Most of you reading this blog are fortunate enough to live in democracies, and can only look on with sympathy at those who are denied the right to choose who represents them. What must it be like to live under regimes where the people are denied basic rights such as a free choice over who governs them? Or under mock-democratic regimes that hold “elections” where the candidates available from which to choose are strictly limited, or where the ruling regime changes the rules of the game to prevent losing its majority, or where the right to comment on the suitability of candidates is removed?
Well, I guess we AUGI members now have a slight inkling of what that is like.
OK, so that’s over the top. At AUGI, there are no riots in the street, no fires, no guns, no dead protesters. No election fraud, either, and I would hope there never is. An AUGI election is infinitely more trivial than what the Iranian people are struggling with. That said, there are clear failings at AUGI on the democratic side of things. These include:
- In recent years, the Board of Directors (BoD) using the Affirmation Ballot style of “election” to appoint itself as half of the BoD is replaced each year. In this method, the BoD selects the people it wants on the BoD and allows the members the formality of voting “Yes” or “No” for each candidate. This has been widely seen as preserving an “old boys’ club”, and was practiced right up to the point where it failed at the end of 2008. It failed because members’ interest in this “electoral” process had dwindled to the point where a few dozen disgruntled “No” voters were enough to ensure that none of the BoD’s choices were accepted (including some very worthy people who have given a lot to AUGI over the years).
- The BoD setting up the replacement election such that it reduces the number of Directors being elected from 4 to 2. This ensures that it is not possible for the members to elect enough Directors to make a difference to how the BoD is run. This was done, despite the fact that it ensures that it will be not possible to run an election at the end of 2009 that meets the requirements of the current bylaws.
- The BoD putting tight restrictions on who the members are allowed to vote for. At least 7 members put themselves forward as candidates for the 2 available seats, but only 4 were accepted. The 3 rejected candidates all met the minimum qualifications, and included former Presidents and a highly respected long-term AUGI volunteer who was considered worthy enough to put forward at the end of 2008. Two of the candidates were clearly being punished for expressing views contrary to that of the BoD, but the exclusion of one candidate in particular has everyone baffled. No explanation has been forthcoming to justify these exclusions.
- Introducing a special forum to allow members to ask questions of the candidates (which is good), but as part of that process, sneaking in a rule that forbids discussion of the candidates or their answers anywhere on the AUGI forums (which is very, very bad). See here, rule 6: “Discussion of specific candidates and their responses in other Forums is prohibited.”
There are other failings I could have mentioned, but the electoral censorship issue is what drove me over the edge. Having remained neutral for a long time (including defending the BoD on occasion), I reached the point where I felt that continuing to remain silent about these abuses would be an insult to the AUGI membership. Such a violation of the right to freedom of speech is not to be tolerated, particularly where it amounts to interference with the electoral process. I do not accept this rule, but as a good AUGI citizen I will abide by it within the AUGI forums. I will not, however, be abiding by it here, where the BoD has no censorship rights.
You can look forward to seeing lots more on this subject in the coming days leading up to the opening of the polls on 29 June. If you are an AUGI member, I encourage you to take an active interest in this and future elections. Please read the Organization Feedback forums, the Candidates’ Forums, and above all, vote!