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Macedonia: US Denies Backing Gruevski in Macedonia Election | Balkan Insight

The US embassy in Macedonia has dismissed claims made in the pro-government newspaper, Vest, that the US is hoping former prime minister and ruling party leader Gruevski will win the early elections in June. “The United States Government does not endorse candidates in other countries’ elections.  Macedonia is no exception,” the embassy wrote to former Vest editor Goran Mihajlovski, who was dismissed from the paper in December. The daily, now run by a new editorial team, on Wednesday wrote a text called “Gruevski favored by one of the most Circulated US Newspapers” with a subtitle reading: “Washington has its fingers in the Macedonian election race.” The text cites a column in The Washington Times, written by Jason Katz, a public relations professional and a principal of TSG, LLC, a strategic communications, political and policy consultancy.

Full Article: US Denies Backing Gruevski in Macedonia Election :: Balkan Insight.

Ukraine: Elections don’t always lead to democracy, says Kerry | AFP

US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke passionately yesterday about the “incredible yearning for modernity” sweeping across the world, warning that free elections do not necessarily usher in true democracy in many countries. The months of protests in Ukraine that led to the ousting of president Viktor Yanukovich were just one example of “people power” in recent months. Such protests were “a reflection of this incredible yearning for modernity, for change, for choice, for empowerment of individuals that is moving across the world, and in many cases moving a lot faster than political leadership is either aware of or able to respond to,” the top US diplomat told a small group of reporters. The ousting of Yanukovich, like July’s toppling of Egypt’s first democratically elected president Mohamed Mursi, proved that elections by themselves were not always enough. “A democracy is not defined solely by an election,” the top US diplomat argued.

Full Article: Elections don’t always lead to democracy, says Kerry | World | The Malay Mail Online.

Libya: Voters hope for some stability with election of constitutional panel | Middle East Online

Libyans went to the polls Thursday to elect a panel to draft a new constitution in the latest milestone in the chaotic political transition following the overthrow of Moamer Gathafi. There was none of the voter enthusiasm that marked Libya’s first free election in July 2012 as public frustration mounts over the weak central government’s failure to restore order in the wake of the Arab Spring uprising. At Fatma al-Zahra school in the capital’s Hay al-Andalous district, less than 100 of 2,760 registered voters had cast their ballot two hours after polls opened. “It’s still early and it’s a holiday (for the vote). People are having a lie-in,” said Ali Hassan, the official in charge of the polling station. Houda Bouzid, a woman in her 30s, said: “I’ve come to vote for a candidate to push for women’s rights in the new constitution.”

Full Article: .:Middle East Online:::..

Nepal: Need for a turning point towards democratic transition | FIDH

Long-awaited Constituent Assembly (CA) elections will take place in Nepal on 19 November, more than a year after the dissolution of the previous one in May 2012. Given the great hope of the people of Nepal that the newly-elected assembly will succeed in drafting the country’s first constitution in the post-monarchical era, Nepalese authorities should ensure credible and violence-free elections. However, the nomination of candidates involved in serious human rights violations, and threats of boycott, may jeopardize the process. Several candidates, who are suspects in high-profile cases of murder, have been nominated despite repeated calls from national and international organizations and the Supreme Court of Nepal to put vetting measures in place. While the electoral campaign is being marked by a plethora of candidates – approximately 6,000 -, and political parties (122 [1] against 54 in the first CA elections in 2008), some parties, including fringe parties led by the UCPN (Maoist) splinter group, the CPN-Maoist, decided to boycott, and at some point threatened to disrupt the elections.

Full Article: Elections in Nepal: need for a turning point towards democratic transition - FIDH.

Iran: Reformists become targets of crackdown before election | Washington Times

Iran’s rulers are nervous as they prepare for elections in June and hope to avoid the massive street protests that followed the disputed presidential ballot in 2009. The reformist opposition is calling for free elections, and other critics are accusing the theocratic regime of planning to steal the vote. For three months, authorities have been cracking down on dissent in anticipation of the June 14 elections. In February, police arrested 19 journalists working for reform-minded media. On March 6, Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi announced that his ministry had identified a group of 600 “seditious” journalists and “dealt them a blow.” About two weeks later, authorities detained reformist politician Hossein Loghmanian and four associates en route to a meeting with former President Mohammad Khatami, a reformist. The authorities also have shut down most of the private computer networks that allow Iranians to circumvent Internet censorship.

Full Article: Iranians seen as reformists become targets of crackdown before election - Washington Times.

Iran: Iranian politicians call for free elections | The Washington Post

A heated debate about who will be allowed to run in Iran’s presidential election has erupted five months before the vote, stoking concerns about a repeat of the protests that followed the contested 2009 poll. At the heart of the controversy is whether the vote will be what critics of Iran’s electoral system call “free” — that is, cast with a ballot that includes candidates from all of Iran’s various political factions and not just principlists, the conservatives who are loyal to the Shiite Muslim clerical establishment that rules Iran. The loudest calls for an open field of participants are coming from two former presidents and the outgoing one, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Full Article: Iranian politicians call for free elections - The Washington Post.

Libya: Carter Center Observers Encouraged With Libya Vote | VoA News

An official of the U.S.-based Carter Center poll monitoring delegation said the group is pleased with the organization of Libya’s first election in over four decades. Alexander Bick, field director of the Carter Center’s mission in Tripoli, said the poll observer group is encouraged by the level of participation by Libyan voters in the just ended poll. “The High National Election Commission has really done a remarkable job…Many people were wondering, ‘Would Libya be able to hold elections on this very tight timeframe, just coming out of the conflict and with really no history of elections being practiced here,’” said Bick. “I can say with confidence that we’ve been very impressed with the performance of the electoral commission, by the organizational ability that they’ve shown, by their commitment to hold this election on time.  The materials were largely delivered to all the polling places and even against quite challenging odds.”

Full Article: Carter Center Observers Encouraged With Libya Vote.

Egypt: Vote Watched With Hope, and Fears | WSJ.com

In media coverage, on the Web and in tea houses and coffee shops across the Middle East, Egypt’s historic presidential elections were greeted with high hopes as well as apprehension. Residents of Cairo vote in Egypt’s first free presidential election. WSJ’s Charles Levinson reports. The sentiments underscored the deep divisions in the region and cast doubt on the initial euphoria of the Arab Spring, when uprisings toppled longtime leaders in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen but spiraled into war in Syria and a standoff in Bahrain. For activists in Libya, Egypt’s neighbor to the west, as well as in Bahrain and Syria, a smooth election and political transition in the Arab world’s most populous state would be a welcome boost.

Full Article: Egypt Vote Watched With Hope, and Fears - WSJ.com.

Egypt: Vote Watched With Hope, and Fears | WSJ.com

In media coverage, on the Web and in tea houses and coffee shops across the Middle East, Egypt’s historic presidential elections were greeted with high hopes as well as apprehension. Residents of Cairo vote in Egypt’s first free presidential election. WSJ’s Charles Levinson reports. The sentiments underscored the deep divisions in the region and cast doubt on the initial euphoria of the Arab Spring, when uprisings toppled longtime leaders in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen but spiraled into war in Syria and a standoff in Bahrain. For activists in Libya, Egypt’s neighbor to the west, as well as in Bahrain and Syria, a smooth election and political transition in the Arab world’s most populous state would be a welcome boost.

Full Article: Egypt Vote Watched With Hope, and Fears - WSJ.com.

Syria: Opposition leaders urge election boycott | USAToday.com

Exiled Syrian opposition figures on Sunday urged voters to boycott an upcoming parliamentary election, dismissing it as a cynical attempt by President Bashar Assad to hold on to power. The regime has portrayed the vote set for Monday as a sign of its willingness to carry out reforms. The election for a 250-seat parliament comes three months after the adoption of a new constitution that allows for the formation of political parties to compete with the ruling Baath party. However, Assad’s opponents say reforms without their input are a farce and that elections cannot be held under the threat of guns. A U.N.-brokered truce last month has failed to halt a brutal regime crackdown on a 14-month-old uprising against Assad.

Full Article: Syrian opposition leaders urge election boycott – USATODAY.com.

Syria: Opposition leaders urge election boycott | USAToday.com

Exiled Syrian opposition figures on Sunday urged voters to boycott an upcoming parliamentary election, dismissing it as a cynical attempt by President Bashar Assad to hold on to power. The regime has portrayed the vote set for Monday as a sign of its willingness to carry out reforms. The election for a 250-seat parliament comes three months after the adoption of a new constitution that allows for the formation of political parties to compete with the ruling Baath party. However, Assad’s opponents say reforms without their input are a farce and that elections cannot be held under the threat of guns. A U.N.-brokered truce last month has failed to halt a brutal regime crackdown on a 14-month-old uprising against Assad.

Full Article: Syrian opposition leaders urge election boycott – USATODAY.com.

Morocco: Elections challenged by voter mistrust | Yahoo! News

It should be a moment of excitement: Moroccans are choosing a parliament in elections Friday prompted by the Arab Spring’s clamor for freedom. Yet there are few signs here that elections are even taking place. Posters and raucous rallies for candidates are absent in the cities and instead there are just stark official banners urging citizens to “do their national duty” and “participate in the change the country is undergoing.”

“The parties have presented the same people for the past 30 years, the least they could do is change their candidates,” said Hassan Rafiq, a vegetable vendor in the capital Rabat, who said he didn’t plan to vote. Like elsewhere in the Arab world, Moroccans hit the streets in the first half of 2011 calling for more democracy, and King Mohammed VI responded by amending the constitution and bringing forward elections. But since then the sense of change has dissipated.

Full Article: Moroccan elections challenged by voter mistrust - Yahoo! News.

Philippines: Online voting for Pinoys abroad not yet possible | The Philippine Star

he National Citizen’s Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) believes that Internet voting for overseas Filipinos is not yet possible because the country is not equipped technologically. Namfrel senior operations associate Paolo Maligaya said there are other aspects of overseas absentee voting (OAV) that need to be modified to lure Filipinos abroad to register and vote.

“While it may be easy to say that all it takes to vote electronically is a computer and Internet connection, the country might not be equipped enough to handle Internet voting at this time,” Maligaya said. The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is looking at adopting Internet voting for OAV to get more Filipinos abroad to vote in the 2013 mid-term polls.

Full Article: Namfrel: Online voting for Pinoys abroad not yet possible - The Philippine Star » News » Headlines.

Tunisia: Election feat sets high bar for Arab Spring nations lacking its rigor and enthusiasm | The Washington Post

No matter what the results, Tunisia’s landmark election was a monumental achievement in democracy that will be a tough act to follow in elections next month in Egypt and Morocco — and later, in Libya. In just five months, an independent Tunisian commission organized the first free elections in this North African nation’s history. The ballot attracted 80 parties offering candidates, drew a massive turnout by impassioned voters and was effusively praised by international observers.

“I have observed 59 elections in the last 15 years, many of them in old democracies … and never have I seen a country able to realize such an election in a fair, free and dignified way,” said Andreas Gross, a Swiss parliamentarian and the head of the observer delegation for the Council of Europe. “I was elected in Switzerland on the same day in elections that were not much better than here.”

Tunisia’s success, however hard to replicate, is a milestone for the Arab Spring, the wave of popular uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East that have overthrown long-serving leaders and are changing the face of the region.

Full Article: Tunisia’s election feat sets high bar for Arab Spring nations lacking its rigor and enthusiasm – The Washington Post.

Full Article: Tunisia’s election feat sets high bar for Arab Spring nations lacking its rigor and enthusiasm - The Washington Post.

Tunisia: Islamist party claims election victory, set to dominate writing of new constitution | The Washington Post

A moderate Islamist party claimed victory Monday in Tunisia’s landmark elections as preliminary results indicated it had won the biggest share of votes, assuring it will have a strong say in the future constitution of the country whose popular revolution led to the Arab Spring. The Ennahda party’s success could boost other Islamist parties in the North Africa and the Middle East, although Ennahda insists its approach to sharia, or Islamic law, is consistent with Tunisia’s progressive traditions, especially in regards to women’s rights.

Party officials estimated Ennahda had taken at least 30 percent of the 217-seat assembly charged with writing a new constitution for the country. Other estimates put the party’s share from Sunday’s vote closer to 50 percent. Official results are expected Tuesday. International observers lauded the election as free and fair while emphasizing that the parties in the new government must work together and safeguard the rights of women.

Full Article: Tunisian Islamist party claims election victory, set to dominate writing of new constitution - The Washington Post.

Belarus: Protesters in Belarus call for fresh and free elections | Deutsche Welle

Around 1,000 protesters took the streets of the Belarusian capital, Minsk, on Saturday to demonstrate against the authoritarian regime of Alexander Lukashenko and his handling of the country’s worst economic crisis in years. The protesters rallied in the center of Minsk where they called on the government to halt price inflation, free political prisoners and hold free elections.

“Lukashenko has led the country into a political and economic catastrophe,” rally organizer Viktor Ivashkevich said. Minsk has sought to devalue its currency, the ruble, in order to make its exports cheaper and boost its struggling economy. The devaluation, however, has pushed up food prices. Last month, the government lifted restrictions on food prices altogether.

Full Article: Protesters in Belarus call for fresh and free elections | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 08.10.2011.

Poland: Arab Spring activists observing Poland’s election | The Associated Press

A group of Arab Spring activists observing Polish parliamentary elections are championing the spirit of civil society, and say such ballots back home will be milestones in turning hard-won freedoms into lasting democracy.

Fifteen activists and election officials — five from Tunisia, Egypt and Libya — met Friday with deputy foreign ministers Krzysztof Stanowski and Jerzy Pomianowski. They also held a meeting with the members and judges of the State Electoral Commission. Poland is to hold parliamentary elections on Sunday, with Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s Civic Platform party presently leading in opinion polls.

Following this year’s wave of Arab Spring revolutions, the first free elections in decades are to be held in Tunisia on Oct. 23 and in Egypt at the end of November. No elections are yet scheduled for Libya, where dictator Moammar Gadhafi remains in hiding.

Full Article: The Associated Press: Arab Spring activists observing Polands election.

Malaysia: Poll activists call for royal commission | Straits Times

Malaysian activists who staged a mass rally for poll reforms called on Tuesday for a royal probe into the electoral system after the clampdown on their weekend protest.

Bersih 2.0, a coalition of non-governmental organisations, said it would not abandon its campaign, with Prime Minister Najib Razak widely expected to call elections by early next year. The opposition say voting favours the Barisan Nasional coalition, who have ruled Malaysia for half a century but saw their majority slashed in the previous general election, in 2008.

Full Article: Malaysian poll activists call for royal commission.

Thailand: Asian Observer Group Commends Thai Election, Cites Minor Flaws | VoAnews

An Asian election monitoring group has hailed Thailand’s nationwide election as final results were tallied for being generally peaceful, orderly and allowing the public to express their voice. But, the Asian Network for Free Elections also cited some flaws in the polls and warned the Thai military not to intervene in politics.

ANFREL congratulated Thailand for holding a peaceful and orderly vote with a large voter turnout. Thailand’s Election Commission estimates more than 70 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots in Sunday’s election.

Full Article: Asian Observer Group Commends Thai Election, Cites Minor Flaws | Southeast Asia | English.

Ghana: Ghanaians prefer election of rulers to other methods

Surveys from the Afro barometer indicates that 73 per cent of Ghanaians now prefer elections to any other method of selecting their rulers. Even though the study indicated that the two leading political parties in Ghana, the National Democratic Congress and the New Patriotic Party, enjoy specific social support base, this has not led to competing economic policies for the people.

Dr. Kwesi Jonah, Head of the Political Science Department, University of Ghana, made the assertions during a public forum, organized by the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences with support from the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, in Accra. The three-day event scheduled for 27 to 29 June, 2011, is on the theme: “Elections and the Democratic Challenges in Africa.”

Full Article: Ghanaians prefer election of rulers to other methods.