There were two elections on my news radar the last two weeks. One in an African country now rapidly sinking into an economic crash and possible civil war, the other in the heart of the civilized west; the OOXML election by ISO standards body in Geneva. Aside from the locations and prices of hotels for journalists the differences were few. Bribery, fraud and intimidation were applied to achieve a specific outcome, never mind what the majority wanted. In the OOXML election even the standards organizations of proper democratic countries like Norway and Germany were unable to withstand the well-oiled lobby machine of the worlds most convicted software monopolist. In the Netherlands Microsoft was actually a member of the committee and prevented a committee consensus. So instead of voting against the standards, as 21 out of 22 members wanted, the Netherlands voted 'abstain'. The list of irregularities is endless but try some of the links above to get an idea.
To quote an ISO insider: "OOXMLs BRM process is irretrievably broken; complete, utter, unadulterated bullshit" (Tim Bray). The ISO process is dead and that is bad. Even though ISO was far from perfect it's open process did help many nations to agree on thousands of standards on anything from steel manufacturing to surgical gloves. These kinds of standards are crucial for a globalized high tech society.
It would seem that those in favor of the OOXML standard (Microsoft and a few of it's partners) did not have so much confidence that their 6000-page specification would make it to ISO standard status that they trusted a transparent en democratic process to take it's course. There way of treating the process was much like an African dictator with a chest full of medals. Utterly lacking in legitimacy but high on power as a consequence of an unlimited bribery budget and a willingness to bully anyone in the way of their goal. If they were not so much trouble you'd almost feel sorry for them.
Microsoft is of the opinion that everything went fine. Neelie Kroes and the EU have a different view of the matter. I feel another mega-fine around the corner. Not that any of this matters a lot to the fastest growing parts of the world. Brazil, China, India, Iran voted no. They represent a big chunk of the global population (as opposed to yes-voters such as Malta). If I were an applications vendor I'd make sure I stay ODF compatible. Several countries such as the Netherlands and Norway (that is now appealing their stolen vote) have already formally chosen ODF as the document standards for government. Others are looking to follow this lead. It's not entirely clear what Microsoft has achieved by gaining the ISO label. The governments that already choose ODF are not going back and Microsofts well documented behavior is not going to make then many new friends.
The EU appear to have been investigating the OOXML ISO certification process for some time now. Documentation from countries with where very clear breaches of protocol occured will strengthen the case for further antitrust investigations and possible additional fines or other measures. The victory of OOXML may turn out to be very costly indeed. And any credibility of OOXML as an 'open' standard has already been severely damaged by the deluge of reports about bribes, fraud and other forms of misconduct by Microsoft over the last year. A Pyhrric victory if here ever was one.