UPA (Utanian Press Agency)
Release: July 5th, 301 AP.

Utani voters increase their vote surrendering

Perhaps they're less interested this year — it is only an interim election —
but Utani voters have surrendered even more votes this year to their tribal chiefs.

The Utanian Electoral Commission says that 3.6 million Utanians have transferred
this year's vote to their tribal chiefs or others, of a total 26.5 million
registered voters, or 10%, and believes there are still "at least" another
million voters who would like to also do so. This is about a million more voters
transferring their vote than the last September election.

The system of vote transfer is unique to Utania, in which a voter may voluntarily
transfer their vote to another person, and allow that person's effective vote
to be two votes. It has received wide criticism from numerous notable groups
and people in the country, particularly progressive Utani, but the current
government is very supportive. Utani themselves are quick to point out that it
is not a case of "surrendering" their votes, but accumulating them.

"It is common in Utani custom to make decisions as a group, as an entire
village, not as individuals. This pattern of thinking is not common amongst
Uta-Decashi and urban Utani, this collective thinking and decision-making, but
it is natural for traditional Utani. Therefore, when a village has a decision
to make, such as an election to vote in, the community will come together and
make a collective decision."

But, progressives and conservatives decry the system as "denying the voice of
the individual who may not wish to vote the same way as his tribe, but are
pressured to do so" and are demanding the system be scrapped.

"There is plenty of opportunity for communities to get together and agree on a
vote then exercise that vote democratically and individually." says Thomas
(Con; Ujam). "What we are seeing is people being undemocratically
coerced to firstly surrender their vote and then to see that vote cast in a way
they do not desire."

It is difficult to see that this issue is not heavily tainted by self-interest
for the political parties: most collective voters will vote Utani Saedaj or
Peoples party, and the Conservative and Democratic parties are denied votes
from individuals in tribes who would vote otherwise.

The total pool of registered voters this year is 26.5 million, a shortfall of
1.1 million voters, mostly elderly people (over 65 years) for whom voting is
not compulsory. The UEC is now "satisfied" that it has done everything it can
to promote the need for citizens to register as voters, and has received
significant support from the parties keen to ensure that all voters do vote.

©UPA, 301 AP.

©Mike Ham, 2001. All rights reserved. No reproduction without, at least, tacit approval. ;-)