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.Full Article: Nervous Afghans near political deadline - The Washington Post.
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.Full Article: Fiji elections: Australia to co-lead Multinational Observation Group with Indonesia, India and PNG - Australia Network News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).
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.Full Article: Kerry announces 'comprehensive audit' of disputed Afghanistan election | World news | theguardian.com.
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.Full Article: International Observers Find Egypt’s Presidential Election Fell Short of Standards - NYTimes.com.
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 only 15 percent of Crimean citizens voted for annexation. The fate of Crimea, therefore, was decided by the 15 percent of Crimeans, who voted in favor of unification with Russia (under the watchful eye of Kalashnikov-toting soldiers). The official Crimean election results, as reported widely in theWestern press, showed a 97 percent vote in favor of annexation with a turnout of 83 percent. No international observers were allowed. This pro-Russia election pressure would have raised the already weak vote in favor of annexation.Full Article: Putin's Human Rights Council Accidentally Posts Real Crimean Election Results; Only 15% Voted For Annexation.
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.Full Article: The 2014 Hungarian parliamentary elections, or how to craft a constitutional majority.
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?Full Article: Who is watching Afghanistan's elections? - Features - Al Jazeera English.
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.”Full Article: Rigging the Afghan Vote : The New Yorker.
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.”Full Article: Election monitors leave Afghanistan after Kabul hotel attack | World news | theguardian.com.
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.Full Article: Former guerrilla wins El Salvador vote; rival protests | Reuters.
Mali has “turned a page in its political transition”, the European Union says, following a parliamentary election praised by international observers. The results of the second round of elections, which were held on Sunday (15 December), have yet to be announced, but for the EU the principal question was whether the conduct of the election would give the new parliament legitimacy within the country and encourage international donors to follow up on their pledges of support. Voting was marred by a suicide attack in the north-east that killed two Senegalese members of a UN peacekeeping force, but African and European observers said that the election had been acceptably free and transparent. “Nobody would have thought we could organise the return to constitutional order and the rule of law this fast,” said the leader of the EU’s observer mission, Louis Michel, a Belgian Liberal member of the European Parliament. Similar comments were made after the first round on 26 November.Full Article: EU praises parliamentary election in Mali | European Voice.
With clouds of tear gas hanging in the air, hundreds of students sheltered themselves behind the National University’s gates two days after the hotly contested presidential election here. The student groups didn’t come out looking for trouble, they say, but to register their disgust with the country’s election system – which had just proclaimed ruling party Congressman Juan Orlando Hernández Honduras’ next president. Many of these youth were among thousands of university students who sacrificed their chance to vote in order to serve as election custodians, running polling centers in far-flung parts of the country. Though none would give his or her full name, citing fears of reprisal, several recalled witnessing signs of fraud, like the buying of votes and polling credentials; voters presenting false IDs; and people handing out gifts on the eve of the Nov. 24 election. “We thought [this election] was going to be different, and it was the same as always,” says a 23-year-old IT student who served as an election volunteer. “What happened is a mockery for us.”Full Article: Honduras recount: Can a free and fair election also be fraudulent? - CSMonitor.com.
Honduras’ contested results from its Nov. 24 election threaten to unleash civil unrest and repression that could further destabilize the country. Amid widespread allegations of fraud, vote buying and voting irregularities, the Tribunal Supremo Electoral (TSE) — Honduras’ electoral authority — announced on Nov. 26 that conservative National Party candidate Juan Orlando Hernandez had an irreversible lead. Both Hernandez and left-leaning LIBRE party candidate Xiomara Castro claimed victory on election night. Castro based her claim on LIBRE’s exit polls that showed a substantial lead. Her husband and former president Mel Zelaya – who was ousted in a 2009 coup – also contested the results, noting that the vote tally from 20 percent of the polling stations announced by the TSE contradicted the actual vote count from polling stations. Anti-Corruption party candidate Salvador Nasralla has also impugned the accuracy of the vote counting process. In the cloud of election violence and suspicions, outside pressure from the international community, especially the United States, is critical to ensure that democracy prevails in Honduras and to protect those vulnerable to state sponsored repression. However, the signals from the U.S. so far suggests that it is pleased with the results, even if they are tainted by fraud and intimidation.Full Article: Honduras' presidential election demands an investigation | Al Jazeera America.
After a day of relatively trouble-free voting in a tight race, Honduras appeared headed for a new political showdown late Sunday, as competing presidential candidates began claiming victory with less than half of the ballots counted. Leftist Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, the wife of deposed former president Manuel “Mel” Zelaya, declared herself the “new president of Honduras” even as preliminary tallies showed her conservative rival, Juan Orlando Hernández, with a lead of at least five percentage points over Castro, followed by six other candidates. Hernández told his supporters that he was the country’s new leader and that he was already receiving calls from several Latin American heads of state to congratulate him. The vote count was expected to stretch late into the night, with many here anxious that a close, contested election could toss the troubled country askew once more.Full Article: After Honduras vote, competing presidential claim victory - The Washington Post.
A spate of scheduling, cancelling and annulling of elections over the last three months in the Maldives has eroded whatever little legitimacy was left in its public institutions. Instead of a return to democracy that should have happened in September, when the first presidential election was held and then declared invalid, faithfully cast votes have been left hanging in limbo. The latest attempt to conduct a presidential election ran into the familiar muddle of objections and obstruction from the Maldives’ Supreme Court determined to deny the frontrunner, Mohamed Nasheed, a chance to return to power after he was overthrown in a coup d’etat in 2012. The fact that Nasheed is consistently securing over 45% of the popular vote despite a hostile security and judicial establishment shows that the Maldivian people are believers in moderation. The president who took power after the coup, Mohammed Waheed, was rejected by the electorate in September. His paltry tally proved that the coup, carried out by the remnants of Maldives’ ancient regime loyal to the former strongman, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, lacked popular approval.Full Article: Maldives presidential poll: a muddle of objections - Hindustan Times.
The palm trees rustle lightly in the afternoon breeze as tourists laze around on sun-drenched beaches. Could anywhere be more idyllic than the Maldives in the winter? Few of those tourists are likely to be aware of the political storm that’s brewing on the islands as a cabal of politicians and businessmen grow increasingly desperate in their bid to prevent presidential elections. Police stormed into the offices of the Maldives’ Election Commission on the morning of October 26, saying the voter list had not been approved by all of the presidential candidates and the election would have to be cancelled.Full Article: Election dispute reveals the darker side of the Maldives | The National.
Cambodia: Government rejects election inquiry creating unrest amid fraud accusations | NY Daily News
Cambodia’s government rejected on Tuesday calls by the opposition for an international inquiry into allegations it used massive fraud to win re-election, and said it wanted parliament to approve a new cabinet quickly. The United States and European Union expressed concern about irregularities in Sunday’s election but both said an investigation should be conducted by Cambodian electoral authorities, failing to endorse the opposition’s call for an inquiry involving the United Nations. The government announced on Sunday that the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) of long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen had won 68 seats in the 123-seat parliament, a sharp fall from its previous tally of 90. The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) nearly doubled its seat total to 55, in a major surprise and a setback for Hun Sen.Full Article: Cambodia rejects election inquiry creating unrest amid fraud accusations - NY Daily News.
Election officials overseeing Zimbabwe’s July 31 ballot insist the country is ready to hold general elections in less than a week. However, fears of vote rigging and a lack of funding are worrying Zimbabweans. “Elections will be credible, free and fair. We are ready for the elections,” Zimbabwe’s Electoral Commission [ZEC] deputy chairperson, Joyce Kazeme, told international election observers stationed in the country on Tuesday (24.07.2013). Some 600 foreign observers have been endorsed to scrutinize the country’s July 31 election as well as pre-poll voting for security officials assigned to work on election day. Close to 6,000 Zimbabwean observers will also monitor voting. International observers include representatives of the African Union, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).Full Article: Can Zimbabwe's elections be free and fair? | Africa | DW.DE | 24.07.2013.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission yesterday started opening, verifying and tallying ballot papers cast nationwide during the special vote held between July 14 and 15. The process was done in the presence of political parties, regional and international observers.ZEC chief elections officer Mr Lovemore Sekeramayi and his deputy Mr Utoile Silaigwana superintended over the process while some commissioners also attended. Zanu-PF and MDC-T hailed the process saying it was transparent to the extent that no manipulation of results could be done.Full Article: allAfrica.com: Zimbabwe: ZEC Opens Special Ballots (Page 1 of 2).
A senior United Nations envoy says major reforms are necessary in Guinea-Bissau for elections due in November to be seen as free and fair. Among the reforms are steps toward providing justice for recent high-profile political killings. Guinea-Bissau has suffered from chronic instability since obtaining independence from Portugal in 1974. Its most recent coup occurred last year, when the army took control of the country in the middle of an election cycle. Transitional authorities announced in June that presidential and legislative elections would be held on November 24. This week, the country received representatives from a host of international organizations, including the African Union, the West African regional bloc ECOWAS and the European Union. El-Ghassim Wane, the director of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council, says the international community is committed to seeing a successful vote.Full Article: Cautious International Support for Guinea-Bissau Ahead of Elections.