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Jesse Jackson Sees Lessons for Africa in Democratic Primary Election

In U.S. presidential politics, voters in the states of North Carolina and Indiana cast ballots Tuesday in Democratic Party primary election. Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are competing for the Democratic Party nomination in the November general election against Republican John McCain.

Senator Clinton or Obama needs 2,024 delegates to win the party’s nomination. Senator Obama is currently ahead of the delegates count, and some political analysts say his win Tuesday night in North Carolina could force Senator Clinton to bow out of the race.

The Reverend Jesse Jackson is founder and president of the Rainbow Push Coalition and a former presidential candidate. He told VOA that Senator Obama’s victory Tuesday night brought him one step closer to the Democratic Party nomination.

“In fact, Barack’s showing tonight is testimony to the growth and maturity of America. He’s been through some tough times the last month, and yet people like him. And he is a step closer to the Democratic nomination tonight,” He said.

Jackson said while the race between Clinton and Obama may not be over yet, yet the clock is ticking in favor of Senator Obama.

“He’s gaining more popular votes, more delegates, the more he gets more super delegates there’ll be a lot of pressure on Senator Clinton to throw her support to Barack Obama,” Jackson said.

Some analysts have suggested that race has been injected into the Democratic primary, particularly since the comments of Senator Obama’s controversial pastor Jeremiah Wright.

But Jackson said the use of Reverend Wright’s name in the campaign is a diversion from the difficult issues facing the voters.

“Reverend Wright is not running; Barack is running, Hillary Clinton’s pastor is not running and McCain’s pastor is not running. So I think there’s been too much focus made of supporters and not enough focus on the candidates, and tonight the focus on Barack is where it needs to be. The big challenge now is people are starving. They are having food riots in Haiti, Mogadishu, Somalia, in Yemen and Egypt. Let’s get back on the agenda that matters. Tonight we are still losing lives and money in Iraq. Let’s focus on issues that matter. We really need to focus on the world food and energy crisis that’s driving people into starvation. I hope we can now get on those issues away from supporters and diversion,” he said.

Jackson said the bitter primary contest between Senators Clinton and Obama could but should not hurt the Democrats’ chances of winning in November against Republican Party nominee Senator John McCain.

“It could but I hope it does not. In 1968 when Humphrey and Johnson could not reconcile over their bitter fight about the Vietnam War, it enabled Nixon to win. When Carter and Kennedy could not reconcile, it enabled Reagan to win. So Barack and Hillary must in fact reconcile because the loser in Denver will determine the winner in December based upon their enthusiasm and the lack thereof. So the big challenge now is to close ranks because this is the playoff season between Barack and Hillary because. The Super Bowl is in November. That is the big game that we all must focus on,” Jackson said.

He said the lesson that African democracies should learn from the hotly contested Democratic primary election is that people should vote.

“People should fully vote, and we should live with the outcome whether that is in Zimbabwe, whether that is in Somalia, or whether this is in America. We should all participate, and if it’s transparent we should all live with the outcome,” Jackson said.

On the Zimbabwe election, Jackson said the world was disappointed when it took so long to admit what the election results were.

"It seems to me that the election had been marred by lack of transparency. Clearly the people spoke and their basic democratic thrusts so far has not been acknowledged. And it ought to be for the sake of Zimbabwe, a great nation which can again revive its greatness,” Jackson said.