A voter in Burkina Faso displays his ID card. Many observers have described the recent election as ‟the freest and fairest" in the country’s history.
In the past week, the people of Burkina Faso again surprised many Africa watchers – the third time in 15 months – by holding what many observers have described as ‟the freest and fairest" elections in the country’s history.
With funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening (CEPPS) is implementing the program “Elections: More Inclusion, Less Violence” to monitor and mitigate electoral violence and illicit financing of electoral campaigns, support the Supreme Electoral Tribunal’s administration of the elections, strengthen traditionally marginalized civil society groups and increase social inclusion in the electoral process. Each CEPPS partner invited one of their local partners to discuss a range of topics, including the political crisis, election results, the administration of the elections, civic political participation and the importance of making the electoral process more inclusive and representative of all members of Guatemalan 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.
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:
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.
Poll monitors oversee the 2006 Nicaraguan elections.
Advances and reversals generally mark the trajectory of democratic development. But in the political history of Nicaragua over the last decade, there have been only reversals with next year’s elections likely to see the continued erosion of Nicaraguan democracy and consolidation of power by President Daniel Ortega and his Sandinista National Liberation Front (Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional - FSLN). But there are voices advocating for greater pluralism. Opposition political parties are small but vocal, and different elements of civil society have advocated for democratic reforms. While their efforts have not yet yielded results, the Nicaraguan government still has the opportunity to move toward greater transparency in the polls before next year's presidential elections.
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.
This week, NDI joins thousands of open government advocates, civic hackers, policymakers and journalists in attending the 3rd Annual International Open Data Conference (IODC) in Ottawa, Canada. It is going to be a week of workshops and discussions exploring open data issues and strengthening coordination among open data initiatives. Throughout the week, NDI will be hosting or participating in several events where we'll address how citizens can use data to make government more transparent and accountable. Whether your interests are in opening up election data or in promoting a parliamentary code of conduct, we'd like to talk to you at these events.
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.
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.