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Why It's Not Funny that Darth Vader's Running for Ukraine's Parliament

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Star Wars | October 21, 2014 |

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Star Wars | October 21, 2014 |

Darth Vader is running for a seat in the Ukrainian parliament. There are sixteen candidates running under his name nationwide. Several other candidates have managed to get on the ballot under other Star Wars related names such as Amidala, Chewbacca, and Yoda. No word yet on a Jar Jar run, but it’s hard to imagine that Washington and Moscow wouldn’t authorize a joint nuclear strike in that case.

Vader’s gotten a lot of traction with his advertising campaign, sponsored by the Ukrainian Internet Party (a.k.a. the “What the Hell is Copyright?” Party). And he definitely has a better ad than most of what they run for in my district despite the fact that Space Hitler would likely be an improvement on at least one of the candidates:

That’s wonderful.

Until you realize that one of the tactics used to subtly rig elections in the former Soviet world is a thing called “fly” parties. See, Ukraine distributes 50% of its parliamentary seats in district voting (sort of like America) and 50% with a proportional system (in which every party gets a percent of seats equal to the proportion of votes it got nationwide). All proportional systems have a minimum percentage so that there isn’t a plethora of one or two seat parties that grind the system to a halt. Normally the number is somewhere around 5%. So any party that gets less than 5% doesn’t get any seats at all.

So if you want to rig an election and the opposition isn’t particularly unified, you get a whole bunch of tiny parties to run, often with names very similar to real parties, so that the fake parties nibble away votes (like flies) from the legitimate ones, to nudge small parties down just low enough that they get no seats at all. Or other fake parties run with absurd ultra-nationalist (or Star Wars) based platforms to convince the population that the opposition parties are insane and that the only safe course is sticking with the guy already in power.

But you know, Vader playing a bandura is fun too.

(source: Radio Free Europe)

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Steven Lloyd Wilson is the sci-fi and history editor. You can email him here or follow him on Twitter.