PAT – Slowly to the polling booths

Slowly to the polling boothsA few days ago I sat down to watch a movie called “Recount,” starring Kevin Spacey. At the time I didn’t know anything about this movie and, to be honest, found it somewhat lacking in drama I mean, how excited can you get about a movie whose theme is the recounting of votes in an election?What it did do, however, was remind me of one of the least fine episodes in modern American history, namely the Florida bit of the 2000 election.

That, for those readers who’re too young to remember it or who have sensibly pushed it to the back of their minds, was the election that briefly introduced the world to a new vocabulary of hanging and dimpled chads as one of the world’s oldest democracies introduced a voting system that ended with some people believing that they had cast their votes for the wrong candidate.At the time I remember thinking how bizarre it was that America should have devised a voting mechanism so complex that it could come so spectacularly unstuck, when, as far as I knew, the UK had always done perfectly well with good old paper and pencil.

I thought about this again last Sunday as Turks flocked (or rather ambled) to the polling booths for the second time this year, this time to take part in the first election for the post of president of the republic. In Greme I’m always struck by how smoothly the electoral process flows.

No matter what stories I may have heard about remoter parts of the country, here everything runs like clockwork in a cheerful atmosphere of camaraderie.The same was true last Sunday.

In the corridor of our local primary school, volunteers were waiting to steer everyone to the right place to cast their vote. All the registration slips were in perfect order and curtained booths were set up to allow us to cast our votes in perfect secrecy.

In March a few people had fumbled with the stamps used to impress their choices on the voting slips. This time, though, everyone seemed to have mastered them It’s true that there was little of the excited buzz that had accompanied the mayoral election.

Still, by the end of the day most people had found their way to the polls despite it being the height of the tourist season.Later I sat with friends and listened to their complaints about the Turks holidaying in Greme who could not, therefore, be simultaneously at home casting their votes.

Why oh why, they asked, was there no system for postal voting? One friend had cast his vote that morning in nearby Avanos. There he’d seen an elderly couple in traditional garb.

The man, he said, was loudly instructing his wife on how she should cast her vote. “Then he followed her into the booth,” he continued indignantly.

Fortunately a police officer was at hand to turf him out and explain the error of his ways to himAs he talked, I thought back to an episode in my childhood when I had been walking home from the polls with my mother Both she and my father were Conservative voters but as we strolled down a side street she spotted an election poster in a window. “Oh no!” she wailed.

“I’ve voted for the wrong person. Please don’t tell your father” Nothing new or distinctly Turkish, then, when it comes to spousal interference in the voting process.

Pat Yale lives in a restored cave-house in Greme in Cappadocia.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman