Saturday, 15 May 2010

Purple fingers

In the middle of the hullabaloo surrounding the UK coalition negotiations last week, some purple-wearing protesters popped up, campaigning for a change in the voting system. This was the Take Back Parliament campaign for proportional representation.

A curious feature of the campaign is the use of elements from the international fight for democracy: purple-stained fingers from the post-liberation elections in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the phrase “Where’s my Vote?” from the post-election protests in Iran. While the source of these is obvious, the About this Campaign page on their website doesn’t seem to make a connection with any international fight for democracy. They explain their symbolism in purely British terms:
With a nod to history this is a purple-coloured movement. Purple is the historic colour of democracy and the franchise in this country - the colour used by suffragettes in their campaign for the vote.
The purple index finger in our logo is a symbol of the movement. The simple act of holding up a purple index finger (using ink, marker etc) is an immediate action that people do to show that although they voted, this Parliament doesn't represent them and that they demand a new system.
Of course a campaign like this will want to build as broad a base as possible, and their supporters will not all have the same views on the fight for democracy abroad. Supporting organisations include Avaaz - a Res Publica (US) project,  Ekklesia, and the MCB, though most others are concerned almost exclusively with domestic UK or environmental issues.

The absence of an explanation does leave me wondering what the thinking was behind the use of the purple fingers and the “Where’s my Vote?” slogan. Was it just a desire to hijack strong symbols and words, the standard MO of advertisers everywhere?  Was it a feeling of solidarity with campaigners for democracy worldwide? Do they actually believe that this reform campaign within a functioning democracy is equivalent to the struggle against fraud and violent repression in Iran, or the brave resilience of voters going to the polls in the face of murderous threats in Afghanistan and Iraq?

Will the purple campaigners also be marching in support of democracy in Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran?

On Iran

Protest at the British Embassy Washington DC against the UK Border Agency’s deportation of Iranian refugees. Via Bob.

Capital Punishment, Capital Fear, background to the recent executions from Tehran Bureau.

Marg Bar Diktator: General Strike In Iranian Kurdistan, Silence In The West, by Terry Glavin.

More on Farzad Kamangar and the political dissidents executed in Iran, from Flesh is Grass.

Neo-Resistance translates a Statement and Analysis of Kurdish Reformists about Recent Executions. Also, The shocking executions have distracted attention from the following.

On Afghanistan

Keep up with Terry if you can.

Lauryn Oates wraps up a story of pseuds vs schoolgirls at Butterflies and Wheels: Women’s Rights Are Called ‘Cultural Imperialism’.

Akinoluna keeps up with the increasing role of women in the US military effort in Afghanistan, for example here and here and here.

The BBC reports poppy blight. (If you missed it, see the earlier poppy conversation in the comments at Flesh is Grass.)

Railways of Afghanistan has more on current and future railway projects. (Earlier post on this here.)

On Egypt

From the start of the month Christian Fraser on BBC Radio’s From Our Own Correspondent reports that Mohamed ElBaradei could spark political upheaval in Egypt. Audio here.

Uprising in Cairo: A New Labor Movement Takes Shape, from Working In These Times, via ModernityBlog / Labour Start / Nonviolent Conflict.

The New Yorker’s George Packer on Obama a year after Cairo, via Michael J Totten.

From last year on the BBC World Service, Mubarak’s Egypt.

On Voting Reform

A string of commenters disagree with Oliver Kamm, including myself. My contribution to the comment thread refers to this earlier disgruntled post by OK.

Linked to earlier, Shuggy vs Peter Ryley.

Added: update on Iran.

Added: update on Afghanistan.

Added: I’m my personal revolution, an article by Emanuele Toscano at openDemocracy about Italy’s Purple Movement: pro-democracy, pro-constitution, and anti-Berlusconi. Thanks to Bob in the comments.


bob said...

Just read about Italy's "purple" movement too... Probably more worthwhile than the UK's!

kellie said...

Many thanks for that, Bob. And thanks also for the recent links over at your place.