As the 2010 election result was being decided, Dixon pondered some weird and wonderful elections held overseas.
Thanks to the editor’s preoccupation with early deadlines, at the time of filing this column I didn’t know who had won the 2010 Federal election. Depending on what source you relied on, the seat count was either 72-71 in favour of Labor, or 72-all, or 72-74 in favour of the Coalition. One thing most pundits could agree on, however, was that it would be some time before the result was clear. Some unedifying horse-trading was in progress, and the undecided independents were beginning to outstay their welcome.
So instead of producing a pithy and enlightened insight into how the election affects the financial services industry, and financial planning specifically (as requested by the editor), I’ve decided to make jokes about other countries.
In terms of electoral colour and drama, we’re simply rank amateurs. Look at Brazil, for example. (I am indebted to The Times’ “The Bugle” podcast for alerting me to this particular election, and to The Telegraph of the UK for its outstanding reportage.)
In 2008, more than 200 candidates in local government elections changed their names to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who was then Brazil’s president and had a popularity rating of 80 per cent.
That’s a bit like a candidate for your local council changing his name to Julia Gillard. Who, exactly, do you think it might fool?
Employing a variation on the same ruse, a number of Brazilian candidates changed their names to Barack Obama. This I found particularly puzzling; presumably success under this cunning plan depends on voters genuinely believing that the President of the United States of America might contest a Brazilian local government election.
The logical flaw in this plan is that even if you live in Brazil, you’ve either heard of Obama or you haven’t. If you haven’t, then his name would not encourage you to vote for him; and if you have, it’s a fair bet you know who he really is.
Of course, every candidate wants to stand out from the pack, and the Brazilians do it like no other nation (or none other that I could find easily). There was a Bill Clinton running for office, along with a localised version of another former US President, Jorge Bushi. There was a Chico Bin Laden, and a DJ Bin Laden (garnering the Muslim hip-hop vote, I’m guessing).
There was the truly sinister-sounding Charlie Big Knives (Why? Cos he’s called Charlie! And he’s got big knives!), and several that must surely have lost something in the translation: The Second King of the Prawns; The German in the Lorry; Elephant Without a Tail; Kung Fu Fatty. At least Brazilian elections are strange in a colourful way – much like the nation itself. US elections are strange, too, but in the way that only something that’s too complicated to understand can be. But in 2000 they staged an election that was odd for a whole bunch of different reasons. The Washington Post reported:
“Something very strange happened on election night to Deborah Tannenbaum, a Democratic Party official in Volusia County. At 10 pm, she called the county elections department and learned that Al Gore was leading George W. Bush 83,000 votes to 62,000. But when she checked the county’s Web site for an update half an hour later, she found a startling development: Gore’s count had dropped by 16,000 votes, while an obscure Socialist candidate had picked up 10,000 – all because of a single precinct with only 600 voters.”
And we all know what happened next: Al Gore went on to invent global warming.
Of course, we are capable of a modest degree of pottiness right here at home. I’m particularly fond of the theory that says the swing against Labor in Queensland was a backlash against how the party treated the former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd. That’ll show them: We’re so loyal to Kevin that we’ll throw his party out of government.
See what we did for you there, Kevin? Kevin?
Dixon Bainbridge, Professional Planner’s resident amateur psephologist, can be contacted on [email protected]