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The other Sunday we went to the polls. Argentina has presidential elections coming up at the end of October for the whole country, but in the meantime each province also sets its own date to elect provincial and municipal governments. So we had the opportunity to go and vote with some friends of ours. The friends did the voting, while we tagged along as unofficial election observers.

Voting in Argentina is a complicated business. As well as voting for the Governor of the Province of Córdoba, we were also voting for the “Intendente” of the city of Córdoba (the closest in English I can find is “Mayor” but I don’t think that’s a good translation). Both the provincial Governor, plus the municipal “Intendente” have a raft of councilors and law-makers which are also elected, and within the province each town and city were voting for their corresponding local governors and law-makers at the same time. All in all, each member of the public had to make six votes.

On entering the polling station, you present your ID document, which is checked against the list by the lead person, then double checked by several others along a line. You are then handed an empty envelope which has been stamped and countersigned several times. This is effectively your voting paper. Envelope in hand, you pass through the doors into the voting area.

Before you is a table, upon which is a bewildering array of lengths of shiny white toilet paper about half a metre long (remember those primary school days?) Each one represents a political party, or an alliance. The idea is that you search for the length of toilet roll that represents your political allegiance, fold it up, put it into your envelope, seal same, and drop it into the voting box, job done. Would that it were so simple….

Remember that each member of the public votes six times in total, one vote in each category. Each length of toilet paper on the table is also divided into six sections, one for each category. Now, the bigger political parties will put up their own candidates in each section, nice and easy. But the smaller parties won’t run in every section, so they will align a limited number of candidates behind one of the bigger parties. This means that there will be several lengths of toilet paper which at first glance appear to be the same, but read along and you might find that the small print in one of the sections contains a little group of communists, neo-faschists, nuns on the run, and a variety of other practical jokers who have chosen to align themselves behind candidate X from one of the mainstream parties. So you need to be a bit careful in making sure you choose the length of toilet paper that represents the people who you actually want to vote for, or you might find yourself being represented by Crusty the Clown for the next four years.

But you’re not done yet. Now for the origami class. At this point you need to decide whether you want to vote for the whole package proposed by your chosen party, or whether variety really is the spice of life. You might decide that you want a provincial Governor from one party, but a city Intendente from another party, and some lawmakers from yet another party. So now comes the fun part. You take a pair of scissors, and you cut as many strips of toilet roll as you like along the dotted lines to put together your own DIY government. We’ve cut ours into three to make it fit the scanner. Think of it as fantasy football for grownups. But you need to be careful that when you are done, your envelope contains exactly six votes, and that they represent exactly one vote for each of the six sections. Otherwise your careful origami will be worthless, your vote will be invalid and you really will find yourself being represented by Crusty the Clown.

Two weeks later, we still aren’t quite sure about the outcome, as there is a dispute ongoing over the results between Schiaretti, who appears to have won, and Juez, who many think ought to have won, the two main candidates for provincial Governor. Crusty the Clown anyone….?

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