Central African Republic’s presidential and parliamentary elections next month may deepen the crisis in the diamond-producing country as armed militias occupy large areas and as much as a fifth of the population won’t be able to vote. The capital, Bangui, is facing the worst outbreak of violence since early 2014 after the murder of a Muslim taxi driver in September triggered revenge attacks in which about 100 people were killed, according to the government. The army has disintegrated, while armed groups have partitioned the nation of 5 million people and battle to control the gold and diamond trade. “The country is in pieces,” the Brussels-based International Crisis Group said in a report. “It’s a recipe for disaster,” Tatiana Carayannis, deputy director of the Conflict Prevention and Peace Forum, which advises the United Nations, said by phone from New York.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in Belarus, Miklós Haraszti, today said that while the Presidential polls conducted in the country this past Sunday were not met with violence as in previous cases, no progress was made in serving the Belarusians’ right to free and fair election. “The election process was orchestrated, and the result was pre-ordained. It could not be otherwise, given the 20 years of continuous suppression of the rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association, which are the preconditions for any credible competition,” Mr. Haraszti said in a press statement. The Special Rapporteur noted that none of the international and local independent election monitors could verify the official claims of 86 per cent voter turnout or 84 per cent endorsement of the incumbent. “Such high scores have never been claimed in elections in Europe since the end of the Soviet Union,” Mr. Haraszti stressed. “The observers’ documentations highlighted that not even the four days of coerced participation of prison inmates, army conscripts, and public servants under the label of ‘early voting,’ can give up the stated numbers,” he added.
The United Nations has issued a directive to its staff restricting travel to Burma during the election period, citing possible disruptions. The Democratic Voice of Burma has received a copy of a letter circulated by the New York-based UN Department of Safety and Security dated Sept 22, 2015. It states: “Myanmar [Burma] will hold general elections on 8 November 2015 with an official campaign running from 8 September till 6 November 2015. There are high expectations in the country that the elections will be carried out peacefully; however electoral-related disruptions are expected around the Polling Day until the final results are announced on 22 November 2015. The Designated Official, in consultation with the Security Management Team, has recommended that temporary travel restrictions should be in place for non-critical, external visits to Myanmar between 6- 24 November 2015.
Haiti’s prime minister and elections council president sought to reassure the international community Thursday that all was on track for the country’s most complex election process in history. “We’ve already started the process, and progress is visible,” Pierre-Louis Opont, president of the Provisional Electoral Council, known as the CEP, told Haiti’s international partners in New York during a United Nations donors conference. The country was seeking $31 million to cover election costs. At the meeting, Brazil, Canada, Norway and the United States promised to provide additional funding, the spokesman for the U.N. Secretary General said. It was unclear Thursday how much. An effusive Opont told donors that political parties, civil society and voters had confidence in the elections council, adding that “we have headed off skeptics.”
The Burundian government and political opposition groups are committed to resolving the disputes that have flared into violence, with a less than week left before a presidential vote that sparked the unrest, a mediator said. Discussions between the groups, which have included civil society activists, opposition parties and three former presidents, are making progress and they aim to report back with proposals as soon as possible, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said in an e-mailed statement on Wednesday. Museveni, who was picked by the five-nation East African Community to mediate an end to the political crisis, led efforts for two days in Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura, and his defense minister, Crispus Kiyonga, will arrive on Thursday to take over that role.
A top U.S. official stunned some Washington lawmakers Wednesday with testimony that Haiti needs as much as $50 million to carry out successful elections this year. The declaration during a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Western Hemisphere hearing comes just three weeks before Haiti is scheduled to hold the first of three critical elections. “There is a fairly good chance (the election) will happen,” Thomas Adams, the State Department’s special coordinator for Haiti, said about the scheduled Aug. 9 elections to restore Haiti’s parliament. “But there are still a few issues left. One is a lack of funding.”
The ruling party of Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza has swept to an expected overwhelming victory in controversial parliament elections that were boycotted by the opposition, according to official results released Tuesday. The opposition had argued that weeks of protests and a violent crackdown by security forces meant free and fair elections were impossible, and the United Nations said voting took place amid “a climate of widespread fear and intimidation”. The country has also been left without most of its independent media outlets, after several radio stations were attacked and destroyed in fighting during an attempted coup against Nkurunziza in May.
Burundi on Sunday rejected a second UN diplomat named to help resolve the country’s political crisis, saying a critical UN report on last week’s parliamentary elections was biased. The tiny east African country plunged into turmoil in late April when protests erupted in response to President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term. The opposition boycotted the June 29 parliamentary election and says it will boycott the July 15 presidential vote.
Elections in Burundi that were racked by violence and boycotted by the opposition were not free or credible, United Nations observers said on Thursday, after clashes left six dead in the capital. Parliamentary and local elections were held on Monday despite an appeal by the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, for a postponement after months of turmoil. The UN electoral observer mission said in a report that the elections took place “in a tense political crisis and a climate of widespread fear and intimidation in parts of the country”. “Episodes of violence and explosions preceded and in some cases accompanied election day activities, mostly in Bujumbura,” said the nine-page report. The mission concluded “that the environment was not conducive for free, credible and inclusive elections”.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has conveyed his “strong expectation” that the Government of Sri Lanka will ensure “the peaceful and credible conduct” of its upcoming Presidential election. The Secretary-General spoke on the phone with Sri Lanka’s Minister of External Affairs Prof. GL Peiris on 24 December and reaffirmed the UN’s continuous support for reconciliation, political dialogue and accountability as the country heads towards the election on 8 January 2015.
More than a million Nigerians are internally displaced due to insurgency fighting in the northern part of the country, while some fear that their votes will not be counted in the upcoming 2015 general elections. On Tuesday, the Nigerian Senate urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to do all that is in their administrative power to ensure that Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) could vote in the elections. According to figures released by the United Nations agency for refugees (UNHCR) this week, the number of IDP in Nigeria has reached 1.5 million, mainly due to the rise of Boko Haram militants. The extremist group has stepped up attacks this year and declared an Islamic state in areas it controls, mainly in the north of the country.
Rebel commander Alexander Zakharchenko smiled only slightly on hearing that he had won this weekend’s elections in Donetsk, Ukraine (pictured). The results were never in doubt: Mr Zakharchenko’s nominal opponents openly supported him, and his face was the only one on campaign billboards. Nonetheless, eastern Ukraine’s separatist republics went through the motions of democracy, including inviting international election observers. Those proved hard to find: while Russia has said it will respect the vote, America, the European Union, and the United Nations have all condemned it. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe refused to monitor the elections. The European politicians who did show up to observe were drawn from a smattering of far-right parties, including Hungary’s Jobbik, France’s National Front, and Italy’s Forza, as well as a few far-left ones. While they may not have done much to legitimise the vote, their presence was significant as a marker of Russia’s growing relationship with Europe’s political fringes. The elections in the breakaway pro-Russian regions were marked by armed men standing next to ballot boxes and a disturbing absence of voter rolls. This did not bother the European observers, who pronounced the voting free and fair. Many of them had arrived in Donetsk with luggage bearing “ROV” airline tags, code for the Russian city of Rostov, where they had flown in before crossing the border by car into separatist-held territory. Russia has been courting European fringe parties for years, part of a multi-pronged strategy aimed at “undermining the EU project”, argues Thomas Gomart, a Russia scholar at the French Institute of International Relations.
The United Nations’ human rights body said Wednesday it would take up the issue of voting rights in Hong Kong, where activists are railing against Beijing’s move to vet local candidates. The Human Rights Committee, which monitors respect of an international treaty on civil and political rights, will hold a public session on the thorny issue on Oct. 23, spokeswoman Elizabeth Throssel told AFP. The news follows an announcement by China late last month that Hong Kong’s next leader will be vetted by a pro-Beijing committee, dashing hopes for genuine democracy in the former British colony.
After a potential opening last week to ease Afghanistan’s political crisis, the presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah signaled on Sunday that more deadlock was ahead, promising again that he would not accept any decisions made by the country’s election commission after the panel rejected a list of his demands. “From today onward, we reject all the decisions and activities of the Independent Election Commission, which will not have any legal value anyway,” said Baryalai Arsalai, Mr. Abdullah’s campaign manager. “They have no intention to assess the fraudulent votes and separate the dirty votes from the clean votes.” In the two weeks since the presidential runoff vote, the election process has been shadowed by accusations of fraud and conspiracy, with the Abdullah campaign accusing a range of officials all the way to the presidential palace of rigging the vote against him. There have been dramatic protests flooding the streets of Kabul, and secretly captured phone calls that allegedly show election officials conspiring to rig the race.
Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani on Wednesday defended himself against electoral fraud allegations that have tipped the country into a political crisis, vowing to fight for every ballot cast for him. Ghani’s poll rival Abdullah Abdullah has said he will reject the result of the ongoing vote count due to what he claimed was “blatant fraud” committed by Ghani, the election authorities and outgoing President Hamid Karzai. “I ask Dr Abdullah as a national figure to respect the rule of law,” Ghani told supporters in his first speech since the dispute over alleged fake votes erupted. “We are all tired of the language of threats and unlawfulness… Our votes are clean, and we will defend each vote,” he said. Ghani, who travelled abroad for dental treatment after the June 14 election, returned to Kabul to deliver an uncompromising message to Abdullah, who has boycotted the Independent Election Commission (IEC). “It is the people’s right to elect their leader through votes. Some people have created a situation where they threaten that right,” he said.
Syria: As Presidential Election Begins, Survivors of Chemical Attack Shun Vote In Disgust | International Business Times
The sounds Qusai Zakarya heard the morning of Aug. 21, 2013, in Moadimiyeh, Syria, near Damascus, were not what he was used to. The bombs, he said, sounded different — they didn’t buzz and crash in the same way they had in the slew of previous regime bombardments, and the people running for cover were holding their eyes, falling and vomiting. Those were signs that the international community and human rights organizations said were indicative of a chemical attack. Now, nearly a year later, the man behind the attack, President Bashar Assad, is standing for re-election in what’s widely seen as a sham. And Zakarya is in the U.S., working to prove to Western leaders that what he saw that day was real, and that Assad needs to be removed from power. Wednesday marked the first day Syrians living outside of the country could cast their ballot in the presidential election that no one expects Assad to lose. Tens of thousands voted, many of them at the Syrian Embassy in Beirut. According to Reuters, refugees said that pro-Assad Lebanese groups had mobilized them to go vote. Syrian state television said voting took place in 43 embassies.
The United Nations has sent a delegation to New Caledonia in the lead up to crucial municipal and provincial elections as supporters and opponents of independence joust over who should have the right to vote. The UN delegation arrived in New Caledonia in March in the midst of the electoral campaign for local town councils. The visit also coincided with the arrival of French judges charged with updating the electoral rolls for national elections to be held on 11 May. According to a UN statement, the objective of the visit is to monitor “New Caledonia’s provincial electoral process, especially the technical issues related to the electoral lists for the provincial elections in May, as well as to uphold the spirit and letter of the 1998 Noumea Accord in this process.” New Caledonia was relisted with the UN Special Committee on Decolonisation in 1986, and since that time the UN has maintained a watching brief over progress towards a referendum on self-determination in the French Pacific dependency.
Guinea Bissau holds presidential and legislative elections on April 13 in a bid to help restore democracy two years after a coup that thwarted a previous vote and triggered an economic slide in the former Portuguese colony. As many as 775,500 voters out of a population of 1.6 million will cast ballots in an election that was delayed twice, according to the United Nations Integrated Peace-Building Office in Guinea Bissau. There are 13 presidential candidates, while 15 parties are vying for 102 seats in parliament. Former Finance Minister Jose Mario Vaz is considered the frontrunner in the presidential vote, according to Bjorn van Wees, Africa analyst at the London-based Economist Intelligence Unit. Vaz is the candidate for Partido Africano da Independencia da Guine e Cabo Verde, or PAIGC, which fought a guerrilla war against the Portuguese and took power at independence in 1974.
When you think of the type of countries the United Nations might want to keep an eye on, you probably think of, say, Libya, whose citizens voted for the first time in over 40 years in 2012. But newly democratized countries aren’t the only subjects of U.N. election oversight. In 2012, civil-rights groups voiced their concern to the U.N. that state voter-ID laws would lead to voter suppression. The U.N. sent 44 of its election monitors to states—including Tennessee—and drew much ire from conservative groups in the process. Now, the Republican-controlled Legislature in Tennessee is fighting back against the international governing body. On Tuesday, the state Senate passed a bill banning U.N. elections monitors from overseeing state elections—unless they have express permission from the U.S. Senate to be there. The legislation now sits on Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk, waiting to be signed.
Just a few years ago, Timbuktu was still a popular destination for tourists. These days, by contrast, the town has the lugubrious air of many post-conflict zones around the world. White SUVs from the United Nations patrol its streets. Its citizens depend on handouts from international humanitarian organizations. The electricity supply is still spotty. The craftsmen and tour guides who used to live from the tourism trade now wait in vain for customers. The reasons for the decline in the city’s fortunes are all too apparent. In 2011, a Tuareg-dominated separatist group known as the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), capitalizing on an influx of weapons from Libyan arsenals after the collapse of Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi’s regime, stormed across northern Mali (an area the rebels saw as a Tuareg homeland they called “Azawad”). The poorly equipped and deeply demoralized Malian Army collapsed. The outside world took relatively little notice at first — but then the MNLA’s allies, jihadi groups such as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), set out to hijack the rebellion. In Timbuktu, they declared their own brand of sharia rule, amputating the limbs of thieves and stoning alleged adulterers.
United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay accused the Maldives Supreme Court on Wednesday of undermining democracy in the Indian Ocean republic by interfering in its presidential elections. The former South African judge also argued that the court was lining up with Maldivian government efforts to cripple the opposition whose candidate led in a first round of voting on September 7. The court nullified the outcome. In a statement from her Geneva office, Pillay said she was alarmed that the court was “interfering excessively in the presidential elections and in so doing is subverting the democratic process” on the island chain. Pillay, officially U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, spoke as the Maldives waited to see if the first round of a new election set by the country’s independent electoral commission for November 9 would be allowed to go ahead.
The United Nations and the international community on Sunday called upon Guinea’s electoral commission to publish results of a September 28 election aimed at completing a transition to democracy, saying it was concerned over the delay. Disputes over a published partial count have held up the final result and raised fears of a resurgence of violence that killed about 50 people before the vote. The opposition is calling for the election to be annulled, dampening hopes for an end to years of instability since a 2008 military coup that deterred investment in the world’s largest bauxite exporter. The United Nations and representatives of the international community including the West African regional bloc ECOWAS, the European Union and the International Organisation of the Francophonie, which brokered a deal with the opposition to end protests and allow the legislative vote, said they were concerned by delays in the publication of the results.
The Maldives government urged all political parties to accept a Supreme Court ruling throwing out the result of last month’s presidential election and vowed that balloting next week will be transparent. The government said it is seeking the support of other nations and international organizations in holding the new election, and encouraged “everyone concerned to respect and abide by the Supreme Court ruling.” The Elections Commission announced Tuesday that the revote will be held Oct. 19. On Monday, the court annulled the results of the first round of voting in the presidential election, agreeing with a losing candidate that the vote was flawed.
A landmark ruling by a United Nations body found that Hungary’s voting laws are disenfranchising people with disabilities, Human Rights Watch said today. The ruling applies to all 137 countries that have adopted the international disability rights treaty. These governments are required to review their laws and practices to eliminate any provisions that prevent people from voting due to their disabilities. The UN Committee on the Rights of People with Disabilities, the panel of experts who interpret the international disability rights treaty, ruled that Hungary’s restriction on the right for people with intellectual disabilities to vote violates international human rights law. Under the recently amended Hungarian constitution, people under guardianship are automatically excluded from voting unless a judge determines they have the capacity to vote. The ruling said that any exclusion of the right to vote on the basis of “perceived or actual disability,” whether as a general rule or following an individual assessment, was discrimination in violation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Instead it said governments were under a duty to ensure all people with disabilities could exercise their right to vote, including in the way they design voting procedures and in providing assistance where necessary.
Pierre Warga is among the majority of Togo’s 6 million citizens who have spent their entire lives ruled by the Gnassingbe family. Eyadema Gnassingbe was in power for 38 years before dying of a heart attack in 2005. His son Faure Gnassingbe was then installed by the military before winning a highly flawed and violent election later that year, and a re-election in 2010. The small West African country goes to the polls Thursday for legislative elections that will test whether recent signs of discontent might legitimately threaten Gnassingbe’s hold on power. Some experts say there may be, for the first time, vulnerabilities in a country that has seen an increasingly daring public outcry against entrenched poverty, high youth unemployment and controversial crackdowns by the security forces.
Guinea: Mediator: Guinea’s opposition may agree to election if conditions are met | The Washington Post
After weeks of violent clashes, Guinea’s ruling party and opposition succeeded in drafting a framework which might allow the country to move forward with much-delayed legislative elections, according to the international mediator brought in to help bridge the chasm between the two sides. Said Djinnit, the special representative of the United Nations Secretary-General, explained on Sunday that the opposition has agreed to rescind their boycott and will take part in the poll so long as 10 conditions are met. In return, the ruling party has agreed to delay the June date for the ballot. They have also agreed to allow Guineans living overseas to vote, a concession to the opposition since most expatriates have historically voted in favor of the opposition.
The opposition party in the Republic of Guinea has said that is has agreed to suspend several days of protest over delayed legislative elections for the United Nations-mediate talks which will aim at ending the political deadlock regarding legislative elections in the country. Officials said last week that at least 20 people have been killed and more than 300 others wounded in clashes since March between opposition supporters, security forces and President Alpha Conde’s supporters in the capital Conakry. The opposition has accused President Alpha Conde of trying to manipulate the election process for his party to win the majority in parliament but the government has strongly denied the allegation.
As the national scandal over United Nations-linked “elections monitors” in the United States continues to grow after Texas threatened potential prosecutions, the international outfit deploying “observers” demanded that the Obama administration come to its aid. The U.S. State Department promptly claimed that the UN-affiliated monitors would have “full” diplomatic immunity. But in the Lone Star State, officials fired back and upped the ante: Don’t mess with Texas. On October 23, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott sent a strongly worded letter to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) warning that its representatives could be prosecuted if they violate state law or are found within 100 feet of a polling place. Among the most serious concerns was the fact that the UN partner organization was working with discredited far-left radical groups to supposedly seek out conservative “voter suppression” schemes — mostly state laws aimed at preventing election fraud.
The election of a new Somali president will not take place Monday as scheduled, newly appointed lawmakers said, but added they expected to convene the parliament for the first time later in the day. “The presidential elections will not be held today,” said lawmaker Aweys Qarni. “The election committee must still be convened…. There is still work to go before the presidential elections.” War-torn Somalia’s Western-backed transitional government ends its mandate on Monday after eight years of political infighting and rampant corruption. It is being replaced by new lawmakers selected by a group of 135 traditional elders in a United Nations-backed process, the latest bid to bring stability to the Horn of Africa country.
The European Union stressed the importance of electoral reform in Lebanon, as it issued its first policy paper on its human rights and democracy work around the world as part of a yearly report Monday. In a section on Lebanon, the report highlighted the body’s push for electoral reform in the country. Two million euros have been allocated for the project, and the report emphasized the EU’s work toward adopting policy changes from the 2009 elections.