The author on Tubman Boulevard in Monrovia struggling to hear a call about logistics from fellow NDI staff while running other Election Day errands (photo credit: Madeline Wilson)
Two former presidents and a former foreign minister sat in a conference room while I searched for a hat. It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but it was the very real start to December 25, 2017, the eve of the Liberian presidential runoff.
IFA's Grace Jerry (left) discusses the audit checklist with another Access Nigeria observer during an election day deployment.
In Nigeria, there is a dearth of reliable data on the number of people with disabilities, let alone the challenges they face participating in elections. In its World Report on Disability, the World Health Organization estimates that 15 percent of the world’s population lives with some form of disability. Based on this report, IFA approximates that there are 25 million Nigerians with disabilities.
For this reason, disability rights organization and NDI partner Inclusive Friends Association (IFA) audited polling unit accessibility during off-cycle gubernatorial elections in Edo (September 2016) and Ondo (November 2016) states, using a sample-based observation deployment methodology similar to parallel vote tabulation. The audits assessed the availability of handrails, ramps, braille or tactile ballots, written voting instructions and sign language interpreters. Armed with these newfound statistics, disability rights advocates such as IFA are now better equipped to make advocacy demands on decision makers to address barriers to the political participation for persons with disabilities in Nigeria.
“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.
Milvia Roxana Lopez (third from left) speaks during a training for citizen election observers in Guatemala. “Self-confidence was key,” she said, referring to her ability to break through gender-based stereotypes as an election observer documenting incidents of violence and educating voters during last year’s historic elections.
At 25 years old, Milvia Roxana López, an indigenous woman, may be diminutive in size but she exudes a confidence that demands she be heard. As an observer who monitored electoral violence, Milvia met with leaders from her town and surrounding communities to document acts of electoral violence -- not an easy topic to broach in country that has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. “For me, self-confidence was key,” declared Milvia, referring to her role as an election observer. “To many people, it’s not the same when a woman says something as when a man says something. I don’t know where I got the strength, but I did it.”
Since the Guatemalan elections concluded in October 2015, NDI has held conversations with local partner organizations and election observers to better understand their experiences, as well as their hopes for their communities and the country. In order to highlight their voices, we will post a series of blogs documenting stories of inclusion and change -- the people behind the headlines working to build a strong democracy in Guatemala.
Tunisian citizens protest the rise of the destabilizing trend of regionalism
Nearly five years after protests against former authoritarian leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali began in December 2010, Tunisia has adopted a modern constitution and, for the first time, democratically elected a new legislature and president. Tunisia has been lauded as an inspirational -- though not untroubled -- democracy within the Middle East and North Africa region. To ensure the current security concerns and economic difficulties do not encourage undemocratic intervention in the process, it is important that the U.S. government and international community continue to support the new Tunisian government as it makes difficult choices.
NDI is excited to announce the launch of the Open Election Data Initiative. The goal of the initiative is to ensure that citizen groups have access to election data that can give a true picture of an election process, including how candidates are certified, how and which voters are registered, what happens on election day, whether results are accurate and how complaints are resolved.
The Open Election Data Initiative, openelectiondata.net, adapts open data principles that are designed to enhance government transparency in other areas, such as service delivery, to elections. The initiative encourages governments to be more accountable and citizens to take a more active participatory role. While primarily geared toward civil society -- including election monitoring organizations, many of which are partners of NDI -- the initiative can also inform the efforts of political parties, election management bodies and other actors concerned with electoral integrity.
NDI’s domestic observation partner in Nigeria, TMG, reported that 1 in 4 election officials for the 2015 presidential and legislative elections were women.
There’s something new in the Gender, Women and Democracy (GWD) program at NDI. In evaluating existing programming within the democracy and governance community, the GWD team found a gap. As we examined the social, political, and economic barriers preventing women from participating fully in democratic governance, we found that one such barrier -- violence against women in elections (VAW-E) -- was absent from the conversation, largely because it had not been distinguished from wider studies of electoral violence. So, in partnership with NDI’s election team, and with funding from the National Endowment for Democracy, GWD is putting VAW-E on the map.
It has been a year since Luis María Duarte – a member of NDI’s 2014 Afghanistan election observation mission – was killed during a terrorist attack on the Serena Hotel in Kabul. Luis, from Asuncion, Paraguay, was a long-time member of NDI’s global community and had been part of the Institute’s election missions in several countries. Beloved as a colleague and friend by so many across the globe, his death was a tremendous shock and loss to the elections community worldwide.
Guided by the principle that timely and reliable information about electoral preparations and early warning signs can mitigate the spread of electoral violence, Nigerian Global Network of Domestic Election Monitors (GNDEM) member Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) launched a unique Pre-Election Observation, PREO, ahead of the nation’s long-anticipated general elections.