walk a-musing

Friday, May 05, 2006

I Cast My Vote In England!

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Yes. Last evening, I cast my vote in England. Not to elect the President of the Kannada Sangha, not to elect the secretary of the Indian Association, but to elect the councillor for the borough we live in! I, a citizen of India, resident of England for less than a year, I voted. I am told that even during the country's general elections, my vote is invaluable. Am I the only one who finds this wierd, or are you with me?

When my husband first told me that we were eligible to vote and he would register us as voters, I cound not believe it. He explained that since we were citizens of a commonwealth country, and were residents of UK, we were eligible. I later discovered that I could even stand for election to the House of Commons!

In a way, voting in the council elections seems right. After all we pay our council taxes. If I pay for something, I should have a say in how it is delivered. But my mind just refuses to extend it to the national arena. Would I like a foreigner to vote in India to decide who will head the governement at the center? I think not!

I initially said I would not vote. I felt I should not vote. You see, I have voted only a couple of times in India, when I was in Mysore and Bangalore. After the introduction of the photo ID, and our move to Delhi and the resulting confusion in voters lists, I never voted. Now that we live outside India, and there is no overseas ballot, there is no question of voting. I felt that if I don't cast my ballot in my own country, why here? Faulty logic, hence I said 'felt' and not 'think'.

Is it a right or a duty to vote? For me it is both, in India. But here? I don't know! I finally decided I should treat it the same way here, atleast in the council elections. Plus I was curious to see a voting booth, and the voting process here. We could vote any time between 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Very long hours compared to India! So off we went at 8.30 in the evening. There were no banners near the booth, no flags, no party members with leaflets and stupid grins urging us to vote for their party. All very quiet. I felt like an intruder. The election commission had sent us cards with our registration numbers on it, but I assumed we would need some identification, so we carried our passports along. But no one asked to see any proof of identity. We mentioned our names and address, and the election officer found them on a list, she struck them off and gave us the ballot slips, we voted, and the lady thanked us and we were out.

What should I do during the national elections? When I wouldn't want a foreigner to vote in my country, how can I vote here? The parliament can take major decisions that could change the lives of people in the entire nation. How does this country allow outsiders to be part of the process of electing their MPs?? During the last US elections, when an American friend in Singapore was getting ready to cast her (overseas) vote, I had told her that since the US pokes its nose in every country's business, the outcome of the US elections will affect all of us, so all of us should have the right to vote. She agreed (that I was right). But I can't say the same about UK, atleast not now. And I wonder how the citizens of UK feel about it. How is it that they are not jumping up and down and protesting, especially with the paranioa concerning outsiders that appears to be increasing after the terrorist attacks? Or are the numbers too small to worry about? But I thought every single vote is supposed to matter. Well, I for one, just don't understand it.

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13 Comments:

  • At 10:51 PM, Blogger Shruthi said…

    This is absolutely fascinating! If you know about the candidates, and have an opinion about them, I think you should go ahead and vote in the national elections too :) If not, stay put ;) - And you did not vote in India for a valid reason (?)- not enough reason to quote that as a reason and not vote there ;)

     
  • At 2:27 AM, Blogger Anil Jagalur said…

    Very interesting. And intriguing. Is this another example that they have not realised that the Raj is over as some people accuse them? "Once a subject always a subject?"

    Your exoneration of Britain of "poking it's nose" is strictly not true. As the spear bearer of Washington it's unwelcome nose is everywhere too by proxy.

     
  • At 7:04 AM, Blogger Anu said…

    Shruthi, hmmmm....maybe. :)

    Anil, So it is not just the Indians who need to worry about relics of the Raj!
    According to the Wikepedia, It is a legacy of the Representation of the People Act 1918, which limited the vote to British subjects. At that time, "British subjects" included the people of Ireland — then part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland — and all other parts of the British Empire.
    But funnily, this does not seem to bother them. Just the contrary. This is interesting: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4882790.stm

     
  • At 6:50 PM, Anonymous confused said…

    Naw,

    I cant believe they allow this.

    I think this is plain wrong. I mean, I have a problem with Sonia becoming the PM, a non-citizen actually voting, takes the cake.

     
  • At 5:05 AM, Blogger Anu said…

    Anil, About the exoneration of Britain. Perhaps you are right. One can choose to vote out the poodle? :)

    Confused, Right!

     
  • At 11:44 PM, Blogger Nirwa said…

    Nice post...

    People created quite a brouhaha here over a foreigner as a probably prime minister in India (Sonia)

    Indian politics, actually, need Young Parliament, and not Hung Parliament! :-)

    Interesting to know that non-residents could cast their vote in UK! :-)

    Nirwa

     
  • At 7:34 AM, Blogger Anu said…

    Nirwa, Not non-residents, but non-citizens. In the case of Sonia, one may have many reasons not to want her as prime minister, but technically she is a citizen so she is eligible. In UK you dont have to be a citizen to be MP and so(I suppose)PM!

     
  • At 10:42 AM, Blogger PRIDERA said…

    Nothing wrong in casting your vote if you have sufficient knowledge about that candidates !
    THe post made me nostalgic ... it brought back memories about the first time I casted vote in Somani College

     
  • At 2:38 PM, Blogger Anu said…

    Pridera,
    hmm...that seems to be the majority opinion. Needs more thinking....Thanks for visiting!

     
  • At 10:33 AM, Blogger rameshsr said…

    From what i know, anyone who lives , works and pays Taxes and National Insurance in the UK can vote - the rationale being - anyone who contributes to the economy, must have a say in its governance.
    I'm sure voting rights has nothing to do with the commonwealth or being part of the British Raj - since many of my friends who are Italians / Spanish / French / German / Dutch but who live in London, do have the right to vote - even though they are really citizens of their respective countries.
    All said and done - it looks like the (b)LIAR is on the way out...:)

     
  • At 7:54 AM, Blogger Anu said…

    rameshsr, Thanks for visiting and your comment.
    European Union citizens can vote in the local government elections but not in the UK parliamentary elections. You can get all the details here:
    http://www.direct.gov.uk/RightsAndResponsibilities/RightsAndResponsibilitiesArticles/fs/en?CONTENT_ID=10014442&chk=tW2II/

     
  • At 2:08 PM, Blogger rameshsr said…

    Hi anu - you are right on that - well done....:)

     
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