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The Spectator Podcast: How to Rig an Election

29 March 2018

3:12 PM

29 March 2018

3:12 PM

On this week’s episode, we discuss how elections across the world have been taken advantage of to give more power to corrupt leaders. We also talk about the international persecution of Muslims, and ask, why don’t young Corbynites care about anti-Semitism?

While the world has been reeling from news of Cambridge Analytica’s political interference, two academics have been following the trail of shady election rigging across the world that go deeper than social media. Professor Nic Cheeseman, at the University of Birmingham, and Dr Brian Klaas at the LSE, have visited developing democracies from Asia, to Africa, to Europe. In this week’s cover piece, they explain the extent of election rigging in these countries, and what we, in mature democracies, can do about it. Brian tells us:

‘We talk in the book about “strategic rigging”, where despots and dictators and counterfeit-democrats all use savvy techniques to be more stealthy in their rigging, and they’re getting away with it more. One of the examples we use that’s low technology is using pens with disappearing ink in Ukraine, where people in opposition areas voted, and the ballots appeared blank. On the high end is things like absolute micro-targeting of voters using misinformation and disinformation that sways voters.’

As aid workers prepare for the coming cyclone season in Rohingya refugee camps, Dan Hitchens asks in this week’s magazine – when will we stand up for Muslims? It is not only in Myanmar that they are persecuted – in Sri Lanka and India, Buddhist and Hindu nationalists violently pursue the Muslim minority, and in the Middle East, more moderate Muslims remain the biggest target of Islamic extremism. Dan, who is the Deputy Editor of the Catholic Herald, joins us now, together with Rupert Shortt, author of Christianophobia: A Faith under Attack. Dan says in the podcast:

‘Part of what’s disturbing about the Rohingya persecution is that it’s the same kind of forces that exist in India, in Sri Lanka, where, over time, a Muslim population has been excluded. In the Rohingya’s case, excluded from citizenship, excluded from society, and become more and more of an outsider. And then you have this terrible outbreak of violence.’


Labour has been dealing with a fresh round of anti-Semitism accusations this week, as news broke that Jeremy Corbyn had defended an anti-Semitic mural as ‘free speech’. Alastair Thomas, one of our former interns, was disheartened by how little Corbynites in his generation care about anti-Semitism, and writes about the phenomenon in the magazine this week. Is apathy towards anti-Semitism simply passé for the left wing youth? Alastair joins us to discuss, together with Michael Segalov, news editor at Huck Magazine, who wrote this week that ‘Jeremy Corbyn is no anti-Semite, but he did F up’. Alastair argues that:

‘The problem is that when Corbyn spoke about these “pockets of anti-Semitism” – those are the same pockets that he’s been standing in for thirty years. He’s been associating himself, historically, with racists and anti-Zionists, who claim to be supporting the Palestinian cause, but really they’re doing nothing of the sort.’

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