Citizen Election Monitors Played A Key Role in Tunisia’s Presidential Elections

Representatives of six Tunisian election observation groups held a joint press conference on October 17 to deliver their assessments of the 2019 elections. From the start of voter registration in April to the conclusion of electoral appeals in November, the groups organized a coordinated effort of each phase of the electoral process.

As Tunisian citizens went to the polls to elect a new president last month, citizen observers were present in large numbers, including non-partisan observers, pollwatchers representing candidates, and international monitors like the delegation led by NDI and International Republican Institute. Since only two candidates were competing in the presidential run-off election, the total number of candidate agents declined significantly compared to the prior elections simply because there were fewer candidates contesting for positions. Misinformation began to spread that the elections were going unwatched, but non-partisan observers were out in numbers equivalent to the September 15 first-round presidential and October 6 legislative elections.

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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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What did the European Parliament elections reveal in Central Europe?

As four days of voting for the 2019 European Parliament (EP) elections closed on May 26, crowds await results from the European Union’s 28 member states and the new composition of the EP for the next five years.  CC-BY-4.0: © European Union 2019 – Source: EP

The European parliamentary elections, held in May, came at a time of political soul-searching for the countries of Central Europe – the so-called Visegrad group of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia – as they wrestle with European integration, constitutional democracy, and national identity. Though closely tied, the four countries are responding in different ways.

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Inside the Cueva: My Experience Observing El Salvador’s 2019 Presidential Election

Photo by Observador Electoral 2019. (from the Cueva)

My seatmate pulled out her phone the moment our packed plane touched down in El Salvador three days before the country’s February 3 presidential elections. She began furiously scrolling through her Facebook feed, her face lit up with campaign slogans, articles and the smiling faces of candidates Nayib Bukele, Carlos Calleja and Hugo Martinez. Peering over her shoulder, I watched as she punched out a comment lambasting corrupt status-quo politicians. “El Salvador doesn’t need another leader who steals from us,” she typed. “Bukele deserves a chance.” The goal of my trip to El Salvador was to assist our local partners with a USAID-funded election-day observation. NDI supported a consortium of Salvadoran universities and a civil society organization, together called Observador Electoral 2019, to recruit, train and deploy 850 Salvadoran election observers to monitor a statistically representative sample of 700 polling stations nationwide.

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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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Making Democracy Popular: Corruption, Populism & Brazil

Brazilians take to the streets to protest rampant government corruption on March 13, 2016.  Photo by Agencia Brazil (CC BY 3.0 BR)

What do Mexico’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte and Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez have in common? They’ve all been branded as populists, both celebratorily and scathingly. As Brazil heads to elections on October 7, all eyes are on ultra-conservative candidate Jair Bolsonaro – who brazenly rejects political correctness, defends Brazil’s authoritarian past and promises to upend the establishment – as the latest in a line of political strongmen turning citizen malaise into electoral success. Charismatic populist leaders present society as divided into two separate and homogeneous entities: the corrupt elite, and the pure people who the corrupt have oppressed. Proclaiming their direct link to the people (often enabled by social networks), they tend to eschew representative institutions and checks and balances. While left-wing populists take a class-based approach pitting working and middle-class people against a greedy economic elite, right-wing populists typically define the people as an exclusive group along ethnic, racial or national lines.

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All for One: Building Information Integrity into Elections

Drawing by Jesper Frant

Elections are one of the most critical elements of any democratic system, but also one of the moments where democracy is most vulnerable. Politicians compete to take control of the executive, become representatives in legislatures and sometimes appoint judges across branches of government, and the information environment plays a crucial role in the debates that decide who will represent the will of the people. This environment is increasingly mediated by the internet, through social media platforms, messaging apps, email and a wealth of new tools and applications that come online every day. Unfortunately, this new online environment is also increasingly polluted by disinformation.

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