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While Chicago Waits

By Kevin Robinson in News on Apr 17, 2007 1:50PM

2007_4_waiting.jpgIt isn't just the folks living in the 12 Wards that are holding Aldermanic runoff elections that are thinking about outcomes today. The aftermath of the vote that is going on as you read this will impact the city for years to come. By the time the polls close tonight, there will be some new aldermen, and others will have held onto their seats. Some will coast to victory, and others will squeak in by a slim margin.

While Chicago waits, other parts of the world are practicing democracy, too. In France, waning global influence and questions of what it means to be French are weighing heavily on people's minds as they prepare to go to the polls. Deep intractable issues — like jobs, immigration, and the complexities of integrating a large, post-colonial Muslim minority into mainstream society — are worriedly being discussed by ordinary French people of all socio-economic strata. In particular, calls for a new Ministry of Immigration and National Identity have rankled many people, who fear the resurgence of fascism in a nation that has spent generations coping with the aftermath of the Holocaust. Ideas of national identity and immigration aren't unique to France; as Europe has globalized, uniting economically under the banner of the European Union, many other nations have grappled with this question as well.

In Nigeria, the issues before voters are less esoteric, but of equal importance. Will President Olusegun Obasanjo's People's Democratic Party peacefully hand power over to an opposition party, without military pressure? After violent street protests broke out amid allegations of vote rigging, ballot stealing and intimidation, the potential for a fully realized and maturing democracy seem slim in this oil-rich nation. The voting that took place Saturday was widely considered a test run for the upcoming presidential election scheduled for this coming Saturday, and many of the opposition parties are considering a boycott of the vote. With the PDP seeming to have swept the state elections, fears that more of the same are running high.

In Nepal, a decade of rebel fighting between the standing monarchy and Maoist guerrillas seems to be working itself out, for better or for worse. As part of a peace deal into which the Maoists entered, King Gyanendra was forced to end his absolute rule last year, and the negotiations taking place now could set the stage for a referendum that will decide the future of the Himalaya nation, if the interim government doesn't outright declare it a republic. The Maoists joined the government this month as part of the peace deal that envisioned a vote on the future of the monarchy in June. If this vote doesn't happen in two months, it's likely that it will be delayed until winter, after Hindu festivals and monsoon season, and the Maoists are threatening more of the large-scale street protests that destabilized the king last year.

We'll be watching the returns tonight, and thinking about what it means for our city to have gone through this process. We'll probably have something to say about it tomorrow and the next day, and all the other days to come. In May, we'll watch as new Aldermen take their seats in the city council, an orderly transition of power will have come to pass, and the business of the city will go on another day.

WAITING by =negromante.