How will 2019 fit into the story of Tunisia's democratic development?

Tunisians go to the polls on Sunday for the second democratic presidential election in the country’s modern history. What will they be thinking about as they cast their ballots? Jobs? Human rights? Pollution? How will these and other priorities reshape the political landscape in the months and years to come, as the country navigates the choppy waters of economic stagnation and more stringent popular demands for elected leaders to deliver? And how do those leaders—from the president all the way down—actually realize the promises they make during election season?

The answers to these questions are relevant not just to the people of Tunisia—the birthplace of the Arab Spring—but for small-‘d’ democrats across the region who look to the country for hope and guidance. In the newest episode of the DemWorks podcast, Leo Spaans, our country director in Tunisia, and Les Campbell, NDI regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, try to provide some answers.

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In An Election Year, Africa’s Largest Democracy Confronts Disinformation Head On

The findings of the "Sorting Fact From Fiction" report were presented at the two-day “Conference on Combating Disinformation and Misinformation” in Abuja

In February 2019, Nigeria went to the polls to elect its President, Vice President, House of Representatives and the Senate facing an exponentially growing volume of news and online information about the election and various campaigns, particularly of President Muhammadu Buhari and his challenger, Atiku Abubakar. Supported by USAID’s Electoral Empowerment for Civil Society Program, NDI worked with local partners in Nigeria at the Center for Democracy and Development to outline what happened online during the election and identify solution driven responses through fact checking, media literacy and research into the online environment.

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On the Ground, Breaking New Ground: NDI and IWPR Fight Fake News in Malawi

Malawian journalists at the Malawi Institute of Journalism combating disinformation during the Malawi elections. 

The 2019 Presidential elections in Malawi were anticipated to be the closest elections in history for the country, and therefore, there was heightened interest, especially internationally. When an image of Tweet claiming to be from the President of the United States expressing his political preference for a particular Malawian presidential candidate was circulating, I knew the information environment was rapidly changing in Malawi. It was deep into campaign season in the southeastern African country of Malawi and a disturbing new trend emerged: digital disinformation. The constant, relentless false news stories were being spread via social media and across platforms like WhatsApp at an alarming rate. Though false news stories meant to deceive the electorate can be common around elections, especially around the electoral process and candidates, the excessive rate at which it was spreading in Malawi caught us all by surprise.

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NDI Malawi Team Provides Support to Historic Presidential Debates

Six of eight candidates running for President in Malawi participated in the third presidential debate organized by the Presidential Debates Taskforce. NDI Malawi supported all three debates, which were live streamed on Facebook. (l-r) Lazarus Chakwera, Malawi Congress Party; Saulos Chilima, UTM; John Chisi, Umodzi Party; Reverent Kaliya, Independent; Peter Kuwani, Mbakuwaku Movement for Development; and Atupele Muluzi, United Democratic Front. 

During the Malawi 2019 presidential campaign season, NDI played a key role in assembling a broad taskforce to organize, produce and broadcast a series of debates with presidential aspirants. This was only the second time since multi-party elections were first held in 1994 that candidates for Malawi’s highest office gathered on stage before a live studio and broadcast audience.

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Bicycles, Mangoes and Democracy

When we arrived in Jinja, a row of bicycles for rent were neatly lined up outside the partner organization’s office. We met inside, amidst bicycles in various states of repair, leaflets and posters on cycling and a stretcher designed to be hitched to bicycles. This all seemed a little incongruous, given a conversation about vote buying and selling. Eventually, I had to ask about the relationship between bicycles and vote buying.

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Taking Wing: Being a Peace Ambassador in Zambia

Photo by: Monika Emch

As young people from different political parties, we have learned that violence should not be part of us and we should denounce violence at all costs. We must use every opportunity and avenue to advocate for youth-sensitive policies and political space that provides respect for freedom of association, freedom of movement, freedom of the press and access to information. We must become aware of our rights and opportunities to participate in decision-making so we can continue to shape our futures together.

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The Success of Nigeria's Inaugural Braille Ballot Guides

A man smiles as he uses the Braille ballot guide in Osun state, Nigeria.

In advocating for strong democratic institutions around the world, it is easy to overlook the rich diversity of democratic traditions across nations. In the United States, presidential hopefuls descend on Iowa every four years to grill steaks for eager caucus-goers. In London, commuters tune to BBC Radio to hear the prime minister and opposition leader spar on issues of the day. And in Nigeria, voters press their thumbs into ink pads, locate the name and party of their chosen candidate, and leave a thumbprint to mark their democratic choice.

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Taking Wing: Creating lasting change in Burkina Faso

There is a widespread belief among young people in Burkina Faso that the current political class lacks a credible vision that takes into account the aspirations of the nation’s youth. The only way to solve this is for young people to stand for election, and to propose new and alternative ideas for the development of our country. This is particularly true when it comes to the nation’s long-term economic well-being – which will affect the lives and futures of the nation’s young citizens the most. But youth are also concerned about other pressing issues, such as the independence of the judicial system and a lack of security from extremist groups (especially in the northern regions). There is no single, defining “youth issue,” nor is there a single youth perspective on the challenges our country faces. Young people must have seats at the table so that we can play an active role in building our own future.

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Using Open Data to Verify Information in Elections

The Election Observation Group (ELOG) in Kenya used a unique data entry tool to match observer-captured images to official election documents

The August 2017 presidential election in Kenya was clouded by accusations of fraud and doubts about the accuracy of results posted on the Independent Elections and Boundary Committee (IEBC) website. Some groups alleged that information from the official polling-station-level presidential results forms (Form 34A) posted on the website may have been altered during the transmission of the forms from polling stations to the national level. The Kenyan Supreme Court’s ultimately annulled the August elections and called for a fresh presidential contest in October 2017. To promote accountability and transparency, NDI provided technical assistance to the Elections Observation Group (ELOG) to deploy 766 observers to polling stations across the country to systematically observe the fresh elections. Election observers were also instructed to take pictures of the completed Form 34As at their polling stations and send the images to the organization through designated WhatsApp numbers to verify the credibility of the data. Five-hundred and forty observers submitted clear photos of the Form 34As from the polling stations. With technical support from NDI, ELOG developed an online system to compare these forms with their official online counterpart.

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