With Westerners so accustomed to criticising the often flawed elections in African states, 11 parliamentarians from Commonwealth countries in Africa and Asia observed how the recent British elections went. It was not always a pretty sight. People being turned away from polling stations, ballot papers running out and sit-in protests by disgruntled voters were perhaps not what the Commonwealth observers were expecting to see in one of the world’s oldest democracies. The UK Electoral Commission announced an official investigation after queuing voters were unable to cast their ballots in a few polling stations that closed promptly at 22.00.
“This would never have happened in my country,” said Wilson Masilingi, a Tanzanian MP who was an observer in Brighton. “If a prospective voter arrives on time, he can vote up to three hours or more after the polling station closes.” Mr Masilingi was generally impressed by what he had seen but he recommended that powers should be given to the Electoral Commission to tell presiding officers to keep polling stations open for longer. He went on:
“The UK the system is based on mutual trust.” He was impressed by how the polling station had been opened promptly by the presiding officer. “In my country this would not be possible….. There would have to be many people present to make sure the station opened at the right time.”
The good manners between politicians in the UK impressed Mr Masilingi. For example, he was pleasantly surprised when they took defeat – or the suggestion of defeat – so well. “Fifty per cent of politicians who lose in Tanzania would go to court,” he said. “And if filing court petitions was free, everybody would go to court.”
But even if British politicians are extremely nice to one another within a coalition government, Mr Kabudi thinks coalition will be a “daunting” experience for the UK – BBC News.