The beauty of elections, lessons from Sweden Monday 20th September, 2010

The Swedish general election ended yesterday after weeks of voting and campaigns by several political parties. The ruling alliance with a centre right ideology

worn by 49.3% while the opposition 43.7% a.k.a rödgrön, Swedish word for red green nicknamed after the colours of logo of the three parties that they are made of (Social democrats and vänster-leftist in Englishmainly red and the miljöpartiet- environmental party –green).

The Social democrats who had ruled the country for over 60years still remained the largest single party (30.9%) , though lost 4.4% compared to the last election held four years ago. The leading party of the Alliance, the Moderates of the Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt that
gained 3.9% from the last election to remain the second largest party in the parliament with 30%. There was excitement in the hearts of my wife and I who are not only Nigerian but residents who are qualified to vote in two out of three levels of the government. (The law provides that a legal temporary resident of 3years and above who attains 18years of age can vote for representatives to the ‘Kommun’ (Equivalent of our local Government Assembly) and ‘Lansting’ (Equivalent of our State house of assembly).This may not be the only lesson learnt but the conduct, candidates and the voting process of the elections compared to those we participated back home in Nigeria was distinct.
First, the process leading to the elections is similar to those of several countries of the world. Publicity and mobilization of the masses was done with precision through electronic and print media, local government offices, churches, schools, public transports etc. However, concise
and practical information to the electorates began almost a year ago if I may recall and voting opened from the beginning of this month at the communal offices, military post including all the diplomatic missions thereby reducing the rush on the final day. I voted a day before the ‘D’ day.
Secondly, the parties do not have obvious primaries, rather a basic fulfilment criteria bordering on integrity, bankruptcy etc. Even a leader of one of the leading party was a train driver who lives in one of the flats within his locality and he did not need to be a millionaire. On the ballot each party had the list of his candidates for each level of government including the incumbent who wishes to be returned. The ballot papers were differentiated by colours; the yellow for National Assembly; Blue for the State and white for the Local Government. It therefore behoves on the electorate to choose the candidate. This was interesting since the incumbent within the party does not have an automatic ticket also party machinery has little or no influence to the narrowing down of candidates within its ranks and files.

The third lesson worth emphasising is the ease at voting in its entirety which calls for a serious wake up call of Nigerians especially the government. I cannot remember any call for Voters registration since we arrived Sweden. I am sure several generations here have not
witnessed such as event called Voters registration. The simple truth is that every resident born, migrants, dead, even pets are captured in the system orchestrated through the Tax authority- Skattverket as it is known in Sweden. We walked into our locality office on way to
a grocery shop and show up our ID and a paper is printed and we moved and picked the voters papers and meditated on who to vote for especially when we cited our Pakistani and Kenyan friends on the same party ballot. We looked towards the huge glass wall and behold we sited the Pakistani discussing his manifesto with shoppers, so we jumped out of the voting office with our ballot papers, even we carried an extra in case we make mistakes. (But you can only submit two; the blue and white papers in two envelopes).We squeezed this man with barrages of questions and he answered them. We left him and walked back into the pool and casted our votes. There was NO single Police officer around. Neither did we notice any Party Agent by the office, although the parties have their campaign boots at the central points leading to the metro or bus stops. The lesson here is that a proper registration of people either in a population census with state of the art ID cards (chips etc) settles the billions of Naira wasted on voters’ registration which has become a drain pipe at this modern times. Electronic
balloting have been advocated and dismissed by unscrupulous Nigerians since, finger prints cannot be ‘cloned’, yet we are dreaming for fair and free elections. There’s no way on earth that I could have voted at the Swedish embassy in Abuja few weeks ago and when I return to Sweden, repeat the process at my residence. On presentation of my ID card or mention my Security number should I fake lost of my ID that the system will accept me. It will pop up the time, date and where I had voted. Nigeria would have saved so much money should we have our national ID card and loyal and dedicated Leaders to pursue such venture to a logical conclusion.
Ime Akpan John MBBS, PhD lives in Sweden