The Portuguese agenda of three elections in one year has drawn national speculation concerning their outcome not least because the political climate is changing as rapidly as the weather.
However, we are not alone in our quandary. Nearly 40% of the global population will also be called upon to exercise their voting rights in elections for either or both executive or legislative government. Whether such rights may be regarded as a privilege or duty will depend on the degree to which each nation is ruled as a democracy or as an autocracy.
In March, 108 million Russian voters will decide which presidential administration will be present on the balcony of the Kremlin to salute the May Day parade of what may be left of their country’s military might.
In the months of April and May, 912 million eligible Indians will elect 543 representatives to the Lok Sabha, which will probably give Mr. Modi a third term as a prime minister bent on turning the world’s most populous country into a superpower.
In November, 161 million citizens of the USA will be given the agonizing choice of to which of two elderly politicians they will entrust the direction of the world’s mightiest military power and, in consequence, the leadership of its acolytes which include the UK where a British electorate of just under 50 million will be asked soon to make a choice between the inept and the discredited.
The Hustings used to be diverting with an “in your face” social interaction. The meetings of candidates were attended by hecklers, politicians kissed the heads of babies, posters displayed in the windows of homes and on hoardings and marches to the polling stations were led by brass bands playing quite jolly music.
Nowadays, political activity has become a largely tactile event with our screens continuously showing boring images of celebrities and activists indulging in frozen frame handshakes, embraces, kisses and high-five greetings when a single finger might be more appropriate. The F-word of four letters which, until recently, has been the expletive noun, adjective and participle most prevalent in political speech, articles and commentary of the West is now being replaced in daily parlance by “Fake”.
Indeed, this election year will be recorded as the first in which the outcome may well be influenced surreptitiously or openly by the employment of Artificial Intelligence to create Fake News and all manner of false propaganda for digital dissemination to largely unsuspecting and often disinterested electorates.
The dimensions of our daily lives are being shaped unalterably by the intense pace of a technology which already is feared to be beyond control either by civil legislation or by the military.
We are given virtually no time for reflection or positive analysis before casting our votes and are the victims of a new warfare of data – not armaments.
Comment by ROBERTO CAVALEIRO
Roberto Cavaleiro first came to Portugal in 1982, acting as advisor to international investors. Current interests include animal welfare and writing opinion articles, especially with reference to environmental issues.