Friday, December 23, 2011

The Mass Murders In Baghdad

Statement of the Political Bureau of the Iraqi Communist Party:

More innocent victims and bloodshed are the price
of policies of ruling political blocs and their infighting

Our people have once again paid the price for the crimes of terrorists who exploit the unprincipled power grab of political leaders and their infighting. Baghdad and its inhabitants have been terrorized by a series of cowardly bombings that have targeted several areas of the capital today, killing and wounding hundreds of innocent people, in addition to considerable material damage inflicted on the houses of citizens, their shops and other property. These criminal acts, carried out by the remnants of the former regime and their allies, remnants of Al Qaeda and other religious extremists - the enemies of the people, freedom and democracy - have been timed to coincide with the precarious conditions experienced by our country as a result of the grave crisis which the political and security situation has descended to during the past few days, and the intensifying conflict between the leaders of the Iraqiya bloc and the Rule of Law bloc, which has taken a dangerous new turn.

Iraqi patriotic forces, along with millions of our people and also the Iraqi Communist Party, have for years been warning the leaders of the ruling political blocs to stop playing with fire, disregarding the fate of the homeland and the blood of its citizens, and sacrificing them on the altar of their narrow differences and selfishness and their endless fight over the spoils of power.

The Iraqi Communist Party, while condemning the crime that has taken place today 22nd December, and calling for firm punishment of the criminal perpetrators, holds the leaders of the competing political blocs responsible for the deterioration and bloody breaches of security that have occurred this morning in the streets and areas of Baghdad. It also appeals to everyone to heed the voice of reason and rise to the challenge of the grave events that no longer only threaten the fate of the political process, but also threaten the fate of the Iraqi people and homeland and their future. We call upon the masses of our people and the conscious forces to close their ranks and support the armed and security forces in tracking down the terrorist criminals.

These serious developments stress the importance of responding to the sincere calls, and the urgent need, for an all-inclusive National Conference that encompasses all the forces and parties involved in the political process. The convening of this conference should be expedited in order to put an end to the continuous deterioration experienced by the country, and to ensure that it is led to safety through the national program of action that is binding on all.

The danger threatening the country is escalating and there is no time to waste.

We express our sympathy to the families of the victims and our sincere wishes for the recovery of the wounded and injured.

HAT TIP - Iraqi Letter

Friday, December 16, 2011

Chartism and the Suffragettes

The Suffragettes and the Chartists shown on these two photographs were involved in mass campaigns which finally led on to a full franchise in the United Kingdom. But the electoral register has now been seriously corrupted. The Electoral Commission's latest report shows that no less than six million people are currently missing from our electoral registers: 17.7 per cent of the eligable electorate. It is a democratic disgrace - and has been gathering momentum for well over 20 years - boosted under the operation of the Poll Tax. We need to force this issue to the top of the political agenda. A combination of modern Chartists and Suffragettes would help. (Also see the links here.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Death Of The Franchise

The latest Report of the Electoral Commission shows that there are now six million people missing from electoral registers. The numbers of missing voters are especially high amongst the young, ethnic minorities, the poor and the mobile/rootless. One consequence is that the electoral boundaries which are currently being redrawn will be massively distorted as those missing from registers are not evenly spread throughout society. Overall, it will fiddle election results - disenfranchising many of those most in need.

This is the BBC's coverage of the Report
: it provides a link to the full report itself.

What is needed to overcome this democratic disgrace is a proactive registration system which uses modern technology to track people and provide for full and regular canvassing by registration officials. To ensure that young people who have just attained registration rights are not excluded, the voting age should be dropped to 16 and the initial registrations should take place via their schools whilst they are still 15. The sale of electoral registers to commercial interests should be banned, as some people avoid registration to hide their details from those who are, say, pursuing them for debt re-payments.

In the 1992-93 Parliamentary Session, I ran a Private Members Bill which attempted to tackle the above problem. I had the support of the then Labour Leader, the late John Smith; whilst even Tony Blair as Shadow Home Secretary pressed for its support. But it was defeated by the Conservative Government. My proposals were stimulated by the negative impact which the Poll Tax had had on electoral registration. Technology has been transformed in the past 20 years, so the details of my proposals now need to be brought up to date. Nor at this initial stage had I seen the relevance of "votes at 16" to my proposals.

I went on to press the issue regularly in other legislative attempts; especially in the 1999-2000 Parliamentary Session, when I put up a stream of what I saw as "improving amendments" to what became Labour's Representation of the People's Act. The Act did, however, introduce a weak version of one of my proposals which was for Rolling Electoral Registration. This allows people to transfer their registration to their new residence when they move, rather than having to wait until a full new register is being constructed. The measure has only ever had a slight impact on the safeguarding of electoral registration. It is swept aside by other factors.

The Labour Frontbench needs to pick up the issue and act (in a modern setting) upon the type of principles I started to propound almost 20 years ago.

Whilst democracy requires much more than a system of one person one vote, it must be based on that principle.

Sunday, December 11, 2011