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.
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.
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.”
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  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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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…
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: 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Egypt’s ruling military council remains committed to holding parliamentary elections in September, despite mounting calls for a delay, a military source told AFP on Monday.
“The military council insists on what it has already announced regarding (holding) elections at the end of September, in accordance with the result of a referendum” held in March, the source said. The military council was responding to statements by Vice President Yehia al-Gamal, who told a satellite channel on Sunday that the army had agreed to postpone the polls to December.
In March, Egyptians voted 77 percent in favour of constitutional amendments which confirmed the army’s proposed timetable for parliamentary elections ahead of the drafting of a new constitution.
Colonel Moammar Gadhafi’s son said the strongman was willing to hold free elections and step aside if he loses, while Russia and China urged the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to “meticulously adhere” to United Nations’ resolutions authorizing force in the war-torn country.
The moves, which come amid mounting international pressure to find a resolution to Libya’s four-month conflict, could test the unity of alliance states seeking the regime’s ouster.
Madagascar’s feuding political leaders ended two days of talks on Tuesday without signing a deal on ending the crisis sparked by strongman Andry Rajoelina’s takeover of the island two years ago.
The talks, which were convened by the 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC), ended at about 6pm (4pm GMT) with a press statement that sought to highlight the common ground between the 11 political parties present but did not say why the leaders had failed to reach an agreement.
Somalia’s feuding leaders agreed on Thursday to extend the mandate of both government and parliament for a year and hold elections by August next year.
The mandate for Somalia’s latest transitional government was meant to expire in August but President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, a former Islamist rebel leader, and speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, who covets the top job, had been at loggerheads over what should happen then.
“We agree to defer elections of the President and the Speaker and his deputies for twelve months after August,” a deal signed by the Somali president and speaker in Uganda said.
Tunisia’s first election following the ouster of its long-serving President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in January last has been put off by three months, reports said on Wednesday. Consequently polls for electing the country’s new Constituent Assembly will now be held on October 23.
Announcing the postponement, Interim Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi said the Electoral Commission had asked for time-out ostensibly for resolving technical problems.
He said there were several Tunisians who had reservations on delaying elections. Even the interim government had been initially reluctant but it nonetheless wanted polls to take place in a transparent manner.
Vote-buying is a concern in Thailand’s upcoming national election, an international monitoring group that will be observing the polls said on Monday.
The Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) is deploying about 60 observers nationwide for the July 3 vote, the first since Thailand’s deadliest political unrest in decades last year.
The opposition Wednesday called a daylong general strike at the weekend to protest the government’s scrapping of Bangladesh’s system of holding elections under neutral caretaker administrations in a country prone to polling violence. Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir – acting secretary general of the Nationalist Party, which leads an opposition alliance – announced the nationwide strike for Sunday, saying the party had resolved to go all-out against the government plan.
The central standing committee of the Nationalist Party said earlier that the party would not join elections unless there is a caretaker government system for holding free and fair polls. Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, a Nationalist Party ally, also called a strike Sunday.
Tunisia will keep the initial date of constituent assembly elections, the cabinet said on Tuesday (May 25th). The announcement came a few days after electoral commission chief Kamel Jendoubi suggested that the vote might be postponed until October due to “the lack of proper conditions”.
The transitional government has been “committed” to free elections on July 24th “since the day it took office”, the cabinet maintained in a communiqué. The same was said by Interim President Foued Mebazaa in March “after consultation and national consensus”, the statement read.
It’s official. Thailand will go to the polls on July 3. It’s supposed to be a goodnews after more than two tumultuous years of political unrest under Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s administration. It is the first election since street demonstrations in Bangkok last year by the anti-government “Red Shirt” protesters, supporters of deposed former premier Thaksin…