Friday, June 26, 2009

On June 26

On this day in ...
1975, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi (right) declared a state of emergency in India, granting herself extraordinary powers and launching a massive crackdown on civil liberties and political opposition. Her opponents had long made allegations that her party had indulged in electoral malpractice to win the 1971 elections. (image credit) After 1972, her popularity started decreasing due to mass poverty and corruption. By 1974, there was severe turmoil across India. In June 1975, a court found her guilty of electoral fraud, excessive election expenditure, and the use of government machinery and officials for party purposes. It ordered her removed from her seat in Parliament and banned from running for elections for an additional six years. Rather than face the charges, on this day Gandhi declared a state of emergency. Political foes were imprisoned, impending legislative assembly elections were indefinitely postponed, constitutional rights were abrogated, and the press was placed under strict censorship. With her approval, slum dwellings were ordered removed, and, in an attempt to curb India's growing population, a program of forced sterilization was initiated.
1949 (60 years ago today), Belgium (flag at left) lifted the restrictions on voting rights for women. Since 1919, all women who were not prostitutes could stand for election and vote in municipal elections; on this day in 1949, women were given the right to vote at all levels. Continued underrepresentation of women in parliament led to the introduction of the Smet-Tobback law in 1994, which forced parties to include no more than 2/3 of candidates of either sex on electoral lists. The rules were applied for the first time in the June 13, 1999 elections, leading to a virtual doubling of the number of women in the House.

(Prior June 26 posts are here and here.)

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