Presidential campaign has certainly marked November 2012, as well as all preceding months. A friend of mine, not so much involved in politics, has asked me why I am so interested in whole campaign and, of course, in the outcome. There are many reasons, but two would be more considerable – 1, I have always been interested in politics, and 2 – the US is such a major player of the global chessboard that all changes happening in this country inevitably affect rest of the world – for the better or worse.
I have had a chance to actually go to the polling station while accompanying a voting friend – it was an interesting experience, especially when comparing elections and campaigning here and in my home country. In Armenia I had an opportunity to work as an interpreter with the teams of OSCE international observers – both at the Parliament elections in 2007 and at the Presidential elections of 2008.
My personal subjective reflection on comparing elections in “developed” and “developing” democracies: from the point of view of campaigning itself the differences might lay in the degree of actual violence and intimidation towards either competitors or electorate. Here, in “developed” world, campaigning is more of a show, with a viciously furious media debates, revelations, scandals, implications and mutual blaming. Real fun to watch. I suppose that part of campaigning has not changed much from the times of ancient democracies of Rome and Greece. And as for the violence, intimidation and manipulation, I am absolutely sure these tools are used always and everywhere – only on the different levels of public visibility.
However, here in the US I have observed something much more significant, and it is something I am so anxious to see in my own country. I am talking about perception of voting rights by the voters themselves. I have been admiring this perception among quite many citizens-voters around me, who genuinely believed that the right to vote is not only a mere right, but also a responsibility. I believe that this perception is one of the main indicators of democracy. When people believe that their votes matter and they are willing and ready to go after their representatives – and on the other hand, when elected representatives feel themselves accountable to their voters.
However, even after “living” through elections in a “cradle of democracy”, I still firmly adhere to my favorite statement describing politics in general, and in loose translation into English it would sound – after one sees how sausage and politics are made, one stops buying either of them. I don’t remember who said that, unfortunately, but I certainly share this opinion.