The legitimacy of democratic government is established, in large measure, by genuine elections, and they are much more than what happens on election day. A genuine electoral process requires an open pre-election environment in which citizens can participate without fear or obstruction; political parties, candidates and the media can operate freely; an independent judiciary functions fairly and expeditiously; and electoral authorities operate impartially. Since its earliest days, NDI has been working with partners around the world to help ensure that elections reflect the will of the people. This work, largely intended to ensure the integrity of elections, also promotes longer term governmental accountability as well as popular political participation.
The landmark 1988 plebiscite in Chile gave citizens the chance to vote "no" to General Augusto Pinochet's attempts to extend his rule, forcing the military junta to hold the first free elections in two decades. NDI was there to help Chilean groups organize a parallel vote tabulation (PVT) — a powerful citizens' tool to assess the integrity of voting and counting processes and verify the accuracy of official election results. The PVT created pressure on the junta to release the official results, which led to the peaceful end of Pinochet's military dictatorship.
NDI has been a pioneer in the development of PVTs, which have made a critical difference in a number of countries, including Bulgaria, Georgia, Ghana, Honduras, Indonesia, Kenya, Montenegro, Nigeria, Panama, Peru, Zambia and Zimbabwe, in addition to Chile. Read more about PVTs»
All told, the Institute has joined with more than 300 citizen election monitoring organizations and coalitions to train and deploy over three million nonpartisan observers in more than 85 countries. NDI has monitored 340 elections and organized more than 150 international election observer delegations to 62 countries.
The Institute, in partnership with the U.S.-based Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), has also taken a leading role in a worldwide movement to organize political debates, which help voters make informed choices, reduce violence, particularly in post-conflict situations, and encourage candidates to focus on issues, not personalities or ethnic loyalties. While debates have become an accepted and expected part of elections in many parts of the world, they are not the norm in emerging and transitional democracies, where there is less tradition of candidates facing off in person. Since 1994, NDI and CPD have aided the efforts of debate organizers in more than 35 countries to put nearly 300 debates for all levels of elected office — from president to member of parliament to mayor. These efforts include the creation of the 18-country Debates International network through which debate groups help each other with a range of issues, including producing live national TV broadcasts, developing informative formats, and selecting impartial moderators, among other organizational and production challenges. Read more about NDI's work on debates»