The Language of Violence and Elections

Both candidates have gone out of their way so far to make sure that they cannot be accused of directly encouraging or threatening violence.  However, that does not mean that they have not used other means to insinuate the potential for violence if their side loses out.  One of the key tactics has been having allies suggest that the country will side into violence or civil war if their candidate does not win.  Other times, however, violence is suggested in vague language where it is never clear who the subject is.  E.g. “if I win, things won’t be violent.”  It is egregious, if not surprising, that the electoral process has descended to this.  An article by Jason Straziuso of the Associated Press quotes an Abdullah spokesman in just such an instance (read the entire article here):

“If we agree and the terms of the agreement are providing an equal opportunity for both camps and defuses that tension, it might reduce the prospect of violence,” Mujib Rahman Rahimi, an Abdullah campaign spokesman, told The Associated Press.  “But imagine if you have an agreement that insults one side and promotes the other side and each side firmly believes he is a winner – that could be a recipe for radicals to re-emerge and challenge the leadership and say this is not acceptable,” he said.

The problem with such thinly veiled language (note that nowhere in the quote is it clear who will perpetuate this violence – only that it may happen), is that it further removes the election from not just the technical process of counting, but also from any reasonable diplomatic solution.  Both candidates are basically saying “if I don’t win, my supporters are going to make this place go to hell in a hand basket.”  The threat of civil war should not be a campaign tactic, but this is a good indicator of just how far the prospects of a democratic solution to the current crisis have fallen.

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