IS the Californian recall vote on Governor Gray Davis and the entry into the lists of Arnold Schwarzenegger an example of democracy at work at its fullest extent or of democracy gone mad? In principle it seems a good idea that people can unseat an elected official who is not doing his job very well before his normal term is up. But if the outcome is what we see in California, with anyone who can raise a few hundred dollars able to get his or her name on the list of candidates, some doubts do creep in. Mr Schwarzenegger's involvement does not help matters since he will inevitably bring an element of the carnival to a contest which already was moving in the direction of farce. Firstly, of course, there is the question of whether Californians will vote for the recall of the incumbent Governor Gray Davis. The State's finances are in a mess but that may not be wholly Mr Davis's fault. He is a Democrat and if California can be said to have a fixed political allegiance it is to the Democrats; at the Presidential election in 2000 Al Gore took the state by more than 10 per cent without campaigning seriously there. Mr Davis has lined up powerful Democratic support, including the greatly-respected Diane Feinstein and Bill and Hillary Clinton; Mrs Clinton would not want to associate herself with a loser at this stage of her developing career. Nothing seems certain in this West Coast contest - and the news that punch card machines will be in use at the polling stations only adds a further element of uncertainty.


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