[Allan Topol / AllanTopol.Com]
Lightning paced thriller writer
of International Intrigue
National Bestselling Author

Election Season
by Allan Topol, [IMAGE]2004


Photo Courtesy: Julie Zitin
[Allan Topol / AllanTopol.Com] In the last couple of weeks, massive press and media attention has been focused on the American presidential election in November and the Iraqi election scheduled for January. Regrettably, short shift was given to two other elections: those in Australia and Afghanistan. Their results were remarkable. In addition, they may very well prove to be a harbinger of what’s to come in November and January.

In Australia, incumbent Prime Minster John Howard, one of the strongest U.S. allies in the war in Iraq, won a decisive victory for a fourth term. The election, billed by the opposition Labor party leader, Mark Latham, as a referendum on Australia’s participation in the Iraq war, was expected to be very close.

Some pundits claimed that there was widespread disagreement among the Australian public with Howard’s decision to send troops to Iraq last year. Trying to capitalize on those sentiments, Latham promised to bring the Australian troops home by Christmas whereas Howard vowed that they would stay until the Iraq government asked them to leave.

To affect the election outcome, terrorists launched attacks against Australia facilities in Muslim countries, including Indonesia. Unlike the Spanish people, the Australians did not yield to the terrorists and vote the incumbent out of office. This time, terrorism did not have a reward. In fact, it may have been counterproductive.

There are a couple of possible explanations for why Howard won so convincingly. One is that the Australian people, fiercely independent, have the backbone to stand up to terrorists bent on destroying their civilization. Another is that domestic issues, such as the economy, health and education may have overrode Iraq with the electorate.

The third and most likely is that security issues carried the day for Howard. Australians, isolated geographically, may be feeling vulnerable with populous Muslim nations in the Pacific Rim much closer than any are to the United States.

Under this theory, fighting terrorists and those, like Saddam Hussein, who support them, is the most important issue for Australians. They prize their relationship with the United States, which is leading the fight against global terrorism, and realize that they will be most secure by eradicating the terrorists. Not cowering in front of them.

The notion that Australians felt safer with Howard, who was battling terrorists is consistent with U.S. election surveys which show that many “soccer moms” feel safer with President Bush. The Bush camp no doubt derived great comfort from the Australian results.

This brings us to Afghanistan. It is nothing short of miraculous that this country, the sanctuary for Osama Bin Laden, the Taliban and most other leading Middle Eastern terrorists, at one time or another, had its first ever presidential election. The voter turnout was huge with an estimated ten million men and women voting.

And it wasn’t easy. People had to wait in line for hours to vote. In many areas, ballots were brought in and out by donkey, helicopter and taxi. Terrorists tried intimidation and threatened to disrupt the election.

After the voting was concluded, some candidates who lost asserted voter fraud. However, they backed off those charges. No one can reasonably deny that this election worked far better than anyone would have dared to believe months ago. The conclusion is that even in a Muslim, terrorist riddled Middle Eastern country with no tradition of choosing its own leaders, people reached for democracy They chose to vote at personal risk to themselves.

This result came as a jolt to many who thought the idea of an election in Iraq was a mirage. To be sure, there are differences in these two situations which will be explored in a later column. However, for now the adherents of Middle Eastern democracy can savor a major victory.

Until the Afghan election, the idea of free elections in Middle Eastern countries seemed like a delusion on the part of some American idealists. Perhaps it’s wrong to read too much into an election in one country. But perhaps, too, the rumblings of change may be taking place in this tinder box part of the world. The issue now is whether the United States will have the will to persevere as it did against Communism until the Berlin Wall crumbled.