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The National Democratic Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working to support and strengthen democratic institutions worldwide through citizen participation, openness and accountability in government.

News and Views

Commentary from experts on the directions and challenges of democracy assistance programs.

February 27, 2014

Guinea: Rapid Steps Needed to Ensure Credible Elections

All Africa

On Nov. 15, 2013, the final results of Guinea’s legislative elections were announced, which brought a sense of relief for Guineans, who had been waiting to vote for several years due to numerous electiond elays. However, this is not the time for Guineans to “relax.” The 2015 presidential elections are approaching, and “two key issues must be resolved...for [them] to be peaceful and credible.”

First, government officials “must determine whether a new biometric voter register should be drawn up before the 2015 presidential polls.” Secondly, officials and politicians ought to “reach a consensus on the nature and depth of necessary electoral reforms.” The 2013 elections “revealed shortcomings in the legal and institutional framework of Guinea's electoral system, such as a weak Independent National Electoral Commission,” which have to be addressed.

“Guinea is clearly still finding its way on its path to democracy....Only by acting now can stakeholders ensure that they have time to plan effectively and work together so that the presidential elections in 2015 stand a greater chance of success.”

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February 26, 2014

Where are the flawed elections?

The Washington Post

“In many countries, polling day ends with disputes about ballot-box fraud, corruption and flawed registers.” Since disputes can “undermine regime legitimacy and public trust and confidence in electoral authorities,” it is important to determine whether claims disputing elections are accurate. As a result, the Electoral Integrity Project (EIP) evaluates the credibility of national legislative and presidential elections worldwide.

The EIP recently released its annual report in which it “compares the risks of flawed and failed elections, and how far countries around the world meet international standards.” Several new findings emerge from the report, including:

  • “...[a] lack of a level playing field in political finance and campaign media was seen by experts as the most serious risk to [electoral] integrity worldwide.”
  • “...electoral integrity was particularly strong in several third wave democracies and emerging economies, including the Republic of Korea, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Lithuania, Argentina, and Mongolia.”
  • “Worldwide, South East Asia was the weakest region….[while] Eurasian elections also raise[d] concern.”
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January 31, 2014

Thailand's Democratic Way Out

The New York Times

Thailand’s election will not likely break the political deadlock between Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s Pheu Thai Party and protesters who have rallied around Suthep Thaugsuban’s People’s Democratic Reform Committee (P.D.R.C.). “The only way forward for Thailand is to hold reforms in order to strike a more viable balance between the majority and the minority.”

The electoral winners “must accommodate the interests of the losers more openly and more systematically” than in the past. In return, “the electoral minority should not hold the country hostage to get its way,” especially after recent attempts by the P.D.R.C. to facilitate “a citizens coup has polarized Thailand.”

“Rather than trying to seize power without regard for the will of the majority of Thai people who elected Ms. Yingluck, Mr. Suthep and the P.D.R.C.must make concrete demands and propose an actionable agenda on good governance that is acceptable to other parties. And the Yingluck government must address those grievances, by making political reforms a top national priority.”

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January 27, 2014

Tunisia finally passes progressive constitution

Associated Press

“After decades of dictatorship and two years of arguments and compromises, Tunisians finally have a new constitution laying the foundations for a new democracy.” Passed on Sunday, it is “one of the most progressive constitutions in the Arab world.”

“The new constitution sets out to make the North African country...a democracy, with a civil state whose laws are not based on Islamic law,” with an entire chapter dedicated to protecting the rights of citizens, including freedom of worship and the right to due process. It also guarantees equality between men and women before the law.

According to constitutional scholar Slim Loghmani, “the constitution is an ‘historic compromise between identity and modernity’ that can serve as a model for other countries in the region seeking a balance between an Arab-Islamic heritage and contemporary ideas of human rights and good governance.”

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January 24, 2014

From Tunisia, Hopeful Signs

The Washington Post

“For three years now, the Arab world has struggled to create a political culture of tolerance that could anchor the revolution for citizen rights known as the Arab Spring.” But hopeful signs have emerged in Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring, where a new constitution has been written.

“What’s remarkable about the Tunisian constitution is not just that it promises full rights for women and minorities but also that Islamist forces, led by the Ennahda Party, endorsed this outcome gracefully. That’s the real breakthrough because it suggests a political culture of compromise in which democracy can take root and thrive.”

“The tumultuous course of the Arab revolutions over the past three years suggests that, when it comes to democracy, a nation can’t hope to run before it learns to walk. Tunisia seems to have gotten the sequence right — and shown that political stability and compromise are inseparable.”

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January 22, 2014

Democratic Freedoms Are Under Siege

Wall Street Journal

Since 2005, “freedom has been in [a] steady retreat,” according to Freedom House’s new ‘Freedom in the World’ report, which annually measures “the condition of political rights and civil liberties around the globe.”

“The past year continued [a] dispiriting trend, with 54 countries registering declines in political rights and civil liberties compared with only 40 countries registering gains. A disturbing 35% of the world's population lives in societies without fair elections, the rule of law, freedom of speech or minority rights.”

Fortunately, democracy and human rights activists in places like Egypt, Bahrain and Ukraine have not been dissuaded. But activists and citizens who are demanding greater freedom need support. “It's not too late for a reassertion of American leadership and strong pushback against the authoritarian challenge. The alternative is a world marching toward a decade of declining democratic liberties.”

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January 15, 2014

'Parallel Vote Tabulation Will Remove Uncertainty'

The Nation

Ahead of Malawi's May 20 tripartite elections, Deogratias M'mana, public and media relations officer for the Malawi Electoral Support Network (MESN), explains how a parallel vote tabulation can improve the efficiency and credibility of elections in a Q&A with Malawi's The Nation.

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January 10, 2014

Tunisia Tweets Its Way to Democracy


As Tunisia’s constituent assembly votes on its new constitution, Tunisians are using social media technology to ensure the process is transparent. Bawsala, a Tunisian nongovernmental group, is at the center of this technological openness.

From the balcony of the National Assembly, Bawsala’s staff keeps an eye on every moment of the constitutional proceedings, tweeting assembly members’ comments in real time, allowing more Tunisians to follow the assembly’s debates. Their process has created a record of how members are voting.

“There is plenty to admire in the Tunisian constitutional assembly, which is working long reach a workable compromise that will lead to constitutional democracy. But the young Tunisians working at Bawsala are also doing a tremendous service to their country and to the ideals of democracy. They are a new face of civil society in the Arabic-speaking world.”

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January 10, 2014

Tunisia's Democratic Compromises Should Serve as a Regional Model

The Washington Post

On the three-year anniversary of the Arab Spring, there is optimism for democracy in Tunisia, where “political leaders have managed something that ought to be a new model for the region: democratic compromise.”

In 2011, “Tunisia’s Islamist Ennahda party won the first democratic elections after the revolution but quickly lost popularity because of poor governance, including its failure to control extremists.” But rather than endure a military conflict like Egypt’s, Ennahda’s prime minister agreed to step down “to make way for a technocratic administration that will govern until elections are held this year. Meanwhile, a national assembly has appointed a nonpartisan election commission and is rushing to complete a long-delayed constitution” this week.

“If Tunisia’s constitution is ratified and elections go forward, it will demonstrate that the dream of liberal democracy is not a mirage in the Arab world. On the contrary: Tunisia, which began the uprising against the old order, will establish the paradigm for a new one.”

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January 10, 2014

In 2014, It's Not Just About the Ballot Box

Foreign Policy

This year is “being billed as the ‘biggest year for democracy ever’ by the Economist, which notes that 40 percent of the world's population will be voting in national elections….But how much will the results tell us about the actual state of democracy in these countries?” While elections are the bedrock of a democracy, they are not enough to ensure it.

“Democracy is scarcely viable in the absence of genuinely democratic institutions such as an independent judiciary, relatively free media, and organized groups that reflect the varied needs and interests of community.” And “sufficiently strong institutions” will not likely exist “unless there's a critical mass of engaged citizenry who are willing to fight for them….It's in the places where citizens are prepared to mobilize, and to work actively to claim and realize their own rights, where the prospects for democracy are best.”

“The big surprises for democracy [this year] will come in the places where citizens manage to mobilize effectively despite the odds….That's the funny thing about democracy: It has a knack for breaking out where you least expect it.”

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