America’s and Foreign meddling in elections

Since the election of Donald Trump as President last November, Americans — or more to the point — the media has been obsessed with the question of whether Russia influenced the outcome in favour of Mr. Trump.

The rest of the world has watched with amazement as American politicians and media try to make the case for Russian intervention.

There were no stuffed ballot boxes. There were no changes in vote tallies in the middle of the night. There have been no reports of bags of cash transported in the middle of the night. You get the picture.

And there is the case of what Ukraine may have done to help the Hillary Clinton campaign. While all these are interesting, what has the World atwitter is the very idea that America would dare to complain about foreign powers meddling in elections.

In a report by Nina Agrawal in the Los Angeles Times of December 21st, 2016, Carnegie Mellon’s Dov Levin stated that between 1946 and 2000, the US intervened in foreign elections 81 times.

These interventions did not include coups or rumours of coups in which the US was involved in places like Iran, Chile, Guatemala, Haiti and Ghana. Levin defined these election-related interventions as “costly acts designed to determine the election results in favour of one of two sides.”

These interventions have occurred in places as diverse as Italy, Nicaragua, Kenya and Russia. Yes, Russia in 1996. In that year, with Boris Yeltsin on the ropes, the US backed a $10.2 billion loan facility from the IMF that helped the Russian leader spend his way to re-election. Vladimir Putin was by Yeltsin’s side and may have picked up a trick or two.

Before then, in 1990, decisive US intervention helped Violeta Chamorro defeat Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua .

In 2013 and 2015, the US tried, unsuccessfully to help defeat Uhuru Kenyatta and Bibi Netanyahu respectively. Of course, Russia too has dirty hands in interventions in foreign elections.

During the period cited earlier, Russia/USSR was only second to America in interventions in foreign elections. They did so 36 times. And looking at the carcases of false Marxist revolutions in Africa, they probably led the Americans by a mile in supporting coups.

In candour, many of the American interventions were principled. How can one fault America for helping to defeat the Sandinistas or for pointing out to Kenyans the danger of electing Uhuru Kenyatta who was facing indictment by the ICC?

America’s conduct, both good and bad sets examples for the rest of the world and raises questions. As the African proverb goes,” he who cuts throats is afraid of lying down lest someone cuts his throat”. Those who seek equity must come with clean hands and America’s outrage at this Russian intervention seems a tad hypocritical.

If Hillary had won, would there be this much outrage? Why is America not interested in Ukrainian meddling?

Decades after the alleged CIA roles in the overthrows of Nkrumah and Allende in Ghana and Chile respectively, debate still rages in Chile and Ghana about American motives. Hopefully, this alleged Russian intervention has taught America some humility.

I hope it makes American interventions in elections around the world more careful, people-centered, process-based and on the side of the angels.

Author: Dr Arthur Kobina Kennedy