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.
These stories will touch on the importance of civic observation in the context of volatile political environments as well as how the observation efforts were important for the individual observers, their organizations and their communities.
People involved in the election observation -- observation network members and members of the mostly rural communities in which the observation was conducted -- believe that their actions contributed to improving transparency and strengthening democracy in their country, and, as a result, feel empowered to continue working towards lasting change.
2015 was a historic year for Guatemala. A series of scandals revealing entrenched corruption sparked unprecedented public protests that lasted for more than six months. By September, citizens had forced the resignation of nearly the entire cabinet and the arrests of the president, vice-president and several heads of state agencies. The protests, and subsequent arrests of senior government officials, sent a strong message that the country was ready for change and that government corruption would not be met with silence by the public.
At its heart, the observation initiative was made up of dedicated individuals who believed that they could make a difference ... They belong to organizations and communities that are working towards a brighter future.
As with previous elections, NDI partnered with Electoral Watch (Mirador Electoral), a local consortium of nine observation organizations, to observe the 2015 elections. These observation efforts were particularly critical to the integrity of the elections within the context of the country’s political crisis, which could have seen tensions erupt into violence. They also provided opportunities for effective and inclusive citizen participation, allowing citizens from all backgrounds to express their desire to improve the country’s politics by serving as watchdogs for democracy and ensuring that their individual needs and collective voices were heard.
The observation networks were designed to increase the inclusion of citizens who have not had sufficient opportunities for political and civic engagement. Low levels of political participation and under representation of marginalized groups, including women, indigenous peoples and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community, exacerbates the fragility of Guatemala’s democratic institutions, which are already under stress from high levels of crime, violence, corruption and impunity.
At its heart, the observation initiative was made up of dedicated individuals who believed that they could make a difference. Although many worked alone or in pairs in their communities, together they formed a network of thousands of volunteers across the country. They belong to organizations and communities that are working towards a brighter future.
The dedication of these observers and community organizations is extraordinary and inspiring. Over this series of blog posts, we will share their stories, providing a snapshot of their diverse experiences.