don't make me laugh. Our greatest national myth is proof of how deeply European we are – and how much Britain has contributed to the idea of Europe. There may be fewer and fewer "good Europeans" left in Britain, as the EU dream apparently becomes a nightmare. But Arthur is their king.

It's a cultural degradation that so many people nowadays seek the origins of Arthur in a dark age twilight of battling Brits. The "real" chieftain Arthur, supposedly fighting Saxons in the ruins of Roman Britain, will never be found. What's more, his paltry traces are dull in comparison to the great European medieval legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

The wonderful thing about Arthur is how a hero of British folklore (apparently originating in Wales), with his life recorded in pseudo-factual detail by Geoffrey of Monmouth in the first half of the 12th century, became a sublime artefact of European culture. The genius who made Arthur great was not British, but French. In the second half of the 12th century, Chretien de Troyes sang beautiful tales in which Arthur's court becomes a fabulous place of chivalry and love. Queen Guinevere, Gawain, and Sir Lancelot become romantic characters in his works. The tradition he founded became one of the strongest forces in gothic culture throughout Europe. In France, followers of Chretien told the stories of Lancelot and Guinevere and the pursuit of the Holy Grail in epics of eerie magic. In Britain, the French version of "our" national myth was brought home in the poem of Gawain and the Green Knight. It is no coincidence that when Thomas Malory compiled all the stories of Arthur in 15th-century English, his book was given a French title – Le Morte d'Arthur – for his sources were French.

Arthur did not stop in France. The Arthurian knight Perceval and his quest for the Holy Grail – as told by Chretien de Troyes – became the German epic Parzival. In Italy, the world of King Arthur was painted on the walls of Renaissance palaces in Mantua and Ferrara.

In 19th-century culture, Arthur continued his pan-European reign. While the pre-Raphaelites were painting Arthurian myth, Richard Wagner was dramatising it as opera. What is fascinating is that all through this long European cultural history, the scenography of the legend remained Celtic and western British. Wagner's Tristan and Isolde is set in Cornwall and Brittany, just as the tales of Chretien mix Breton place names with places such as Carleon and Tintagel.

Arthur, British and European, should remind us who we are. We are Europeans, like it or not. Even when the whole continent is sitting in the Siege Perilous. © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

The unloved euro is no design classic

The currency may have been with us for 10 years now, but its visual blandness has signally failed to bind Europeans together

All it took was for Jay-Z, a member of US rap royalty, to flick a wad of €500 notes in a music video five years ago for people to wonder if the euro – visual shorthand for squareness – might one day become cool.

Would Andy Warhol's dollar screenprints give way to modern meditations on Europe's yellow € sign? Could the euro become more than a giant star-encrusted symbol outside Frankfurt's European Central Bank? Was it art? Europeans in the cultural world knew the answer was no.

1 January 2012 will mark 10 years since the euro coins and notes appeared in people's wallets. But as simple objects, pieces of design and branding, emotional items that bind us together, they are seen as a failure: a limp bureaucratic compromise where art was needed.

This was the first postmodern currency; it could have been visually extraordinary, combining the cutting-edge beauty of Dutch guilders and the design chic of the Swiss franc. Instead, the euro's visual blandness reflects its current identity crisis.

The euro is pure functionality in the extreme. So easy to pronounce, it has escaped the nicknames of its older cousins, the greenback and quid. (At the Maastricht summit, it was still called the ecu but Helmut Kohl thought it sounded too French – much to the relief of the Portuguese, as it also sounded like their word for arse).

The design was deliberately tepid. The notes feature neither people nor places, just bland, fake architecture that doesn't exist. Ten years ago the French economist André Orléan suspected this would become a problem: "Look at the symbolism: bridges and imaginary windows. The euro isn't anchored in the past, it's virtual, it doesn't correspond to any reality."

The French ethnologist Patrick Prado called it a "ghost money", with "no reference, no country, no past, no roots, no memory, defined by no value other than itself". He cautioned: "What will history make of this denial of images, this wiping out of the symbolic?"

The coins' national flipsides do give a nod to history, from Irish harps and Finnish swans to Leonardo da Vinci's beautiful Vitruvian Man on Italian cents. The French novelist Philippe Sollers has written about the joy of rummaging through loose change to find a coin bearing Cervantes that has travelled across borders into your pockets, with all the imaginary stories of how it got there.

In an ode to the euro in the Nouvel Observateur five years ago, he lauded the currency's silence: "The dollar bill is chatty, the euro is mute." Dollar bills shout: "In God We Trust." The staid euro would never dare quote Latin at you or suggest God was looking over your shoulder.

But Bruno Ninaber van Eyben, the designer who created the Dutch face of the euro coins, laments the "missed emotional opportunity". He hates the fact that the euro side of the coin shows a map and boundaries – and not even Poland and the members to the east.

"It shows borders, not what's inside them," he said. "That isn't what binds people together. There needs to be memory, emotional resonance, an idea of the future. The Romans understood this. When the coin bearing Augustus's face went all over Europe, there was a sense that people belonged to a group. They were not alone."

Erik Spiekermann, the German designer and typographer, adds: "It doesn't work as a brand. There's no intrinsic value in it. People aren't proud of it, they don't collect it. They just pay with it. It's like white bread, it won't harm you, but it doesn't nourish you either."

Is it a classic? "No. It would take another 20 years – if it lasts that long. You can't design a classic, something becomes a classic if it stays around. The dollar is a classic because of American cultural imperialism."

If half of the euro's neighbours, including many Balkan states, look up to it, others look down on it, not least the Swiss with their famously beautiful notes.

"It's ugly," says Pierre Frey, a Swiss art historian. "You have to look pretty hard to find such ugly inks. It's the image of the tempest that is currently shaking it." © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

December 20 2010

Call that art? No, say EU experts

Brussels reclassifies Dan Flavin's sculptures in ruling that means they will be liable to 20% VAT

It is a question that has dogged the contemporary art world since Duchamp put a urinal in a gallery: but is it art?

When the lights were switched on at a Dan Flavin retrospective at the Hayward Gallery in London, critics were entranced. "Beautiful," Laura Cumming wrote in the Observer in 2006. "You wonder how it is possible that so much pleasure could emit from such a dismal source: the cold fluorescent tubes of strip lighting."

But the European commission has taken a less poetic view. Brussels has ruled that the work of the American artist, who died in 1996 after half a century of creating pioneering sculpture, should be classified for tax purposes as simple light fixtures. His work, they said, has "the characteristics of lighting fittings … and is therefore to be classified … as wall lighting fittings".

The ruling overturns an earlier UK customs tribunal verdict, and was denounced by one lawyer specialising in arts cases as "extraordinary".

This is no mere academic view. It means Flavin works imported by any museum or gallery from outside the EU are liable to full VAT, which rises to 20% on 1 January. As sculpture the pieces would be subject to only 5% VAT.

The ruling also affects the work of Bill Viola, another American, who became the first living artist to have a major exhibition at the National Gallery in London, and whose video pieces, filmed in extreme slow motion, moved many viewers to tears.

Not the commission, which found: "It is not the installation that constitutes a 'work of art' but the result of the operations (the light effect) carried out by it."

St Paul's cathedral could be among the first victims of the ruling. It has commissioned two altar pieces from Viola, due to be unveiled next year, which could become dramatically more expensive.

The legal battle over whether the often banal ingredients of modern art, particularly light, sound and video pieces, are themselves to be regarded as art has raged for years. The present bout began in 2006, when the Haunch of Venison gallery in London, which represented both artists, imported components for six video pieces by Viola and a light sculpture by Flavin.

The UK challenged their classification as art and tried to slap a £36,000 VAT bill on the gallery. That bill was torn up two years later when the Haunch of Venison won on appeal to the VAT and duties tribunal, which ruled that the pieces were indeed art. That verdict has in turn now been overturned by the commission.

Both artists are now represented by Blain Southern, a new gallery set up this year by the original founders of Haunch of Venison. A spokesman for the gallery said the partners are now taking advice from trade bodies including the Society of London Art Dealers.

However Pierre Valentin, the lawyer who challenged the original customs ruling on behalf of the Haunch of Venison, was astounded. "To suggest, for example, that a work by Dan Flavin is a work of art only when it is switched on, is comical," he told the Art Newspaper.

"One is entitled to ask if the commission has made a judicious use of its powers when overruling these judicial decisions. The reasons given in the regulation in support of the classification are absurd, and the regulation conflicts with the jurisprudence of the European court of justice."

The "call that art, I could knock that up in my shed in five minutes" argument has probably raged since the first caveman sketched a red clay bison on a rock wall. But there is one particularly famous precedent for the commission's decision, in a row over the work of the Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi. In 1926 the American collector and photographer Edward Steichen bought a bronze version of his tall slender Bird In Space, and attempted to import it to the US. Since it had neither head, feet nor feathers, US customs refused to accept it as a zero-rated work of art, and instead classified it as "a manufacture of metal ... held dutiable at 40%".

Steichen paid the $600 dues, but he and the sculptor then went to court – with his legal fees usefully paid by the millionaire collector Peggy Guggenheim – and succeeded, the EC might like to note, in having the decision overturned. In 1928 the judge eventually ruled that "while some difficulty might be encountered in associating it with a bird, it is nevertheless pleasing to look at and highly ornamental". Steichen got his money back.

The belief that all modern art is rubbish has frequently been even more dramatically demonstrated, less through bureaucracy than devastating human error.

In 2007 a London art storage company was ordered to pay £350,000 compensation to a Swiss collector after an Anish Kapoor sculpture somehow ended up in a skip.

In 2000 the packaging in which a drawing by Lucian Freud, valued at £100,000, was sent to Sotheby's auction house was put through a shredder. Unfortunately the drawing was still inside it.

In 2004 the Tate was mortified when a cleaner innocently threw out an overflowing rubbish bag. It was part of an installation by Gustav Metzger, aptly entitled Recreation of First Public Demonstration of Auto-Destructive Art.

Whether florescent tubes are ultimately ruled rubbish, hardware or the skeletons of magical art remains to be seen.

Meanwhile the ruling should be a great satisfaction to "Barney", one of the few dissenting voices over the Hayward's Dan Flavin exhibition, who posted on "It was like walking around the lighting department of B&Q." © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

July 27 2010

ACTA: Behind closed doors, the European Union, United States, Japan and other trade partners are negotiating …

"...While citizens have a clear interest in being informed about ACTA, they do not get access to the ACTA documents. … The Ombudsman observes that, although ACTA “could have far-reaching legislative consequences for the EU, this does not mean that the procedure for concluding the ACTA is the same as a legislative procedure, and that the rules governing the latter …. apply by analogy to the former. [??… ]

FFII analyst Ante Wessels comments: “This is a loophole (dt. Ausflucht) …”

Clipped from

Citizens have a clear interest in being informed about ACTA, EU Ombudsman concludes

Brussels, 27 July 2010 — According to the EU Ombudsman, citizens have a clear interest in being informed about the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). Despite this, he concludes for formal reasons that there was no maladministra

Brussels, 27 July 2010 — According to the EU Ombudsman, citizens have a clear interest in being informed about the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). Despite this, he concludes for formal reasons that there was no maladministration by the Council of the European Union when it denied access to the ACTA documents. The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) had filed a complaint with the Ombudsman concerning the Council’s refusal to grant access to ACTA documents.

The Ombudsman “agrees that the conclusion of the ACTA may indeed make it necessary for the EU to propose and enact legislation. In that case, the ACTA would constitute the sole or the major consideration underpinning that legislation, and citizens would have a clear interest in being informed about the ACTA.”

While citizens have a clear interest in being informed about ACTA, they do not get access to the ACTA documents. The Ombudsman observes that, although ACTA “could have far-reaching legislative consequences for the EU, this does not mean that the procedure for concluding the ACTA is the same as a legislative procedure, and that the rules governing the latter (including those with regard to public access to documents as set out in the Turco case) apply by analogy to the former.”

FFII analyst Ante Wessels comments: “This is a loophole, it is possible to force legislation upon democracies while the public can not scrutinize all documents. The EU legislation on access to documents needs to be repaired. In the meantime, parliaments should not accept the usage of this loophole. The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties stipulates that the history of a treaty plays a role in the interpretation of that treaty. Without full disclosure, parliaments will have to decide on a proposal with unknown aspects, a dark horse.”

Background information

Behind closed doors, the European Union, United States, Japan and other trade partners are negotiating the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. ACTA will contain new international norms for the enforcement of copyrights, trade mark rights, patents and other exclusive rights.

The FFII endorses the Washington Communique: International Experts Find that Pending Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement Threatens Public Interests


Ombudsman decision

FFII information page on ACTA

FFII analysis

Washington Communique

Permanent link to this press release


May 05 2010

Who received EU farm subsidies last year? Whitehall won't say | David Hencke

In refusing to release information about who receives subsidies until after the election, civil servants are exceeding their brief

Over the bank holiday weekend senior civil servants running the country took an extraordinary decision to ban the public from seeing information because they thought it was so controversial that it would disrupt election campaigning.

They decided to protect candidates from being asked questions on the issue and thought it best the public be left in ignorance about the facts.

What was this issue? Not some horrendous economic figure, some real facts on immigration. No, it was decision not to reveal which farmers and agribusinesses scooped up some £3bn from the taxpayer from EU farm subsidies last year.

On Friday statistics were published simultaneously in the other 26 EU countries revealing who had been paid what – it is part of a victory by European journalists to force countries under freedom of information acts to release all this previously secret information.

But in London – against an EU directive – the information was banned. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs website says: "Due to the general election campaign, this website will not be updated with the 2009 figures until after the election."

A letter from a Defra official to Jack Thurston, head of, which campaigns for transparency for EU payments, says why: "This decision reflects the need to maintain, and be seen to maintain, the impartiality of the UK civil service, given the potential risk that CAP payment information relating to any individuals involved in the election might be used as part of election campaigning."

Yet ministries continue to publish information on hospital admissions and roads, just to name two. And in post-devolution Scotland they have taken the opposite decision. They published their figures over the weekend – revealing that 19,000 farmers and agribusinesses shared nearly £600m of public money and the world has not fallen apart north of the border.

So who does this protect? Initial research by reveals that possibly up to 70 of the 650 Tory candidates standing at the election could be receiving some sort of subsidy. Up to half a dozen Ukip candidates – who campaign against the EU – could be receiving EU cash as well as a smattering of Liberal Democrat candidates. On the Tory side they have discovered that the declared postcode for receipt of EU subsidies is often the same one as used by a local Conservative Association, suggesting that leading officials of the local parties are also receiving subsidies. These are all taken from the previous year's subsidy figures.

Yet we won't know, thanks to Whitehall, until after the election – even though the EU has made it clear in an article in the EU Observer today that it is disappointed with Britain and intends to write to the new government pointing out it is not in line with the EU directive.

Frankly, disappointment is too weak a word. It is scandal that unelected officials should decide what information should be made public and when. The decision is also partisan in that it appears to protect opposition party candidates more than Labour candidates from scrutiny – particularly in the case of the Conservatives.

Sir Gus O'Donnell, the cabinet secretary, should reverse this now. Otherwise it bodes very badly if we are in hung parliament territory when Whitehall will be effectively running the country while politicians sort out a new government. If officials are going to select what information the public should know and what should be kept secret, they are exceeding their brief. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Remember 1983? I warn you that a Cameron victory will be just as bad | Jonathan Freedland

I would like to make a positive case for Labour, but the hour is late, and now it is Neil Kinnock's famous words that stir me

On the eve of the 1983 election – which, until this year, seemed destined to represent for ever the low watermark of Labour performances – a young member of the party's shadow cabinet delivered what was to be one of his most compelling speeches. Neil Kinnock knew a landslide defeat was imminent so, speaking in Bridgend, he sketched the world to come. "I warn you," he began, addressing a nation about to descend into the bitterest stretch of the Thatcher era. "I warn you not to be ordinary. I warn you not to be young. I warn you not to fall ill. I warn you not to get old."

It was a rhetorical masterpiece from a man whose oratory would later be much mocked. But its power was its prescience. Kinnock saw the Thatcherite tsunami that was coming and warned of the deluge that would follow.

This time even the most pessimistic Labourite cannot feel the certainty Kinnock had then: all kinds of permutation are still possible. But if the Labour vote crashes close to, or even below, 1983 levels, then David Cameron in Downing Street is the most likely outcome, whether governing as a minority, in alliance with the Lib Dems, or with a narrow majority of his own. What would he do if he gets there? What cautionary message might a 2010 Kinnock issue? For those still weighing their vote, here are a few salutary thoughts.

I warn you that a chance some have waited for all their adult lives will slip away, perhaps taking another generation to come around again: the chance to reform our rotten, broken electoral system. If Cameron wins, he will not only thwart any move to fairer voting, he will act fast to rig the system in his favour. Even neutrals agree that his plan to cut the number of MPs by 10% – presented as a mere cost-cutting measure – will be one of the grossest acts of gerrymandering in British political history. Cameron will redraw the boundaries so that his rivals lose seats and he gains them, locking in a semi-permanent Conservative majority. Reform of our absurd, unelected second chamber will be postponed indefinitely, enabling Cameron to pack the Lords with his mates and sugar daddies, including perhaps a few more of those businessmen who so obligingly sided with the Conservatives in condemning Labour's plans for national insurance.

If, on the other hand, Cameron is kept from Downing Street courtesy of a Labour vote tomorrow strong enough to make a Lib-Lab coalition plausible, then there's a clear chance for the 55%-plus majority who regularly vote for liberal or left parties to prevail and reform the system – ensuring that, from now on, the Conservatives hold power only as often as their minority status suggests they should. (They were always a minority party, even in the Thatcher heyday.) In other words, the victor tomorrow will get to set the rules for decades to come. This is a winner-takes-all election and the stakes could not be higher.

I warn you that the economy could slide back into despair. Maybe people have not paid attention to this argument because Gordon Brown has been making it, but the danger is real. A sudden shut-off of the public spending tap could well send a frail recovery staggering back into recession: the dreaded double-dip. It's happened elsewhere and could happen here. The US and other economies are seeing the tide turn, but that's because they've kept the public cash coming. Cameron's aim, played down in the rhetoric because it polled so badly, is to cut spending immediately, ushering in what he once proudly trumpeted as an "age of austerity".

If Britain were to return to recession, then brace yourself. For many, this last downturn has not quite felt like the worst since the Great Depression, whatever the economists say. Unemployment, house repossessions and bankruptcies are all fractions of what they were in the 1990s recession. That's not by accident. It's a function of Labour's active interventionism, which has sought to reduce the impact of the downturn on those at the sharpest end. Such state activity clashes with every Conservative instinct. Cameron still describes government as more problem than solution. Last time the Tories were in charge, dealing with a recession that was actually much less severe, the pain was greater and the weakest suffered most. There is nothing in current Tory policy – despite Cameron's final debate plea to the camera that it's "the most vulnerable, the most frail and the poorest" he truly cares about – to suggest it won't be like that again.

Indeed, there are at least three signs that point in a gloomy direction. First, despite all the austerity talk, the Tories have clung to their promise to give an inheritance tax break to the 3,000 richest families in the country. In the words of Nick Clegg, it's the "double-millionaires" Cameron wants to help. And yet, given the hole in the public finances, cash will have to come from somewhere. The obvious source – not that the Conservative leader has ever been challenged on it – is an increase in VAT. That's the most regressive of all taxes, inflicting disproportionate pain on the poorest: pain that will only deepen with the coming Tory assault on tax credits. A third cause for alarm can be expressed in three words: Chancellor George Osborne.

I warn you not to have an urgent need for the NHS. Sure, the Tories say they've ringfenced health spending, but check the small print. They plan to drop Labour's guarantee on waiting times. No longer will any patient be sure to see a cancer specialist within two weeks: under the Tories, that decision will be left to the consultant. Fine for the sharp-elbowed middle class, who are used to barging their way to the front of the queue. Not so good for the poorest who, all the data shows, struggle to get the most from public services.

I warn you not to be a single mother or widow. You'll get less than those who are married. Not that much less – about £3 a week – but just enough to know that the tax system regards you as a second-class citizen and to remind you of how life used to be under the Conservatives, when single parents were a routine target for public mockery and scolding.

I warn you that we will be back to the sterile relationship with Europe of the 1990s, a British government once again on the margins, but aligned this time with homophobes, rank antisemites and assorted apologists for fascism. Prepare within weeks for a Cameron stunt, demanding negotiations to "repatriate" powers back to Westminster. Britain is set once again to become the club bore of the EU, happily swallowing the agenda of economic liberalisation but moaning about sovereignty in the abstract, annoying the other members but never having the courage to up and leave.

Cameron won't have much choice in the matter. He'll be answerable to the newly-strengthened backbench hard right of his party, who will have veto power over his programme: he won't be able to govern without their votes. With their loathing of Europe, their disbelief in man-made climate change and their disproportionate ties to the City and finance, they will ensure Cameron sticks to the right and narrow.

Of course, it would feel better to make a positive case for Labour, echoing its promises on a living wage and a cap on predatory chargecard interest rates or its plans for green jobs. But the hour is late. Tomorrow is the day of decision. And we have been warned.

• More election comment from Cif at the polls © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

April 23 2010

Sudan: What do we make out of Sudan's elections?

Darfur_mapThe Sudanese voting period ended on April 15, but while the actual voting process has come to an end, a debate about election transparency and credibility has started. The debate involves political parties, international observers and citizens in and outside Sudan.

Let’s start by looking at the opinion of the international community on the election and its credibility. In an article written in Afriquejet titled African Union, IGAD praise Sudan security for peaceful polls :

Considering its recent political history, the numerous challenges relating to the size of the country, the security situation and the political tensions prevailing ahead of the elections the election was a monumental milestone in the history of Sudan.

In the article, AU observer Kunle Adeyemi dismisses protesters who argue that the process was not free and fair:

We agree that the elections were not perfect. However, you do not expect somebody who did not take part to say anything positive. The election was a building block for future elections.

Regionally, in an article written in the Sudan Tribune titled African and Arabs organisations praise the conduct of Sudanese elections.

The statement by the Arab League says:

We cannot say that the Sudanese elections have met international standards, but that does not reduce what has happened, which is an important transition,” said Salah Halima the head of AL mission in Khartoum today

On the other side the AU statement notes that the elections were a great achievement for the Sudanese people”

What happened in Sudan was a historical event and a great achievement for Sudanese people,” said Kunle Adeyemi, who is spokesperson of the AU observer mission in Sudan chaired by John Kufuor the former President of Ghana. “Looking into the fact this is a country that had not had a multi-party election for almost a generation… to say they are free and fair, to the best of our knowledge we have no reason to think the contrary,” he added.

“We have not found evidence of fraud… we saw a vote that was very transparent,” Adeyemi affirmed.

In the blogosphere there are a variety of opinions and perspectives about the credibility and the meaning of this historical event.

A post titled Ruth Messinger: Failed Elections in Sudan: Now What? at Blog All Over the World argues that Obama's carrot and stick policy towards Sudan needs some sticks:

The Obama administration has expressed disappointment in the way these elections were conducted. But press releases are not enough. President Obama's “carrots and sticks” policy of rewarding the Sudanese government for progress towards peace and holding it accountable for undermining peace now requires some sticks. And we are eager to see, in light of Sudan's recent elections, how the White House intends to implement its own stated policy.

At Making Sense of Sudan, Abd al-Wahab Abdalla concludes that the election was ugly. He explains:

Rigging, fraud and corruption, there were. Voters excluded from the poll, last-minute registration and a roundup of voters with hastily-issued residence certificates which may or may not have matched the names on the voters’ roll, all will surely be documented by the observers. These had no material consequence for the outcome of last week’s election in Sudan.

The ugly result of the election was determined long ago by the material forces that have driven Sudanese political life for the best part of forty years. Political organization founded in the means of production was decisively crushed by the May Revolution and instead Sudanese have witnessed the coalescence of political activities around nothing more than proximity to the state and its instruments of power and rent. The only revolutionary alternatives, from the left in the form of the banners of the “New Sudan” raised by the SPLM, and from the right with the Islamists’ slogans of self-reliance, adopted from necessity rather than conviction, have long since succumbed to the lure of the politics of the bazaar.

He continues with his analysis:

Our voters fall into two main categories. Category A is those who have, of necessity or opportunism, joined the loyalty parade. This includes almost all rural voters whose services and livelihoods require government beneficence. It includes anyone who may need a licence to trade. These voters will vote NCP, and the uglier the candidate, the more likely they will vote him in, because the ugliest representative is likely to be the one seated closest to the president and his minions.
Category B is those who have neither material interest nor personal proclivity for this kind of politics. Most of them did not register and most of those who registered did not vote. Observing the trickle of voters at the polling stations last week I would guess that the male population under the age of thirty belongs in its near entirety to category B.

Kayode Oladele of Sahara Reporters reflects on the elections and identifies some values in the Sudanese electoral system that other countries can emulate:

There is one innovative and good side to the Sudan elections which other countries can emulate. They had a combination of the First Past The Post (FPTP) system and a Proportional Representation (PR) system. Under the PR system they had the Women List and the Party List. This encouraged a lot of women to turn out during polling.

Finally, Maggie discusses the delay in announcing official election results:

To many in the South, the NEC’s announcement today came as no surprise, given the significant difficulties in collecting ballot papers and results from local polling stations—some of which are not accessible by road. (In these locations, the United Nations is helping collect elections materials by helicopter). The tabulation of results is complicated for some of the same reasons that the polling process was complex; the number of ballots and the lack of resources at the local level.

Today, an official at the South Sudan Elections High Committee told Enough that the NEC should have listened to the state-level elections committee in the South, who have a better understanding of the logistical constraints and technical challenges that have affected the electoral process in the South than the national body in Khartoum


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