On May 7 and 8, 2015, the Mirador Electoral (Election Watch) coalition launched its domestic election observation efforts. The Mirador coalition is made up of nine civil society organizations, each focusing on a specific aspect of the election process. With NDI technical support, the groups are working together to organize comprehensive pre-election, election day and post-election observation. The coalition will publish regular reports that provide evidence-based recommendations to improve the transparency and effectiveness of the elections. The Mirador member groups include:
Citizen Action (Acción Ciudadana, AC);
Collective Association for the Defense of Women’s Rights in Guatemala (Asociación Colectiva para la Defensa de los Derechos de las Mujeres en Guatemala, CODEFEM);
NGO Coordination and Cooperatives (Coordinación de ONG y Cooperativas, CONGCOOP);
Central American Institute for the Study of Social Democracy (Instituto Centroamericano de Estudios para la Democracia Social, DEMOS);
Association for Development, Organization, Services and Sociocultural Studies (Asociación Desarrollo, Organización, Servicios y Estudios Socioculturales, DOSES);
Central American Institute for Political Studies (Instituto Centroamericano de Estudios Políticos, INCEP); PROPAZ Foundation; and National Network for Mayan Youth (Red Nacional de Organizaciones de Jóvenes Mayas, RENOJ).
The groups will conduct focus groups and a national survey to assess citizen perceptions of the primary election-related challenges, monitor the pre-election environment in 52 municipalities, analyze media coverage of candidates to encourage balanced coverage, evaluate and report on the work of the TSE and the National Civil Registry (Registro Nacional de las Personas, RENAP), assess women and indigenous people’s political participation as individuals and groups and how their concerns are being addressed by candidates. Additionally, the groups will observe the voting and counting process on election day through a national network of non-partisan volunteer observers who will conduct a quick count, also known as a parallel vote tabulation (PVT), of election results, and evaluate the elections process, identify lessons learned, propose recommendations for electoral and institutional reforms and help support advocacy on a reform agenda.
NDI’s funding for this project comes from Swedish International Development Cooperation (SIDA), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Local-level observation: “Less Violence, More Inclusion”
With NDI technical support, Mirador Electoral member Acción Ciudadana is organizing and providing training to a coalition of municipal- and departmental-level civil society organizations to conduct a local observation focused on monitoring and mitigating incidents and triggers of electoral violence, and monitoring illegal and/or illicit campaign expenses. The observation effort is currently focused on 10 municipalities, with a possible extension to an additional 10 municipalities. The target municipalities were selected based on higher levels of electoral conflict, criminal violence and/or organized crime, and social conflict. A team of trained long-term observers will deploy throughout the target municipalities, regularly reporting back to local organizations and to Acción Ciudadana. Acción Ciudadana, with input from the local groups, will analyze the findings and publish timely reports that allow government authorities to respond to certain incidents, thus mitigating further violence, as well as providing evidence-based input into potential reforms following the elections.
A key component of the observation effort is to increase inclusion of marginalized groups, such as indigenous peoples, the LGBTI community and women, in the electoral process. As such, the observation network includes organizations and individuals that represent these historically excluded populations. In addition, effective election observation must also include consideration of ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity as it relates to the election process. The coalition take these considerations into account so that authorities are able to appropriately respond to violence that may disproportionately impact specific groups and to collect data that can be used to advocate for reforms. Increased transparency of the electoral process and greater participation by marginalized and vulnerable groups will contribute to deter violence in the immediate electoral period and can galvanize institutional reforms around campaign financing in the post-electoral period. The observation effort was officially launched during a ceremony in Nebaj, Quiche on May 19.
Past programming on election observation
NDI’s current election observation programming builds off of domestic election observation efforts by Mirador Electoral in 2003, 2007 and 2011. The group’s efforts for those elections included comprehensive monitoring of the media environment, political party behavior, government transparency, indigenous participation and a quick count. Findings from Mirador Electoral were cited frequently in the media and the results of the quick count were highlighted by the TSE as an important confirmation of the official results. In the 2003 elections, NDI helped Mirador alert the TSE to problems with indelible ink and long lines of citizens waiting to vote on election-day. The TSE responded by extending voting hours and issuing instructions to poll workers on the proper use of ink to prevent double voting. In 2007, in addition to supporting Mirador’s pre-election and election-day observation efforts, NDI also partnered with Mirador member the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO) to conduct a study of barriers to political participation in Guatemala. FLACSO and NDI experts used surveys in four communities to research why indigenous citizens vote at a lower rate relative to their non-indigenous counterparts in Guatemala; the study found that lack of a proper identification card—rather than a lack of interest—was the main reason that Guatemalans across all ethnic groups did not vote. Since 2008, the Guatemalan government has made a concerted effort to register women voters, which resulted in an increase of identification cards being issued to women and women for the first time making up the majority of the voter registry in 2011. In 2011, NDI supported election observation projects of eight different civic groups, including the first gender-based observation effort in Guatemala, which highlighted the challenges still faced by women candidates and voters.
Since 2010, NDI has been implementing programs to provide support to the Guatemalan Congress to improve the political and electoral system and strengthen the transparency and effectiveness of the legislature. NDI supported the Guatemalan Congress as it reformed the electoral law to promote a more credible electoral process and a more representative, democratic political party system. In October 2013, a reform bill passed after three readings in Congress and was sent to the Constitutional Court for review. The court issued a ruling in July 2014 and the reform is now with Congress for revision and a final vote before being sent to the president for his signature. NDI is also working with congress to make its internal procedures and functions more transparent and effective, including helping leaders develop and approve priority legislation to promote greater public engagement and confidence in the legislative process. NDI has specifically focused on providing technical assistance the following areas: 1) reforming the Organic Law to improve the internal functioning of Congress; 2) reforming the Law on Nominating Commissions to increase transparency and improve the process of nominating and appointing unelected government officials; 3) strengthening the capacity of the Commission on Migrants to effectively draft legislation that responds to the needs of migrants; and 4) strengthening the capacity of legislators to draft legislation on security and justice issues.
NDI’s funding for this project comes from SIDA and USAID.
To increase confidence in democratic institutions and deliver improvements in the quality of citizens’ lives, NDI-Guatemala is working in the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to promote dialogue among civil society, political parties and government institutions at the municipal, national and regional levels. Since 2010, NDI has contributed to democratic engagement on citizen security policy by organizing international exchanges of best practices; designing and conducting courses on regional challenges and tools for making effective policy; and assisting municipal actors to develop and implement local violence prevention initiatives. The Institute helps civil society communicate citizen concerns to political leaders while helping parties and governments work with constituents to develop more responsive policies. By building on a common base of understanding and taking into account a diversity of perspectives and regional experiences, leaders are better able to address the root causes of insecurity and bolster democratic institutions.
At the regional level, Central American parliaments developed a priority agenda for harmonizing legislation in 2011 and circulated model laws. In Honduras, a reformed arms law is now under consideration to close loopholes and facilitate future police investigations, a first step toward lowering the level of impunity. Working at the national level in the three Central American countries, NDI has helped increase dialogue and collaboration among civil society organizations by providing a platform for sharing citizen security challenges and opening informal channels of communication among parties. Participants stay linked through a virtual network NDI has helped to establish. As a result of NDI engagement in Guatemala at the community level, municipal citizen security committees are carrying out projects to help parents provide for the needs of their children, connect citizens with public services, and increase women’s involvement in community leadership. In Honduras, NDI-supported citizen security committees are working to complete municipal citizen security policies and have these certified by government—a prerequisite to tapping into national funds collected by a special new security tax levied on all bank transactions.
For more detail, please click here. NDI’s funding for this project comes from the National Endowment for Democracy.
Supporting Inclusive Political Participation
Supporting inclusive political participation is a fundamental aspect of all NDI programming. In addition to the specific programs described below, NDI mainstreams ethnic, gender and sexual diversity considerations in all projects currently being implemented in Guatemala.
Transgender and cisgender women’s participation
Increasing the number of cisgender and transgender women who participate in the electoral or political process as voters, election officials, observers, civic advocates, political candidates or elected officials contributes to building a more diverse, tolerant and inclusive society that better understands and represents their needs. To address the needs of these communities, NDI, in collaboration with Consortium for Elections and Political Processes Strengthening (CEPPS) partner organizations the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and the International Republican Institute (IRI), is working to strengthen cisgender and transgender women's political participation in 2015 and beyond. In 2015, the CEPPS partners conducted a baseline assessment of organizations representing the LGBTI population in Guatemala and barriers to their political participation, with particular emphasis on organizations representing transgender women. Building off of the findings of the assessment, the CEPPS partners are working to create alliances with key government agencies, political parties, legislators, journalists and civic organizations and activists to raise awareness of barriers to political participation facing women and the transgender community and to support their efforts to reduce those barriers. The CEPPS partners are specifically working with TSE and RENAP to ensure that transgender women have access to Personal Identification Documents (DPI) and to full participation in the electoral process. The CEPPS partners are also working directly with cisgender and transgender women to increase their political campaign skills and strengthen their participation in the 2015 elections. Finally, the CEPPS partners are working with civil society groups representing transgender and cisgender women to increase their capacity to advocate for the needs of these communities.
NDI’s funding for this project comes from USAID.
Past programming on inclusive political participation
In response to the findings of the study on barriers to political participation, NDI implemented a five-year program between 2008 and 2012 to provide women and indigenous peoples in Guatemala with tools and resources to boost their leadership skills, run for office and govern effectively. In 2009, NDI organized a leadership academy in the majority indigenous department of Quetzaltenango for representatives from civil society organizations and political parties. In 2010 and 2011, NDI organized two courses on political strategy and communications for women candidates. The Institute published the curriculum from the course as a manual for prospective women candidates: “We Are Campaigning” (Estamos en Campaña). Participants in NDI trainings repeatedly reported that the programs they attended were fundamental in providing them with the skills to participate more actively in political life, including running for office. NDI also assisted the women’s committee in Congress, which successfully advocated for greater gender equity in the national budget and for a 30 percent gender quota that was included in the draft version of the LEPP that was passed by the Congress. In addition, NDI worked with the indigenous committee in Congress, along with civil society and party leaders, to better advocate for priority within indigenous communities, such as the rural development law and the law on sacred lands. Finally, the Institute provided technical assistance to political parties to design and carry out recruitment plans and to better meet the needs of women and indigenous people within parties.
NDI funding for this project came from the NED.
For more information about these programs, use our contact form or contact:
Eduardo Núñez, Resident Director
Sara Barker, Resident Program Manager
Austin Robles, Program Officer
Katherine Conway-Gaffney, Program Officer