The ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) of Hun Sen is poised to sweep a Senate election at the weekend, helping to consolidate the prime minister’s rule of more than 30 years amid a crackdown on the opposition. Sunday’s election for 58 members of the 62-strong Senate will see 123 members of parliament and 11,572 commune councilors vote at 33 polling stations across Cambodia. Two Senate members each are appointed by the king and the National Assembly. But rights groups and opposition politicians say the Senate vote is a farce that shows Hun Sen, who faces a national election in July, is not committed to multi-party democracy. Almost half of the commune councilors have been stripped of their right to vote in Sunday’s election after their opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was dissolved by a court last November at the request of Hun Sen’s government.
Haitians voted Sunday for the first time in four years in a test of stability for an impoverished country continually rocked by political turmoil. Men armed with rocks and bottles attacked polling stations in the capital of Port-au-Prince and two dozen voting centers around the country were forced to close due to violence, according to officials. Voting was extended two hours at some polling stations that opened late or were forced to suspend voting. The Caribbean nation of about 10 million people has struggled to build a stable democracy ever since the overthrow of the dictatorship of the Duvalier family, which led Haiti from 1957 to 1986, and ensuing military coups and election fraud. The country was also devastated by an earthquake in 2010 that flattened large parts of the capital, including the presidential palace, killings tens of thousands of people.
Electoral Management Bodies (EMBs) such as the National Electoral Commission (NEC) and Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC), the judiciary and media should not be partisan, but remain neutral to lay ground for free and fair elections. “Elections require strong and resilient institutions. To ensure organisation and management of elections do not degenerate into chaos, violence, fraud and other unintended consequences, all stakeholders need to be contented with legitimacy of the electoral process,” a senior official with a UN agency has said. Mr Alvaro Rodriguez, the UN Resident Coordinator and Resident Representative of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) said this in Dar es Salaam yesterday, at the Judges’ Sensitisation Workshop on the Electoral Process in Tanzania, an event which brought together 46 Judges of the Appeals Court of Tanzania and Judges of the High Court on the Mainland.
The US, Britain and Norway on Monday blasted Sudan for failing to hold free and fair elections which alleged war criminal President Omar al-Bashir is widely expected to win. In a joint statement the three countries said they “regret the government of Sudan’s failure to create a free, fair, and conducive elections environment.” They blamed low voter turnout on “restrictions on political rights and freedoms” as well as continued fighting in parts of the country.
Botswana, a tiny landlocked country north of South Africa, held an election over the weekend. The result was a victory for the incumbent, the Botswana Democratic Party, but by the narrowest margin in the country’s electoral history. It was an alarming campaign. As Amy Poteete points out at The Washington Post, the run-up to the election featured some extremely ugly politics, including the death of an opposition politician under mysterious circumstances and the alleged kidnapping and torture of others by the security apparatus. One journalist fearing for his life fled to South Africa, and his editor was charged with sedition. Nevertheless, the election itself appears to have been free of overt fraud. To folks unfamiliar with the region, all this may seem like typical African politics. But Botswana has always been the great exception to the rule. It is the only country in the entire continent to have had free and fair elections since the end of colonial rule. But it seems even Botswana is now dealing with the same sort of postcolonial troubles that have afflicted most other African nations.
In compliance with stipulations in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Protocol on Good Governance which asks parliaments to pass electoral acts not less than six months before elections, the Senate yesterday passed 2014 Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill with a provision empowering the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to adopt electronic voting device if it so wishes. This decision was a marked departure from the parliament’s earlier decision which prohibited the use of electronic voting machine as provided in Section 152 (2) of the 2010 Electoral Act. This provision was however, amended in 2014 Electoral Act with a view to enabling INEC to determine the form of voting it chooses to adopt whether it is electronic or otherwise. “Voting at an election under this Act shall be in accordance with the procedure determined by the INEC,” it said.
Participation in an informal poll to gauge Hong Kong’s desire for democracy is exceeding expectations, helped on Sunday by hundreds of volunteers who are reaching potential voters in subway stations and shopping malls, bringing American-style retail politics to one small corner of the People’s Republic of China. Three days into a 10-day voting period, more than 689,000 ballots had been cast, equal to almost one-fifth of the number of registered voters in Hong Kong, a former British colony that was returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997. Organizers had publicly said they hoped for at least 100,000 participants in the poll, which has been condemned as “illegal and invalid” by the central government in Beijing. Most votes have been cast online — on computers through a website or by smartphones with an app — but on Sunday, polling centers opened across Hong Kong, and people voted in curtained booths. The poll is nonbinding and does not have the backing of the Hong Kong government.
After local elections on March 30, Turkish opposition figures are up in arms, claiming to have incontrovertible evidence of widespread voting fraud and calling into question the institutional integrity of Turkey’s electoral system for the first time in recent history. While criticized for many other democratic deficiencies since the establishment of the republic in 1923, Turkey has generally been recognized by the international community as holding free and fair elections. The majoritarian victories and even consistent electoral gains of the ruling Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi, or AKP) over the last three general elections were accepted as legitimate. Unprecedented as they were, these election wins were understood mainly as approval of the tangible benefits available to AKP supporters during Turkey’s period of sustained economic growth and general political apathy or lack of a credible alternative among its opposition rather than as any kind of electoral foul play.
The New Democrats are forcing a debate in the House over whether to hold cross-Canada consultations on the government’s proposed changes to federal election laws. The party is using its opposition day, a day set aside for it to set the subject of debate in the House, to present a motion that would instruct the procedure and House affairs committee to travel the country and seek input from Canadians. NDP Deputy Leader David Christopherson called the Conservatives a “serial-cheating government” that’s trying to “pre-cheat” the next election through the proposed changes. New Democrat MP Craig Scott called the bill the “unfair elections act,” playing off the government’s title for the bill, the fair elections act.
In the latest episode of what appears to be a serial coup in the Maldives, the country’s Supreme Court – apparently at the behest of allies of the former dictator, Islamists, and powerful business figures – threw out the results of the first round of presidential elections just hours before the scheduled date of the second round in which pro-democracy leader Mohamed Nasheed was expected to win handily. On October 10, the Court also invalidated all registered voters (the greatest number of whom had supported Nasheed) and called for the re-registration of everyone who wished to participate in a new presidential election, which they scheduled for October 19, only nine days later. This has raised concerns that the rushed and largely unsupervised re-registration process will allow anti-democratic forces to add the names of non-existent supporters of their candidates to the rolls while purging large numbers of Nasheed supporters. The Economist, noting that the police were getting “suspiciously strong powers of oversight” in the repeat election, observed that the impact of the ruling of the Court, dominated by appointees of a former dictator, is that “the crooked and the powerful are telling voters to go away and try again until they come up with a different result. ”
The president of Mali’s election commission has raised doubts over its ability to stage presidential polls seen as essential to restoring democracy to the conflict-scarred country on the planned date of July 28. A caretaker government announced the vote just one month ago, raising a number of urgent questions over the possibility of free and fair elections in a nation recovering from a coup that paved the way for Islamist rebels to seize control of the north. “It will be extremely difficult to organise the first round of the presidential election on July 28,” Mamadou Diamountani said late on Thursday. Diamountani told AFP there were still “many challenges to overcome” before a nationwide vote could take place throughout the west African state. “Firstly, we have to recognise that the production of polling cards is way behind behind schedule. But this is the only document that allows the voter to vote. It isn’t just an identity card, but also a voter registration card,” he said.
Iranian opposition figures with various political allegiances have set aside differences and united to condemn the 14 June presidential election as a charade, saying the exclusion of candidates showed it lacks legitimacy. Exiled Iranians from different political groups including republicans, leftists, constitutional monarchists and the green movement gathered for a two-day conference in Stockholm at the weekend, organised by the umbrella group United for Democracy in Iran (UDI) to scrutinise the vote. Iran’s constitutional body last week disqualified a large number of candidates from standing in the election and only allowed eight candidates. Former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the leading opposition-backed candidate, was among those blocked from standing in the race.
If all goes according to plan, election-watchers of all sorts will be thick on the ground for Malaysia’s upcoming thirteenth general elections. Admittedly, that plan is dependent upon rounding up and training an extraordinary number of volunteers, and doubtless will be forced to exclude the least accessible, but purportedly most watch-worthy districts. But what tends to get lost in the tea leaf-reading and data-crunching of this long-awaited showdown is the why behind such widespread interest in process and participation, which extends well beyond the polls themselves. Malaysia has seen heightened mobilization since 2008, if not since Reformasi in the late 1990s—part of why the unusually prolonged run-up to the polls has seemed so, well, long. This more sustained mobilization represents a true trend toward “democratization” in Malaysia, beyond the mere act of voting.
Fiji’s Electoral Commission will be set up once the new Constitution is in place. Once established, it will be responsible for registering voters and conducting free and fair elections. The Commission consists of a chairperson and four others – appointed by the President – on the advice of the Prime Minister. Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says their appointment will be made once the constitution has been adopted. “Because the Electoral Commission needs to be appointed under the Constitution and I would suspect that would be the first thing that needs to be done.”
A group of House Democrats re-introduced a bill this session that would affect how local governments run their elections in certain political subdivisions. Known as the Washington Voting Rights Act, House Bill 1413 is intended to address underrepresentation of minority groups in local government. The bill prohibits unfair elections in which members of a protected class (members of a racial, ethnic or language minority) are unable to influence an election and/or receive adequate representation in local political subdivisions. To affect how elections are operated in local government districts, persons of a minority group must provide evidence that polarized voting has occurred and that members of a protected class, while maybe a smaller percentage of the total electorate, do not have an equal opportunity to influence election results. Polarized voting may be observed when there is a disparity between the candidate chosen by voters of a protected class or by those of the remainder of the electorate.
International experts have strongly criticized the current rules regulating the presidential election in the USA. According to the Global Commission on Elections, Democracy and Security, headed by the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the non-transparency and maximum dependence of the US election system on financial investments undermine the society’s belief in the principles of equality and democracy. In its report the commission consisting of a number of former world leaders and Nobel Prize winners says that there is an alarming tendency evident all over the world – a sharp growth of influence of the financial elite on election results.
The media rewrites history every day, and in so doing it often impedes our understanding of the present. Mexico’s presidential election of a week ago is a case in point. Press reports tell us that Felipe Calderón, the outgoing president from the PAN (National Action Party) “won the 2006 election by a narrow margin.” But this is not quite true, and without knowing what actually happened in 2006, it is perhaps more difficult to understand the widespread skepticism of the Mexican people as to the results of the current election. The official results show Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) candidate Enrique Peña Neto winning 38.2 percent of the vote, to 31.6 percent for Andrés Manuel López Obrador, of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and 25.4 percent for Josefina Vázquez Mota of the PAN. It does not help that the current election has been marred by widespread reports of vote-buying.
As ballot measure sponsors prepare to turn in their signatures Friday, perhaps only one of proposals will likely qualify for the November election, with one still up in the air. A campaign finance measure is expected to qualify, but proposals to legalize marijuana for adults and to let a person accused of a crime to argue the merits of the law to the jury won’t make the ballot, backers said. It was unclear Thursday whether a so-called “personhood” measure, which would essentially ban abortion, will qualify. Backers were confident Thursday they had enough signatures to qualify Initiative 166. It is a policy statement saying that corporations aren’t human beings with constitutional rights and that money isn’t speech. It is a nonbinding measure telling Montana’s congressional delegation to support a federal constitutional amendment to nullify the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in the Citizens United case that removed restrictions on political speech for corporations and unions.
Kuwait’s cabinet has resigned after protesters and opposition deputies demanded that the prime minister step down over allegations of corruption, state-run television has reported. “The prime minister [Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad Al-Sabah] has submitted his resignation to the emir,” Kuwait TV said, without specifying whether it had been accepted. Earlier, opposition member Khaled al-Sultan said the cabinets’s resignation was accepted amid a bitter political dispute between the prime minister and opposition MPs. “We are waiting for the appointment of a new prime minister before parliament is dissolved in order to be assured of fair elections,” the Sultan told reporters outside parliament. Parliament speaker Jassem al-Khorafi said he had not been informed about a dissolution of parliament.
Three weeks before campaigning for the Jakarta gubernatorial election gets under way, poll officials have met with the media to emphasize the rules of campaigning. The Elections Supervisory Committee (Panwaslu) of Jakarta again called on media outlets to refrain from conducting a quick count before voting ended in the upcoming gubernatorial election. “Quick count surveys are not allowed while votes are cast between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m.,” the head of Panwaslu’s Jakarta office, Ramdansyah, said on Saturday. He said a quick count survey conducted before polling booths closed would violate rules set out by Jakarta’s General Elections Commission (KPUD).
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Georgia’s leaders Tuesday to strengthen their democracy by ensuring that upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections are “free and fair”. Clinton also reaffirmed US support for the territorial integrity of the former Soviet republic that is a strong US ally, calling on Russia to pull back its forces from Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. She delivered her message in meetings with Prime Minister Nika Gilauri and representatives of the country’s opposition parties after arriving late Monday from Armenia as part of her European tour.
The government has not worked out an electoral system but is leaning towards a mixed formula featuring the proportional list and the majority system, Prime Minister Awn Khasawneh told union leaders on Tuesday. The meeting with the heads of the country’s 14 professional associations was one of a series of meetings the premier initiated on Monday to arrive at consensus over the new elections law, under which national polls are expected to be held this year. The government is expected to submit the bill to Parliament before April, according to a time schedule it has committed itself to.
The conduct of the general election last Thursday has earned the approval of the Organisation of American States (OAS), even as two other observer groups, including the Caricom Observer Mission, rated the poll among the best the island has experienced. According to the OAS, the way the polls were held was testament to the “maturity” of Jamaica’s democracy, giving them a passing grade.
The third organisation to give the process the ‘thumbs up’ is the local Citizens’ Action for Free and Fair Elections (CAFFE), whose only criticisms were that the slow casting of ballots where the Electronic Voter Identification and Ballot Issuing System (EVIBIS) was in use and that some polling stations were inaccessible to the elderly and the disabled. Despite the low voter turnout, CAFFE director Dr Lloyd Barnett rated Thursday’s proceedings “fairly highly”.
“…In relation to the actual conduct, the absence of open voting, the absence of intimidation, the observance of the rules – I think this must be rated as probably one of the best, if not the best [election],” Barnett told the Sunday Observer on Friday.
The Cabinet approved during its session yesterday that was chaired by Prime Minister Awn Khasawneh, a law governing the independent commission that will oversee and manage parliamentary elections.
Under the draft law which will become effective after being published in the Official Gazette and after passing through all its constitutional stages, the commission will oversee and manage parliamentary elections. The commission will also oversee other elections decided by the Cabinet in line with legislation.
Chairman of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) Professor Errol Miller says Jamaica can be proud of its electoral system, which has improved significantly since Universal Adult Suffrage in 1944 and continues to advance through the leadership of the ECJ.
“The reform of the country’s electoral process is one of the great accomplishments of the Jamaican people since Independence,” he told JIS News. “We have reached a stage where our electoral process is recognised around the world, and measures we have developed here are being adopted elsewhere. We are called upon to assist many countries in the Caribbean and outside, and our people serve on various committees and are part of various bodies,” he said.
According to Professor Miller, Jamaica adopted from its colonial masters a “flawed electoral process” and from 1944 until 1979 the electoral process was managed ‘colonial style, on a winner take all’ system. “The party in Government sets the laws, conducts the elections, and Parliament itself sets the boundaries of constituencies all to their advantage,” he said.
Tens of thousands of Russians took to the streets in Moscow on Saturday shouting “Putin is a thief” and “Russia without Putin,” forcing the Kremlin to confront a level of public discontent that has not been seen here since Vladimir V. Putin first became president 12 years ago. The crowd overflowed from a central city square, forcing stragglers to climb trees or watch from the opposite riverbank. “We exist!” they chanted. “We exist!”
Opposition leaders understood that for a moment they, not the Kremlin, were dictating the political agenda, and seemed intent on leveraging it, promising to gather an even larger crowd again on Dec. 24.
Saturday’s rally served to build their confidence as it united liberals, nationalists and Communists. The event was too large to be edited out of the evening news, which does not ordinarily report on criticism of Mr. Putin. And it was accompanied by dozens of smaller rallies across Russia’s nine time zones, with a crowd of 3,000 reported in Tomsk, and 7,000 in St. Petersburg, the police said.
The protests certainly complicate Mr. Putin’s own campaign to return to the presidency. He is by far the country’s most popular political figure, but he no longer appears untouchable and will have to engage with his critics, something he has done only rarely and grudgingly.
The Electoral Commission is expected to undergo reforms in an effort to create an environment for free and fair elections in 2014.
Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said inefficiencies in the previous election process could not be blamed entirely but instead problems arose also from a lack in adherence to existing election rules. He added more clearer rules is needed for the election process to avoid repeating mistakes of the past.
An Armenian opposition leader has challenged President Serzh Sarkisian to prove his commitment to hold democratic elections by enacting radical changes to the law and not allowing government resources to be used by his ruling Republican Party (HHK), RFE/RL’s Armenian Service reports.
Sarkisian has pledged to “spare no effort” to ensure that parliamentary elections in May are widely recognized as free and fair. Visiting Brussels earlier this month, Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian (no relation) said the vote will be the most democratic in the country’s history.
Government and the Electoral Commission have finally yielded to both domestic and international pressure and agreed to compliment the biometric voter registration with biometric voter verification at the polling station in order to enhance the integrity of the 2012 elections. However, investigations undertaken by The New Statesman suggest that the ruling party, which has still not come to terms with biometric verification, is shifting the responsibility of funding the process to Ghana’s ‘development partners’.
Biometric verification is the process whereby a registered voter would be required to insert his or her biometric voter’s ID into a battery-operated e-zwich mobile payment system-like machine, place a finger on it for the machine to verify the card-bearer’s true identity before a ballot paper could be issued to a voter to cast his or her ballot.
Barely three weeks to the the November 24th Presidential Election, the chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has embarked on a countrywide tour, meant to sensitise the people about the mandate of his Commission and also stress the importance of peace during the elections.
Mustapha Carayol’s move is indeed worthy of commendation, as it is only an independent and transparent electoral commission that engages the electorate and stakeholders in election at such a degree. The chairman’s additional advice to village heads to allow all political parties campaign in their respective villages is a testimony to this fact. The electorate should pay heed to the IEC chairman’s message, because it is peace that can guarantee us a free and fair election, which is fundamental since one of the most fundamental pillars of democracy is the conduct of periodic free and fair elections.