On Dec. 6 Venezuelans will go to the polls to elect their representatives in high-stakes legislative elections. The vote comes amid international scrutiny over the integrity of the country’s electoral process. The U.S. government, the Organization of American States (OAS) and human rights groups have all called for credible elections. Some in the U.S. media have already indicted the elections’ validity. But these critics ignore the fact that thousands of domestic observers and hundreds of international monitors from the Union of South American Nations and other groups have already signed on to oversee the elections. It is clear that much of the diplomatic posturing is not meant to protect Venezuela’s electoral integrity but to further delegitimize the government of President Nicolás Maduro. No election system is perfect, but Venezuela has one of the most efficient, secure and transparent electoral systems. “The election process in Venezuela is the best in the world,” said former President Jimmy Carter in 2012 — praise echoed by other neutral observers.
A team of U.S.-based lawyers who witnessed last month’s Haitian elections say there is mounting evidence showing a clear pattern of systemic fraud, voter confusion and intimidation, and in some areas disenfranchisement. The report paints a grim picture of a flawed, chaotic electoral process on Oct. 25. Not only were voting procedures inconsistently applied at poorly designed polling stations, the report notes, but the widespread use of observer and political party accreditation led to people voting multiple times and potentially accounts for as much as 60 percent of the 1.5 million votes cast. “Without major corrective measures, these elections will represent a significant setback in Haiti’s long-struggle to consolidate democracy,” said the report based on the observations of a delegation of election monitors from the National Lawyers Guild and International Association of Democratic Lawyers Delegation.
Haiti’s voters have spoken. But nobody’s quite sure what they’ve said. Even tentative results of Sunday’s presidential election likely won’t be known for at least 10 days, despite the fact that the election, which involved 54 presidential candidates and tens of thousands of contenders for other races, went unusually smoothly. Few places in the world take longer to give citizens any hint of who won an election. One reason is that it’s against the law for results to be released by anyone other than the Provisional Electoral Council, whose members are replaced every election cycle. “A lot of the learning that is accrued every time they go through an election process seems to be lost,” said Kenneth Merten, Haiti special coordinator for the U.S. State Department and a former U.S. ambassador to the country.
Ivory Coast’s election commission is expected to announce Tuesday the first results from an election that was widely expected to give President Alassane Ouattara another term in office. The commission has already estimated turnout from Sunday’s vote at around 60 percent, though a civil society group put the figure at 53 percent. The opposition National Coalition for Change expressed further doubts about the turnout, saying many Ivorians stayed home and fewer than 20 percent actually voted.
International observers and Haitian human rights groups on Tuesday sharply criticized the country’s violence-marred legislative elections as poorly policed and organized. At least two people were killed during voting Sunday that was disrupted by attacks and other problems that forced the early closure of at least 26 polling centers. Pierre Esperance, executive director of a national network of human rights groups, said the disruptions were a blow to democracy in the impoverished Caribbean nation. “The rights of the Haitian people have been trampled,” he said. The elections, which were four-and-a-half years overdue in a country still struggling from the effects of a devastating 2010 earthquake, were to choose the Chamber of Deputies and two thirds of the Senate.
Venezuela will hold legislative elections on 6 December, election officials announced on Monday after months of mounting pressure from local opposition groups and international observers. The South American country’s laws mandate that national assembly balloting be held this year, but elections officials had delayed setting a date, raising concerns the contest would be cancelled. In her announcement, the elections council head, Tibisay Lucena, said the organisation had always intended to set a date and was not reacting to public pressure.
Venezuela will hold legislative elections Dec. 6, election officials announced Monday after months of mounting pressure from local opposition groups and international observers. The South American country’s laws mandate that National Assembly balloting be held this year, but elections officials had delayed setting a date, raising concerns the contest would be canceled. In her announcement, elections council head Tibisay Lucena said the organization had always intended to set a date and was not reacting to public pressure. “These attacks and phony analyses from national experts and international figures have mostly been very ignorant,” she said. The date is timed to commemorate the first election of the late President Hugo Chavez, who launched the country’s socialist revolution when voters chose him overwhelmingly on Dec. 6, 1998.
With elections rapidly approaching, the Guinean opposition is putting the pedal to the metal in its campaigns for the country’s communal and presidential contests. The last presidential elections in 2010 resulted in a victory for Alpha Condé, who won 52.5 percent of the vote in the second round of the election against former Prime Minister Cellou Dalein Diallo.
Election officials worked into the night Monday counting the results from Nigeria’s tight presidential vote, while the U.S. and Britain warned of “disturbing indications” the tally could be subject to political interference. Early returns gave former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari seven states while incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan had five, including the Federal Capital Territory. But results from another 25 states were still to be tallied, and 22 states had not yet delivered their results to the counting center in Abuja, indicating a winner could not be announced before Tuesday. As expected, Buhari swept two major northern states of Kano and Kaduna, delivering crushing defeats to Jonathan there. In Kano, the state with the second-largest number of voters, Buhari had 1.9 million votes to Jonathan’s 216,000.
International observers monitoring the second round of legislative elections in the Indian Ocean island nation of Comoros declared the vote free and transparent. Voting held on Sunday on the archipelago took place in an atmosphere of “transparency, freedom and serenity,” Samuel Azu’u Fonkam, head of the observer mission sent by the International Francophonie Organization, told reporters in the capital, Moroni. Municipal elections took place alongside the vote for legislators.
International observers said Sunday they had received complaints of voter intimidation before this week’s Sri Lankan presidential election, in which the incumbent faces a tough battle to win an unprecedented third term. The 55-member panel of monitors told reporters they had already received complaints that the military had set up 400 roadblocks to discourage minority Tamils from voting freely in former war zones. “According to the opposition these roadblocks are to keep away the voters… (but) we are told (by the authorities) that the military has no role to play in these election,” said the monitoring team leader S. Y. Quraishi. “We are yet to see that.” He said international observers would Monday begin fanning out to the 22 electoral districts across the island to check out the final rallies.
The vote monitoring arm of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) says Uzbekistan’s parliamentary elections lacked real competition. In a statement on December 22, the head of the limited observation mission sent by the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) said freedom of expression and association are crucial to conducting free and fair elections. The December 21 elections “were competently administered but lacked genuine electoral competition and debate,” Daan Everts said. “More comprehensive steps are needed to provide voters with real electoral choices,” Everts said. Four parties, all of which support President Islam Karimov, competed for 135 seats in the 150-seat lower house of parliament. The remaining 15 seats will automatically go to the pro-government Ecological Movement.
Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko has denounced elections which are due to be held in the east of Ukraine in November by rebels. Under a new law signed by the president earlier this week, parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions have been given ‘special status’ with three-year self-rule and can hold elections on 7 December. The separatists have ignored this and set their own date a month earlier for 2 November. Poroshenko has just returned from Milan where he met with EU leaders and Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Fiji’s election has been thrown into confusion as a united opposition says it has evidence of fraud, contradicting international observers’ findings that the election result looked to be in line with what people wanted. Provisional results give Rear Adm. Voreqe Bainimarama’s party, Fiji First, a convincing lead with more than 60% of the vote, according to data released by the Fijian election authority early Thursday. The military strongman has ruled Fiji for eight years. The nearest opposition, the Social Democratic Liberal Party, known as Sodelpa, won just 27% of the vote, the election authority said. Final results aren’t expected for several days. Peter Reith, the Australian co-leader of the Multinational Observers Group, said that after talking to 92 observers from 15 countries, it had been concluded the elections were “on track to broadly represent the will of the Fijian voters.”
Thousands of Fijians got their first chance to vote in eight years on Wednesday in an election that promises to finally restore democracy to the South Pacific nation of 900,000. Military strongman Voreqe Bainimarama, who has ruled Fiji since he seized control in a 2006 coup, is the frontrunner. He is popular, thanks in part to his focus on social programmes, increased infrastructure spending and a crackdown on the media. In early counting, Bainimarama’s Fiji First party had 59.2% of the vote with 804 of the 2,025 polling stations processed, according to official results reported by the Fiji Times newspaper. Its closest rival, the Sodelpa Party, had 28.1%. After casting his ballot, Bainimarama was asked whether he would accept the outcome if he lost. “I’m not going to lose. I will win. You ask that question to the other party,” he said. Then he added, “Of course we will accept the election results. That is what the democratic process is all about.”
The campaign team of Abdullah Abdullah, the former foreign minister running against Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai for the presidency of Afghanistan, has issued a 24-hour notice to the United Nations and international observers that if changes are not made to processes in the ongoing audit of all 8 million votes cast in the second round of the election, they will back out of the election process entirely. “We will give one day to the international community to review and assure that the vote auditing and the political negotiations are moving forward properly. … If our demands are not met and the auditing not conducted legitimately and the political talks without honesty, then we will withdraw from both processes,” said Abdullah spokesman Syed Fazel Sancharaki. nThe Monday afternoon warning came a week after the team of Reform and Partnership, as Abdullah’s campaign refers to itself, backed out of the audit claiming their concerns about widespread fraud in the June 14 runoff were ignored by the United Nations.
Afghanistan: U.S.-brokered accord to salvage Afghan presidential election faces new problems | The Washington Post
Afghanistan’s election crisis continued to deepen Tuesday as the campaign of second-place candidate Abdullah Abdullah warned that it will abandon a U.S.-brokered deal to end a political stalemate unless major changes are made in how millions of votes are being reexamined. Abdullah adviser Fazal Ahmad Manawi said the candidate has serious concerns that an ongoing audit of more than 8 million votes cast in a June runoff is not stringent enough to catch fraudulent ballots. He called the audit a “joke” and said new procedures must be implemented by Wednesday or Abdullah could walk away from the recount. “If by tomorrow morning our demands . . . are not accepted, our patience has ultimately run out,” said Manawi, who has been who was tasked by Abdullah with monitoring the recount. “We will consider this process a finished one, will not continue in it and not accept it, and the results will have no value to us.”
Since the overthrow of the communist regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam in May 1991, Ethiopia has organised regular elections in which an increasing number of international actors, especially election observers, have been involved. During this period, one political organization, the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), has been dominant. When in control, the prime minister, Meles Zenawi, served continuously as head of government until his death in August 2012. He was succeeded by Hailemariam Desalegn. The tensions and contradictions between external democracy-promoters and the practices and ideals of the Ethiopian leadership were brought into sharp focus after the 2005 and 2010 elections. Both elections led to a diplomatic crisis, especially between the regime and EU observers. However, this conflict did not substantially affect the levels of external aid or the continued dominance of the EPRDF.
Afghanistan: Invalidating fraud votes: Afghan election dispute enters crucial phase | The Express Tribune
Afghanistan’s 10-week election crisis entered a risky new stage on Monday when officials started invalidating fraudulent votes in a process likely to bring to a head the bitter dispute between the presidential candidates. The country has been in paralysis since the June 14 election to choose the successor to President Hamid Karzai, who will step down as US-led NATO troops prepare to end their 13-year war against Taliban insurgents. Karzai has insisted that the delayed inauguration ceremony must be held on September 2, imposing a tough deadline that has raised tensions between supporters of poll rivals Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah. The June vote was quickly mired in allegations of massive fraud, with Abdullah claiming that he had been denied victory after Ghani was declared ahead on preliminary results.
The Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan (IEC) said Monday that the election commissioners are set to meet today to commence decision‐making on the audit of all ballots cast in the Presidential run‐off election of 14 June. “Occurring daily at the National Tally Center, from 25 August until all audit findings have been reviewed, today’s inaugural session is scheduled to begin at 2pm. Candidate agents, national and international observers, United Nations advisors, and media will be present,” IEC said following a statement. The statement furhter added that the commissioners will make their decisions after having reviewed audit findings, as recorded on checklist forms.
With a crucial deadline soon approaching to inaugurate a new president and an election ballot recount in a critical stage, fears are growing that Afghanistan’s fragile transition process could collapse into violence. The quickening pace of a protracted election audit and a flurry of meetings between aides to the two rival candidates this week have raised faint hopes that the country may have a new leader in office within the next two weeks, just in time to attend a NATO summit crucial to future foreign aid for Afghanistan. But Afghan and international observers here warn that the process could easily fall apart, with disputes persisting over the fairness of the ballot recount and the two candidates unable to agree on a division of power after a winner is declared. Under U.S. pressure, they agreed to form a national unity government with a president as well as a chief executive, but they differ strongly on the details.
Australia is sending a team of observers to Fiji to ensure next month’s general elections are free and fair. It will be the first election in Fiji since Frank Bainimarama seized power in a coup in 2006. The Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says Australia is co-leading a 14 member Multinational Observation Group with Indonesia, India and Papua New Guinea. She’s appointed former Defence and Workplace Relations Minister Peter Reith to lead the Australian team, saying he has a “strong interest in supporting democracy internationally.” Mr Reith says it’s a very important moment for Fiji. “It’s a good opportunity for Fiji, and Australia is keen to be of assistance,” he said.
Secretary of state John Kerry said on Saturday both of Afghanistan’s presidential candidates were committed to abiding by the results of the “largest and most comprehensive audit” of the election runoff ballots possible. Kerry stood with the two candidates who are disputing the results of Afghanistan’s presidential election. He announced that finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah had agreed to abide by a 100%, internationally supervised audit of all ballots in the presidential election in Kabul. “Both candidates have committed to participate in and abide by the results of the largest and most comprehensive audit; every single ballot that was cast will be audited,” Kerry said. “This is the strongest possible signal by both candidates of the desire to restore legitimacy to the process.” The audit is expected to take a “number of weeks” and will begin with ballot boxes in Kabul. Ballot boxes from the provinces are to be flown by helicopter to the capital by US and international forces and examined on rolling basis. Observers from each campaign as well as international observers will be involved in the oversight of the review, and the candidate with the most votes will be declared the winner and become president.
Egypt: International Observers Find Egypt’s Presidential Election Fell Short of Standards | New York Times
Egypt’s presidential election fell short of international standards of democracy, two teams of foreign observers said Thursday, a day after the former military officer who led last summer’s military takeover won a landslide victory with more than 95 percent of the vote. “Egypt’s repressive political environment made a genuinely democratic presidential election impossible,” Eric Bjornlund, president of Democracy International, an election-monitoring organization funded by the United States, said in a statement. In an interview, he called the political context “hugely troubling.” A team of European Union observers said in a statement that, despite guarantees in Egypt’s Constitution, respect for the essential freedoms of association and expression “falls short of these constitutional principles.” Robert Goebbels, a Luxembourg member of the European Parliament, summarized the voting process as “free but not always very fair,” noting the winner’s overwhelming advantage in both financial resources and news media attention.
Ukraine: Putin’s Human Rights Council Accidentally Posts Real Crimean Election Results; Only 15% Voted For Annexation | Forbes
The website of the “President of Russia’s Council on Civil Society and Human Rights” posted a blog that was quickly taken down as if it were toxic radioactive waste. According to the Council’s report about the March referendum to annex Crimea, the turnout was a maximum 30%. And of these, only half voted for annexation – meaning…
Hungary: The 2014 Hungarian parliamentary elections, or how to craft a constitutional majority | Washington Post
Last weekend’s parliamentary elections in Hungary should have been a major event, at least within the European Union and the United States. Over the past four years the E.U. and the United States have criticized the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán for its authoritarian, conservative and nationalist tendencies. These were institutionalized in the new constitution, which the government rammed through the toothless Hungarian parliament, in which the national-conservative Fidesz-KDNP party coalition held a constitutional majority. Scores of domestic and foreign observers have highlighted the many problematic parts of the constitution, although very little has been changed as a consequence of these critiques. But these are not ordinary times. The United States is preoccupied with the situation in Ukraine, while the E.U. is crippled by the lingering economic crisis and fears of an anti-European backlash in European elections next month. As a consequence, the Hungarian elections received little special attention from the E.U. and U.S. elite, despite widespread fears that another victory for Orbán, dubbed the “Viktator” by domestic critics, could lead to permanent damage to Hungary’s still-young liberal democracy.
Security has been a scarce commodity in Afghanistan for some time, but the Taliban’s recent spate of attacks intended to disrupt the April 5 elections – and the promise of more to come – have amplified the sense of insecurity. Assaults targeting international observers and the election commission itself have left open questions regarding the legitimacy and the security of Saturday’s vote. In an attempt to calm nerves and promise a safe day at the polls, the Interior Ministry, coupled with Afghan Special Forces, planned a press conference on Thursday to answer security questions. But things did not go as planned; after Wednesday’s deadly attack on the MOI’s compound within central Kabul’s heavily guarded “steel belt”, it started to seem that the Taliban can strike at will. So can the security apparatus improve confidence?
On April 5th, the scheduled date of Afghanistan’s upcoming Presidential election, there will be around a dozen polling centers in Chak, a narrow valley of mud homes and alfalfa farms that lies some forty miles from Kabul. A few of the centers, which are essentially rooms with a section curtained off for voting, will be in schools; others will be in mosques. At least two will be in tents pitched on mountain slopes, near the grazing ranges of nomadic herders. Freshly painted campaign billboards loom over the road into the valley. Tens of thousands of ballots are ready for delivery, and officials are considering a helicopter drop for some of the valley’s most remote reaches. None of this will matter, though, because on Election Day there will not be a single voter or election worker in any of Chak’s polling centers. When I asked a U.S.-backed militia commander in the area, whom I will call Raqib, to explain why, he drew a finger across his throat, and said, “Taliban.”
Two foreign election observer and support missions have pulled staff out of Afghanistan after a Taliban attack on a hotel in Kabul, in a move that could undermine confidence in the outcome of next month’s vote. The presidential election on 5 April could mark the country’s first democratic transfer of power. Many fear a repeat of the widespread fraud that discredited the poll in 2009 when about 20% of votes were thrown out. “It’s really bad news,” said Jandad Spingar, director at the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan, the largest Afghan monitoring group. “Having international observers in the election is really, really important … [to] give legitimacy to the process.”
A former Marxist guerrilla leader won El Salvador’s presidential election by less than 7,000 votes, final results showed on Thursday, and his right-wing rival continued to press to have the vote annulled. Salvador Sanchez Ceren of the ruling Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), which as a militant group fought a string of U.S.-backed governments in a 1980-1992 civil war, won 50.11 percent support in Sunday’s vote, results showed. Challenger Norman Quijano, the 67-year-old former mayor of San Salvador and candidate of the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (Arena) party, had 49.89 percent support. He has filed a claim to annul the election due to fraud. The electoral tribunal’s president, Eugenio Chicas, said the five-member court unanimously validated the election results, showing that Sanchez Ceren beat Quijano by 6,364 votes.