PARIS, EARTH — As citizens across the Federation prepare to head to the polls next week, Nimbus III Chief Administrator Narala tops the latest polls following the FNS presidential debate.
“After skipping the Berengaria Caucus, Narala needed to hit it out of the ballpark, and boy did she do it,” said Professor Emil Arbelaez, chairman of political science at Pike City University on Cestus III. “It seems this election cycle, voters are looking towards greater representation from all corners of the Federation, and Narala’s message of inclusiveness for all members, not just the core worlds, really struck a chord with the audience.”
Indeed, as of stardate 239212.11, Narala leads the FNS poll with 35% of the vote. Right behind her is Councilor Kevin Steiner of Terra Nova with 30%, and tied for third place are Ambassador Lily Ventu and Trill Chief of Staff Anari Kthria at 15% each. Coming in last is Axanar Governor Adellia Vor, with 5% of the vote.
“The Vor Campaign is in crisis mode right now,” said political adviser Matthew Broteivach. “Despite all of her accomplishments in her own system, she wasn’t able to connect with voters in the wider Federation, and frankly, I’m not sure she has any time left to do so.”
Debate highlights candidates’ differences
The debate last week (full transcript available here) was the final chance for voters to get a look at all five of the major candidates on one stage before the election period begins. In a civil discussion that ranged from foreign policy to the dispute between the United Earth government and the Federation regarding the New Zealand penal settlement on Earth, the candidates quickly distinguished themselves from one another as they answered the questions from FNS moderators Maronida Shiir and Churok as well as direct questions from the audience.
In addition to promoting a more egalitarian approach to Federation administration, Chief Administrator Narala answered a question about potential low voter turnout, again pointing to a disconnect between voters and the politicians that are supposed to represent them.“They have a right to feel that way. If the people feel they don’t have a connection with me or my fellow candidates, then it’s our job to rectify that problem,” she said. “However, I can’t fix what I don’t know about. I can’t speak for the others, but I believe it is up to the voters to alert me to their concerns—I’m not an all-knowing being. I’m one person, prepared to take on an extraordinary role, and part of that role is being prepared to listen to the citizens of my charge. I am prepared to achieve the desired outcome of their issues for the citizens of my charge.”
Councilor Kevin Steiner, as he has throughout his campaign, again stressed the importance of a strong Starfleet to secure the Federation’s prosperity against the growing and competing interests of neighboring powers. When asked about how to balance Starfleet’s dual roles of defense and exploration, Steiner clarified his view on the connection between both mission objectives.
“Here’s the issue: Starfleet’s mission of exploration and defense are inherently linked to one another. When our Starfleet is weakened, we are unable to engage in bold missions of exploration. We simply do not have the number of ships to do so!” he said to audience member Rho Falcon, who had asked the question. “Every ship we have to pull from the frontier to help in patrol duty or to assist in anti-piracy operations is another ship that isn’t out there exploring strange new worlds.”However, Steiner received the most applause following a question from moderator Churok, who asked the councilor what his view on holographic rights were. In an unexpectedly poignant reply, Steiner brought up the example of the android Data.
“Nearly three decades ago, a judge ruled that an android—an artificial lifeform created by a man—had the right to choose its—his own destiny. That he was not merely property,” he said. “That android since went on to become one of the finest officers in Starfleet. Now, we are talking about holograms—another artificial lifeform, created by man—that have displayed similar sentience as that android.”
“It’s time we acknowledge once and for all that what truly defines a person goes beyond their physical form, whether flesh and blood, tripolymer composites, or light and force fields. I fully recognize the rights such lifeforms are owed by the Articles of Federation, and I believe I am not alone.”
In contrast to Steiner’s approach to foreign policy, Ambassador Ventu stressed peace and understanding towards those beyond the Federations borders and even those who sought to do harm to the Federation, such as the Maquis Reborn.“We will not quell the violence with more violence,” she said. “Terrorism has always been used as a tactic to goad our baser instincts, to have us lash out in fear—both back at them and at each other. The answer lies in vigilance. We must remain vigilant—to guard against impending threats, of course—but also against those who would infringe on our way of life, whether they be the Maquis Reborn or those in power.”
When questioned by audience member and Starfleet commanding officer Selene Faranfey about whether vigilance alone was enough to defeat an enemy that had managed to pull off highly-sophisticated attacks, the ambassador acknowledged the seriousness of the threat and what particularly troubled her.
“[The Maquis Reborn] do have many resources to draw upon, both in terms of personnel and matériel, and that is worrying to me,” said Ventu. “It is worrying precisely because it means that there are many people out there who feel they have no one else to turn to, that the Federation has failed them, and that they must resort to violence.”
However, the ambassador remained firm on her message of understanding as the ultimate solution.
“To those who say that they use violence against us and so we must use violence against them, I say that they are not our teachers,” said Ventu. “We must understand the Maquis Reborn. We failed to understand the Maquis, and to find a diplomatic solution, and that ended in the deaths of their majority at the hands of the Jem’Hadar. As your president, I will not allow this violence to continue—because I will get to the root of why it is occurring and proceed from there.”
Excellency Kthria was asked to describe in more detail how her radical proposals for sector-level governance of the Federation could be a solution for piracy.“The main goal of sector-level administration is to coordinate responses, but for something like piracy, especially by rogue houses, a sector government could collaborate to efficiently place patrol routes and automated sensor platforms to decrease reaction time and enable placed ships to respond faster,” she explained. “Ultimately, though, we may have to resort to a solution that Earth did: fleets whose only job was to hunt out and destroy piracy. I would rather keep that as a last resort, however.”
Kthria was likewise skeptical of Ventu’s plan to handle the Maquis Reborn.
“Ambassador Ventu, while I applaud the sentiment and largely agree that adding more security can devolve into security theatre and a curtailment of rights, I am also cognizant that many of the attacks of the Maquis Reborn are due to security lapses in Starfleet and Federation day-to-day operations,” she said. “In addition, people who have embarked on a path of terrorism will require actual force to defeat.”
When asked about the dispute between United Earth and the Federation over the future of the New Zealand penal settlement, Governor Vor expressed sympathy for Earth officials who wanted more of a say in the administration of a facility on their own land but stated that the proper path towards a solution was working with the Federation, not around it.“If the United Earth government has an issue with the original agreement signed in 2346, then the appropriate channel is to open new dialogue between the Federation and themselves, not attempt to usurp the agreement through their own internal legislation,” said the governor. “I needn’t remind the United Earth officials that as with all such treaties and agreements, they are bound by interstellar law to honor them unless amendments have been made between the two parties.”
When pressed on whether the Federation itself being the one to enforce such laws represented a conflict of interest, Vor disagreed.
“Again, if United Earth wants to have a conversation about the penal settlement—or any other issue—then they should do so, with the Federation,” she said.
After the debate, those in attendance seemed not to have been too surprised by the candidates’ responses, but Chief Administrator Narala appeared to have benefited the most from the exposure.
“I have to admit, I hadn’t really known much about her or what she’d done for Nimbus III,” said Jan Wahler, a mechanical engineer from Hekaras II. “But I found myself nodding over and over whenever she spoke. She definitely won my vote!”
Like Excellency Kthria, others were equally skeptical about Ambassador Ventu’s peace and understanding first approach towards the Maquis Reborn.
“I don’t know what world the ambassador is living in,” said Hishama of Rigel IV. “These people are terrorists. They aren’t going to be swayed by an outstretched hand but a charged phaser rifle. Diplomacy only works if you have some teeth to back it up with.”
When asked about whom he was going to vote for, Hishama said he still hadn’t made up his mind.
“I like Steiner. If we had listened to him twenty years ago, maybe things would have turned out a lot differently,” he answered. “That said, he’s also been in Paris for decades. I’m not sure if Kthria’s proposals would really work, but hey, maybe it’d be good to shake things up.”
In the final days of their campaigns, all candidates have begun a final push, rallying voters across a dozen worlds. Councilor Steiner is expected to give a speech at the University of Betazed tonight, and Ambassador Lily Ventu will be attending a dinner with returning Starfleet members coming home from Operation Safe Harbor. Excellency Kthria and Governor Vor will be visiting Andoria and Ktaris respectively.
Finally, after some had questioned whether she was even eligible to run for the presidency earlier this year, Chief Administrator Narala appeared to be enjoying her new status as the front-runner following the debate, smiling widely as she greeted supporters on Bolarus IX.
“We are many, but we can be one!” she yelled out to cheers, repeating her call for Federation unity during the debate.
The 2392 Federation presidential election period begins next week.
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