Editorials: Revive the Election Assistance Commission | J. Ray Kennedy/The Hill

The president has named the members of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration and tasked them with reporting back within six months of their first meeting, scheduled for June. The unfortunate fact is that the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) is already tasked to do what the commission is being asked to do, and we would do better to focus our limited resources and attention to such matters on making the EAC a serious professional body that focuses on the many and evolving challenges of election administration in 21st-century America. The other fact that seems to elude most is the sheer complexity of election administration. As a former member of Brazil’s electoral tribunal has put it, “There is no function of the modern state, short of going to war, that is as complex as election administration.”

Editorials: Texas Redistricting Fight Shows Why Voting Rights Act Still Needed | Ari Berman/The Nation

The last time Texas redrew its political maps in the middle of the decade, Texas Democrats fled to Oklahoma to protest Tom DeLay’s unprecedented power grab in 2003. Now Texas Republicans are at it again, with Governor Rick Perry calling a special session of the legislature to certify redistricting maps that were deemed intentionally discriminatory by a federal court in Washington and modified, with modest improvements, by a district court in San Antonio last year. Republicans want to quickly ratify the interim maps drawn for 2012 by the court in San Antonio before the court has a chance to improve them for 2014 and future elections. “Republicans figured out that if the courts rule on these maps, they’re going to make them better for Latinos and African-Americans,” says Matt Angle, director of the Texas Democratic Trust. The maps originally passed by the Texas legislature in 2011 personified how Republicans were responding to demographic change by trying to limit the power of an increasingly diverse electorate.

Editorials: Joe Garcia’s ballot scandal | MiamiHerald.com

U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia says he’s angry — and was clueless — that his chief of staff was involved in a cockamamie absentee-ballot scheme during last year’s Democratic Party primary in Congressional District 26, which stretches from the Florida Keys north to Kendall. His chief of staff, Jeffrey Garcia (no relation to the congressman) has resigned, and a Miami-Dade state attorney’s office investigation continues. Prosecutors should pursue the truth purposefully and with due diligence. No dilly-dallying. Voters whose choice in 2012 was between two political enemies — Mr. Garcia, the former head of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, and former U.S. Rep. David Rivera, a Republican who has his own troubles with campaign and tax laws — deserve to know exactly what went down in this race and to hold their elected representative accountable if it is found he played a role in this scheme.

Editorials: With special election decision, Christie helps himself too | NBC

In a decision with implications for his own re-election this fall, the next presidential campaign and the GOP in Washington, New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday called for a special election to be held this year to choose the successor to the late Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg. Christie announced at a press conference that he had opted against appointing a successor to Lautenberg to serve until the 2014 election, and scheduled a general election on Oct. 16. The primary will be held in August. Christie also said he would appoint an interim senator to serve between now and November, though he explained that he had not decided on that temporary appointee yet. With this decision, Christie is potentially helping create the conditions for a big win in his re-election contest against Democrat Barbara Buono this November.  Without a contested Senate campaign happening at the same time as his own re-election, turnout among Democrats is likely to be far lower, allowing Christie to run up the margin of victory in a race he is already a big favorite to win. That, in turn, could make him look like a more formidable presidential candidate in 2016 should he choose to run.

Editorials: Voting rights are still in danger | David Gans/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Before the end of this month, the Supreme Court is expected to decide Shelby County, Ala. v. Holder, a constitutional challenge to the preclearance provision of the Voting Rights Act, one of the act’s most important guarantees against racial discrimination in voting. Shelby County has argued that the act is unnecessary and outdated and has urged the Supreme Court to hold it unconstitutional on that basis. With the court decision looming, a number of recent commentators have suggested that, in light of recent voter turnout data, the Voting Rights Act is no longer needed. They are wrong. In The Wall Street Journal last month, examining what he called the “good news about race and voting,” Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center argues that in recent presidential elections very few citizens, whatever their race, have reported difficulties going to the polls to exercise their right to vote. Mr. Kohut noted that in the last several presidential elections, African-American turnout has steadily increased. Based on the “good news” from this small slice of evidence, Mr. Kohut suggests that opponents of the Voting Rights Act could argue “the legislation has accomplished its objective of ending racial discrimination in voting and is no longer needed.”

Editorials: Striking down voting law will set back civil rights | Raul A. Reyes/NBC

Could a county in Alabama affect your ability to vote? Absolutely. Any day now, the Supreme Court will issue its decision in Shelby County v. Holder, a case challenging Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Section 5 requires states with a history of discrimination to get approval from the federal government before they change their voting laws. Most of these states are in the South. Shelby County, Alabama says this is unfair and wants Section 5 struck down. Section 5 is not just one part of the Voting Rights Act. Section 5 is the heart of the Voting Rights Act. Getting rid of it would be a setback to civil rights. It would negatively impact Hispanic voters. And it would represent a troubling overreach by the Supreme Court into Congressional jurisdiction. The Fifteenth Amendment of the Constitution states that no citizen should be denied his right to vote on account of race or color. But Southern states for years found ways to prevent African Americans from voting. So in 1965 Congress passed Section 5, to ensure an end to poll taxes, literacy tests, and other means of obstructing access to the ballot box.

Editorials: Update Section 5 of Voting Rights Act, don’t toss it | Dallas Morning News

Every time we enter a voting booth, we collectively make a national statement that each of us matters, that we are free and independent and control our destiny. That we choose to be part of a community that engages in peaceful political engagement. Voting is to democracy what praying is to religion: an expression of a belief system. Voting is how we the people have actually formed a more perfect union. It defines who we are and what we aspire to be. It marked our evolution from a country dominated by white, male landowners to one that included — in every sense of the word — women and, ultimately, minorities. Sometime this month, perhaps as early as today, the Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision that could be pivotal for voting rights. Shelby County vs. Holder may become as much a part of our popular lexicon as Roe vs. Wade and Brown vs. Board of Education.

Editorials: Restoring the Vote in Virginia | New York Times

Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia enlarged democracy on Wednesday when he announced an order requiring the automatic restoration of voting rights for nonviolent offenders who have historically had to fight through a bureaucratic maze to gain access to the polls. Governor McDonnell’s order, which could cover more than 100,000 people, reflects a growing awareness that disenfranchisement serves no rehabilitative purpose — and may, in fact, contribute to further criminal behavior by forcing former offenders to the margins of society. In all, nearly six million Americans — about 2.5 percent of the voting-age population — are barred from voting by a confusing patchwork of state laws that strip convicted felons of the right to vote, often temporarily, but sometimes for life. Nearly two dozen states have softened their disenfranchisement policies since the late 1990s, with several states repealing or scaling back lifetime bans.

Editorials: Restoring voting rights to Virginia felons | The Washington Post

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) nudged Virginia into the 21st century Wednesday by decreeing a new system to restore voting rights automatically to nonviolent felons who have paid their debt to society. The governor’s move is courageous and consequential: In time — more time than many would like — it should enfranchise tens of thousands of ex-convicts, most of whom would otherwise be frozen out of elections indefinitely. Mr. McDonnell’s move does not solve the entire problem. It excludes those convicted of violent felonies, including some drug crimes. At least 40 percent of the estimated 300,000 to 400,000 felons, plus several thousand released from prison each year, will remain ineligible to vote unless they undergo a lengthy waiting period and submit a complex application. In practice, few do so.

Editorials: The Irrelevance of Iran’s Presidential Election | Mahmood Delkhasteh/Huffington Post

The main function of elections in democracies is to enable the exercise of the people’s authority over the power of the state by establishing a government to implement policies which the public has voted for. Iran’s government, however, is bound by a constitution which states that a “supreme leader” has ultimate power over all branches of state and government. Elections of such a government, in effect, legitimize a regime which deprives people of their right to determine the state in which they live. In fact, what appears to be the “election” in Iran is only the shell of a political form; a remnant of the early years of the revolution and the first draft of the country’s constitution in which the sole source of legitimacy for any government was to be the people’s vote. But due to a power struggle between democratic and dictatorial interests, the constitution was rewritten to enshrine two competing sources of legitimacy: the people’s vote and the Velayat-e Faqih (the rule of the jurist or supreme leader). At the time, the position of supreme leader was filled by the undisputed leadership of Ayatollah Rohollah Khomeini. Eventually, this constant tension between the two sources of legitimacy led Khomeini, at the end of his life, to tilt the balance of power further towards the supreme leader, thereby increasing his role in the constitution from a mainly observatory status to one of absolute power. The preservation of the regime became an ultimate and absolute duty, thus justifying virtually any act towards this end.

Editorials: Keep the Clunkers Away From the New York Polls | New York Times

New York City’s Board of Elections has complained for weeks that the electronic voting machines first used in 2010 cannot handle the city’s tight primary elections schedule. But one solution, endorsed by the board and under consideration in Albany, seems absurd. The board and the State Legislature are talking about scrapping the new machines and replacing them with the old metal clunkers, with their creaky levers, that went out of production more than 30 years ago. The issue arises because the primary elections are set for Sept. 10. State law requires a runoff two weeks later if no one receives more than 40 percent of the vote in citywide races, which seems likely with at least five competitive candidates in the Democratic mayoral race. But the board claims it needs more than two weeks to reset the electronic machines and print new ballots.

Editorials: Choosing Our Oil Over Their Democracy: Elections as Farce in Equatorial Guinea | David Shook/Huffington Post

An Equatorial Guinean friend sends me a message on Facebook. Abrazo. A hug. He’s upset, because to walk to work he’s had to pass through Malabo’s Plaza de la Mujer, which is currently occupied by a large contingent of riot police and K-9 units, not unlike the Ukrainian mercenaries that searched my luggage on the tarmac of the Bata airport in 2011, on a short domestic flight from Equatorial Guinea’s island capital Malabo. This Sunday, May 26, 2013, was the latest Parliamentary Election under President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, now the longest serving African head of state, following the 2011 overthrow of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi. Obiang, who overthrew his despotic uncle Francisco Macías in late 1979, has since held five presidential elections, though he ran as the only candidate in the first three and de facto sole candidate in the last two, when most opposition parties called for boycotts. Rightfully so — in 2002 one Guinean precinct registered 103 percent of the vote in Obiang’s favor. Tutu Alicante, Executive Director of the nonprofit EG Justice, which presses for human rights and the rule of law in Equatorial Guinea, said, “The sad truth is that Equatoguineans have never experienced a free and fair election.”

Editorials: Cleaning up Indiana state registration offers confidence at polls | Fort Wayne News Sentinel

It’s not a lot of money in the big scheme of things, but the $2 million designated in the recent session of the General Assembly will begin the messy but necessary process of cleaning up Indiana’s voter registration rolls. Bloated voters rolls in every one of the state’s 92 counties contain the names of people who have moved away, are in prison or have died. Their presence on the registration lists make elections vulnerable to the type of shenanigans that can truly affect the outcome of elections. Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson is in charge of the state’s elections and led the charge to obtain the funds for the statewide project. She knows the importance of cleaning up the voter rolls in maintaining the integrity of the elections and meeting requirements of state and federal laws.

Editorials: North Carolina bill prolongs unfair disenfranchisement of ex-felons | Charlotte Observer

Proponents of felony disenfranchisement laws tell us these laws are only an extension of the justice system. People like Hans A. von Spakovsky, of the conservative Heritage Foundation, say that people with former felony offenses must prove themselves and that the right to vote should not be a “freebie.” But what the rhetoric does not mention is that felony disenfranchisement is not about crimes or justice, it is about suppressing the right to vote, particularly for African-American males. History tells the story. During the Reconstruction Era the black electorate expanded. Freedmen were voting at higher rates and the color of elected officials was shifting.

Editorials: IRS and Scrutiny: Reviewing Review | Ellen Aprill/Roll Call

IRS employees who review applications for exemption have a duty to ask follow-up questions of applicants, including groups affiliated with the tea party. In the current controversy, IRS reviewers wrongly singled out conservative groups for unusually exacting follow-up. In a number of these cases, they also asked inappropriate questions, such as the identity of donors. Some media reports, however, imply that the IRS cannot and should not ask any questions of applicants for exemption, that any inquiry invades privacy and violates the First Amendment. That implication is wrong. An organization that seeks an IRS acknowledgment of its exempt status subjects itself to scrutiny — scrutiny designed to ensure that the group in fact qualifies for the benefit of tax exemption. Twenty-nine categories of organization are exempt from income tax under section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code. A few of these categories require an application for recognition of exemption. For example, section 501(c)(3) exempts charities and entitles organizations satisfying its requirements to receive tax-deductible contributions. Most entities seeking to qualify as 501(c)(3) exempt charities must file an application. (Churches and very small organizations are not subject to the application requirement.)

Editorials: Voting Rights Act needed even with increased African-American balloting | David Gans/Fort Worth Star Telegram

Sometime before the end of June, the Supreme Court will decide Shelby County v. Holder, a constitutional challenge to the preclearance provision of the Voting Rights Act, one of the law’s most important guarantees against racial discrimination in voting. Shelby County has argued that the act is unnecessary and outdated and has urged the Supreme Court to hold it unconstitutional on that basis. With the court’s decision looming, a number of recent commentators have suggested that, in light of recent voter turnout data, the Voting Rights Act is no longer needed. They are wrong. For example, in The Wall Street Journal, examining what he calls the “good news about race and voting,” Andrew Kohut, founding director of the Pew Research Center, argues that in recent presidential elections very few citizens, whatever their race, have reported difficulties with going to the polls to exercise their right to vote. Kohut notes that, in the last several presidential elections, African-American voter turnout has steadily increased.

Editorials: Who's the Right Watchdog for Nonprofits' Political Activity? | Roll Call

An obvious danger of the IRS political targeting scandal is that congressional and federal investigations will produce much heat but little light. As House Ways and Means ranking Democrat Sander M. Levin of Michigan cautioned at that panel’s opening IRS hearing last week, members of Congress “must seek the truth, not political gain.” Even nonprofit sector leaders warn that recent IRS scrutiny, while long overdue, will exacerbate the agency’s many problems instead of fix them. “The thing that we don’t want to happen is for the appropriate anger of lawmakers to result in the wrong outcome,” said Diana Aviv, president of Independent Sector, a coalition of nonprofits and philanthropic community leaders. While “there should be consequences for people who misused their position,” she added, the IRS should not “pull back” from curbing abuses by politically active tax-exempt groups.

Editorials: Motor Voter Made All the Difference | David Orr/Huffington Post

Twenty years ago, I stood next to President Bill Clinton as he signed the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) into law. This monumental legislation made it easier for millions of Americans to register to vote by offering registration at driver’s license facilities. Before 1993, registrants had to seek out, or be sought out by, an official deputy registrar. Rules varied by state and burdensome procedures prevented so many from voting. Today, 16 million voters get registered each year thanks to the so-called “Motor Voter” law. Working to pass the legislation is among my proudest achievements, especially since we faced an uphill battle in Illinois. Then-Gov. Jim Edgar refused to offer the new registration forms. Along with the League of Women Voters and the City of Chicago, we sued Edgar and state officials to force implementation. We won.

Editorials: Motor Voter at 20: Successes and Challenges | Miles Rapoport/Huffington Post

It may seem unthinkable now, but as late as the 1980s, Americans in many states had only one option if they wanted to register to vote: Show up in person at a central registrar’s office, which might be open only during restricted business hours and located far from the voter’s home. Even in places where voter registration applications could be distributed outside the registrar’s office, strict limits often applied — such as in Indianapolis where groups like the League of Women Voters were allowed to pick up only 25 voter registration applications at a time. Overly complicated and restrictive procedures meant that fewer and fewer eligible voters were registering — and without registering, they couldn’t vote. Voting rights advocates knew that America must fiercely protect the freedom to vote for all citizens, regardless of race or privilege. So, they began a multi-year campaign to make voter registration more accessible. Their efforts paid off in 1992 when Congress first passed the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), only to see President George H.W. Bush veto the bill. Not to be discouraged, the movement kept fighting, and 20 years ago this week, Congress passed the NVRA and President Clinton signed it into law.

Editorials: IRS scandal is about donors, not tax | Roger Colinvaux/CNN

The outrage over the IRS’s conduct in targeting certain tax-exempt groups is based on a misunderstanding. Obviously, mistakes were made in how the IRS examined the groups, but what should not get lost amid the resulting hue and cry is that this is fundamentally about disclosure of donors, not tax-exempt status. First of all, the IRS is to a certain extent in the “targeting” business. The agency’s job — like it or not — is as an enforcer. It is supposed to go after tax scofflaws. It has to look for clues in tax returns and other materials to find the cheaters and dodgers. In the current scandal, the method of the “targeting” — searching returns for names like “tea party” as indicators of possible misfeasance — was a mistake. But it does not follow that the IRS should not have been looking at these and other groups as a class, without regard to political affiliation.

Editorials: The Real I.R.S. Scandal | New York Times

News that employees at the Internal Revenue Service targeted groups with “Tea Party” or “patriot” in their name for special scrutiny has raised pious alarms among some lawmakers and editorial writers. Yes, the I.R.S. may have been worse than clumsy in considering an avalanche of applications for nonprofit status under the tax code, and that deserves scrutiny whether or not the agency’s employees were spurred by partisan motives. After all, some of these “tea party” groups are most likely not innocent nonprofit organizations devoted to the cultural significance of hot beverages — or to other, more civic, virtues. Rather, they and others are groups that may be illegally spending a majority of their resources on political activity while manipulating the tax code to hide their donors and evade taxes (the unwritten rule being that no more than 49 percent of a group’s resources can be used for political purposes).

Editorials: Behind the I.R.S. Mess: A Campaign-Finance Scandal | Steven Rattner/New York Times

Let’s stipulate that the scandal involving the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative nonprofit groups portrays government as if drawn in caricature — an almost Keystone Kops-style comedy of errors on the part of low-level staffers, with a vein of possible political bias. Of course, the matter needs to be fully investigated, those responsible need to be held accountable and procedures need to be put in place to ensure that nothing like this can happen again. But let’s also remember what the I.R.S. brouhaha is not. Unlike the abuse of the I.R.S. by President Richard M. Nixon, in this case there’s no evidence that anyone in the White House had any involvement in — nor even any knowledge of — what was going on within the agency’s Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division.

Editorials: Colorado Passed Broad Election Reform, Other States Should Follow | Myrna Pérez/Huffington Post

State legislatures across the country are hard at work expanding the right to vote. Already, more than 200 bills to improve voting access have been introduced in 45 states in 2013. Friday in Denver, Gov. John Hickenlooper made Colorado the latest to expand rights, joining Maryland, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Virginia, and West Virginia. More legislation is awaiting signature in Florida. To be sure, some states continue to push needless restrictions on the ability of citizens to participate in elections, and voters and their advocates must remain vigilant against any such efforts. Still, the trend is unmistakable: After years of backsliding, states are embracing free, fair, and accessible elections. In many cases, the bills have enjoyed broad bipartisan support, another encouraging trend. Legislators are expanding access to the ballot in a variety of ways, from reducing the burden of voter identification requirements, to modernizing voter registration, to expanding early voting.

Editorials: Connecticut must not roll back voting statutes | Connecticut Post

Since the beginning of 2013, at least 30 states have proposed laws that would curtail voting rights or make voting more difficult. Just one troubling example: In North Carolina, the General Assembly is attempting to cut early voting hours, same-day voter registration, and introduce laws that would shrink the electorate. This is a state that the famous journalist John Gunther once referred to as “the most progressive southern state.” This is a trend that Connecticut cannot afford to follow. Connecticut has always been a leader when it comes to improving and expanding access to democracy. The state’s recently enacted online voter registration and same-day voter registration rules make it easier for more citizens to cast their votes. In addition, the government-backed Citizens Election Program reduces the impact of money on politics and helps ensure elections reflect the will of the voters. All these moves should be applauded.

Editorials: Does high voter turnout produce better politicians? No! | N V Krishnakumar/The Economic Times

Every election, Bangalore voters get lectured. Voting percentage in the city is a dismal 45% to 50% in most elections. Turnout is even lower in municipal elections. Accusations of voter apathy, disinterest in democracy, not doing one’s civic duty and indifference to government affairs are constantly hurled at Bangalore citizens. The Election Commission, advocacy groups, business and political leaders conduct blitzkrieg campaigns urging citizens to make their choice on Election Day. But this begs the question – does high voter turnout facilitate the entry of quality candidates and pave the way for a superior government? Evidence from countries across the globe suggests that high voter turnout has no correlation to quality of contestants nor does it necessarily lead to good governance.

Editorials: How Iranians Vote | Christopher Bollyn/Iran’s View

The Islamic Republic of Iran will have a presidential election on June 14, 2013. As an observer of elections in different countries I find that Iranian election procedures are very similar to those of the most democratic elections held in European nations, such as France. Iranians vote on paper ballots that are counted openly in each polling place in the presence of observers. The tally from each polling station is then verified openly and published by the government after the election. These are the most fundamental and essential elements of a transparent and democratic election, and these are exactly the elements that are sadly missing from elections in the United States. It may come as a surprise but Iranian elections are much more transparent that elections in the United States. The voting process and the counting of the votes in Iran are transparent processes, while most votes in the United States are cast and counted on electronic voting systems run by private companies. The use of computer voting systems in the United States has actually allowed our elections to be stolen because the citizenry has lost its oversight of the crucial vote-counting process entirely. Today, there is virtually no open counting of the votes in polling stations in the United States because nearly all voting “data” is processed in computerized systems – not counted by citizens.

Editorials: Uganda needs an independent Electoral Commission | monitor.co.ug

Mr Badru Kiggundu, chairman of Uganda’s Electoral Commission, recently unveiled the Commission’s Strategic Plan and Road Map for 2016 elections in which it estimates that Shs1.2 trillion is needed for the elections. According to Kiggundu, democracy is expensive and so we should be appreciative if we spend that money to get a democratically elected government. Money alone will, however, not give Uganda a credible democratic election. In the past three elections, a lot of money was spent, but with mixed or negative results. The presidential elections in 2001 and 2006 ended up in the Supreme Court when the loser, Dr Kiiza Besigye, challenged the results that gave President Museveni the victory. On both occasions, the Supreme Court ruled by a split vote in favour of the incumbent but did not deny that the elections were short of being free and fair, given the intimidation, irregularities and open stealing of votes.

Editorials: The I.R.S. Audits Are Condemned | New York Times

The Internal Revenue Service was absolutely correct to look into the abuse of the tax code by political organizations masquerading as “social welfare” groups over the last three years. The agency’s mistake — and it was a serious one — was focusing on groups with “Tea Party” in their name or those criticizing how the country is run. The I.R.S. should have used a neutral test to scrutinize every group seeking a tax exemption for “social welfare” activity — Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal. Any group claiming tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(4) of the internal revenue code can collect unlimited and undisclosed contributions, and many took in tens of millions. They are not supposed to spend the majority of their money on political activities, but the I.R.S. has rarely stopped the big ones from polluting the political system with unaccountable cash.

Editorials: There Is No Good Fix for the IRS Tea Party Problem | Josh Barro/Bloomberg

My colleagues Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas wrote about the Internal Revenue Service’s Tea Party scandal this morning:

The IRS does need some kind of test that helps them weed out political organizations attempting to register as tax-exempt 501(c)4 social welfare groups. But that test has to be studiously, unquestionably neutral.

That’s a nice thought. But is such a test even possible? The IRS didn’t make this mess because its employees are stupid or because they have a political vendetta. It’s because they’ve been given an impossible task: figure out which organizations have missions that are “primarily political” — and come up with definitions for “primarily” and “political” that are neither vague nor politically charged.

Editorials: A Heady Vote in Pakistan | The New Yorker

I traveled through Pakistan for two weeks in late February and early March—a time of particular violence in a country that has suffered much of it in the recent past, in which a common thread in conversations was fear about the forthcoming national vote. “It is going to be a violent election,” a magazine editor told me. And many others echoed him, citing Taliban threats to attack a process they deemed un-Islamic and political parties using violence as a campaign tactic, especially in the edgy city of Karachi, with its ethnically and politically fractured populace. Then, on Saturday, May 11th, Pakistan came out to vote. It was the first time in the country’s turbulent history that a civilian government completed a five-year term in power without being overthrown in a military coup or deposed by a President working in tandem with the military. The past five years have seen a democratically run government, but have also been an era of inflation, low economic growth and intense violence, building up a sense of frustration and certain desperation to change things for better.