Three Lessons Côte d’Ivoire Can Teach Us About Peaceful Elections

“Le Magnific” fires up the crowd at a concert for peace in Côte d’Ivoire.

Democratic elections resolve a legitimate competition for power through peaceful, rather than violent, means. They constitute a critical moment in the life of a democracy, where citizens have the right to express their will through the ballot box and a peaceful transfer of power takes place. However, this is not always the case. During the 2010 elections in Côte d’Ivoire – the country’s first election in 10 years – former President Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down after narrowly losing in a run-off to Alassane Ouattara, triggering widespread violence that left over 3,000 people dead and thousands displaced. To mitigate the potential for violence as the 2015 presidential election approached, NDI assisted civil society organizations to monitor the elections, draft Codes of Conduct and spread messages promoting nonviolent conflict resolution.

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Put Us in Your Place: Integrating Women into Election Observation

In Côte d’Ivoire, the Plateforme des organisations de la société civile pour l’observation des élections en Côte d’Ivoire recruited significant numbers of female election observers in a post-conflict context. For many of these women, it was their first experience in political activism.

Election observation initiatives are most effective when their findings are not only valid but also—more importantly—accepted as such by the majority of citizens. Observation teams should reflect the diversity of the population so that observer groups can truly speak in the name of all citizens. Gender balance is an important consideration in the composition of observer teams and leadership structures, both of which influence public perceptions of the observer group.

Integrating women into an observation effort helps ensure a more comprehensive understanding of the different barriers to political participation that men and women face. It is also an important step to advance observation strategies that address the distinctive ways electoral violence affects citizens.

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Global Women's Leadership Program Brings Women MPs to COP21

Members of the GWLP delegation of women parliamentarians to the COP21 Summit in Paris, from left to right:  Margaret Nantongo Zziwa, Uganda; Ake Camille Epse Akoun, Ivory Coast; Joséphine Drabo Kanyoulou, Burkina Faso; and Tayeba Zahidi, Afghanistan. Photo by Aretha Francis.

Under the Global Women's Ledership Program supported by USAID, NDI sent four women parliamentarians to the COP21 climate change summit in Paris.

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Successful Observation of Côte d’Ivoire Election Builds Credibility of Civil Society

Staffer at POECI headquarters on election day received updates from observers in the field.

A largely peaceful presidential election held on October 25 was the first since more than 3,000 people were killed and hundreds of thousands internally displaced in the aftermath of Côte d’Ivoire’s disputed 2010 election. Successful citizen election observation efforts helped civil society organizations in Côte d’Ivoire establish their credibility, which was damaged after conflicting reports in 2010 helped fuel post-election turmoil.

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One Day, Five Citizen Election Observation Efforts

Acción Ciudadana prepares observer kits and other materials for the second round quick count on October 25 in Guatemala. Credit: Acción Ciudadana

Today, 10 countries will hold elections around the world. From local contests to national races, runoff elections to constitutional referendums, no other day this year will have more elections. Civil society, primarily through nonpartisan citizen observers, has been actively monitoring these elections, helping to mitigate violence, deter fraud, impartially assess the processes and, when warranted, enhance public confidence. NDI is helping to build the capacity of citizen election observers in five of the 10 countries with elections on October 25:

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NDI President Visit to West Africa Highlights Three Important Elections

NDI President Kenneth Wollack (center) and Dr. Chris Fomunyoh (right) meet with President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger.

The next year and a half will be a critical period for democracy across Africa. In 2015 and 2016, African countries will hold more than 35 presidential and legislative elections. The outcomes of these elections have the potential to spark a wave of democratic change for the continent. It was within this context that NDI President Ken Wollack traveled to Burkina Faso, Niger and Cote d’Ivoire, accompanied by Dr. Chris Fomunyoh, NDI’s senior associate and regional director for Central and West Africa. All three countries will hold elections before the end of the year.

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Six Critical African Elections to Watch in 2015

Between January 2015 and December 2016, African countries will organize more than 35 presidential and legislative elections, and the outcomes have the potential to spark a sea change for the continent. The first of these polls took place in January with the Zambian presidential election after the unexpected death of President Michael Sata.

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