“A tree is best measured when it is down,” the poet Carl Sandburg once observed, “and so it is with people.” The recent death of Harry Belafonte at the age of 96 has prompted many assessments of what this pioneering singer-actor-activist accomplished in a long and fruitful life.
Belafonte’s career as a ground-breaking entertainer brought him substantial wealth and fame; according to Playbill magazine, “By 1959, he was the highest paid Black entertainer in the industry, appearing in raucously successful engagements in Las Vegas, New York, and Los Angeles.” He scored on Broadway, winning a 1954 Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Musical – John Murray Anderson's Almanac. Belafonte was the first Black person to win the prestigious award. A 1960 television special, “Tonight with Belafonte,” brought him an Emmy for Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Musical Program or Series, making him the first Black person to win that award. He found equal success in the recording studio, bringing Calypso music to the masses via such hits as “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” and “Jamaica Farewell.”
Harry Belafonte - Day-O (The Banana Boat Song) (Live)www.youtube.com
Belafonte’s blockbuster stardom is all the more remarkable for happening in a world plagued by virulent systemic racism. Though he never stopped performing, by the early 1960s he’d shifted his energies to the nascent Civil Right movement. He was a friend and adviser to the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. and, as the New York Times stated, Belafonte “put up much of the seed money to help start the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and was one of the principal fund-raisers for that organization and Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center notes that “he helped launch one of Mississippi’s first voter registration drives and provided funding for the Freedom Riders. His activism extended beyond the U.S. as he fought against apartheid alongside Nelson Mandela and Miriam Makeba, campaigned for Mandela’s release from prison, and advocated for famine relief in Africa.” And in 1987, he received an appointment to UNICEF as a goodwill ambassador.
Over a career spanning more than seventy years, Belafonte brought joy to millions of people. He also did something that is, perhaps, even greater: he fostered the hope that a better world for all could be created. And, by his example, demonstrated how we might go about bringing that world into existence.
How the voting systems around the world differ from country to country
There are many different voting systems in the world that vary in large or small ways from one another. Here are some of the most popular, explained. These three systems make up the majority of the world's election processes and can be used for larger and smaller elections.
First, some vocab
Plurality: The Candidate with the most votes wins, doesn't need to be a majority.
Examples: United States, United Kingdom, Ethiopia, India, etc.
Two Round System: Similar to plurality but a winner needs the majority. If there is no majority in the first round of voting then there will be a second with the 2 leading candidates.
Examples: France, Iran, Mali, Vietnam, etc.
List Proportional Voting: Multi-winner system where political parties nominate candidates and electors vote for preferred party or candidate. The governmental seats are given to each party in proportion to the votes they receive.
Examples: Spain, Morocco, Russia, Brazil, Angola, etc.
A Deeper Look into Certain Election Processes
French Presidents serve for 5 year terms and are elected using a run off voting system which involves two rounds of elections. If someone doesn't win the majority in the first round then the top contenders run against each other in the second. France does not have a two party system and many different parties are represented in their 3 branches of government. This means that the French President could have a Prime Minister from another political party.
Both the financing and spending of French campaigns are highly regulated. All commercial advertisements are prohibited in the three months before the election. Political ads are aired for free but on an equal basis for each candidate on national television and radio. There are limits on donations and expenses that are regulated by an independent financial representative of the campaign.
General elections are held every five years with a large number of elections across the UK. In 2015, six hundred and fifty people were elected into the House of Commons and this greatly changes the standing of the parties in the government. With three major parties there is no longer a two party system. These parties are the Conservative Party formerly know as the Tories, the Liberal Democrats formerly known as the Whigs, and the Labour Party who all make up the bulk of the government along with various independents.
The party that wins the majority of seats in the House of Commons in the general election becomes the leading party. The leader of the majority party is appointed Prime Minister by the Queen. The leader of the minority party is referred to as the leader of the opposition. The Prime Minister appoints the ministries and forms the government. There are moments where the system is adapted whether the Prime Minister calls for a special early election or there is no party with a majority in the House of Commons.
UK elections limit how much campaigns can spend during certain elections, but there is no price limit for donations. This is regulated by the Electoral Commission which is an independent regulatory body. All of the parties need to keep records for the independent audit. To ensure transparency the Electoral Commission publishes party spending returns online.
A presidential candidate can be nominated by a Russian political party or by a collection of signatures in support. Similar to France, Russia has many political parties that make up their government and there is also a two round voting system. The Presidential term is 6 years and though someone can hold many terms there can only be two consecutive terms at a time. There were protests and concerns over the legitimacy of past elections.
The main political party is the United Russia Party lead by Vladimir Putin and it holds 343 seats of the 450 possible seats in their governmental body, the Duma. Other parties are the Communist Party, the Liberal Democratic Party, A Just Russia, Civic Platform, and there are independents. Members of the Duma are elected for 5 year terms.
Though spending and broadcast time is monitored and regulated there are large loopholes for the party who is in control of public resources. Opposition parties need to fund from their own resources but United Russia uses official state-funded trips, positive news reporting, and other means to avoid using personal funds.