Tag Archives: elections

World’s Largest Democracy Goes to the Polls

Indian voters show their ID cards. (Photo: PressTV)

For the next five weeks, over 814 million voters in India will choose representatives for India’s lower house of Parliament, the Lok Sabha. Given the many corruption scandals involving the current ruling party, coupled with slow economic growth and high unemployment rate, many observers say that Indians voters are hoping for change and a new leadership.

This general election, which is the largest vote ever held in India, is important because the party that wins the most seats will govern the country  for the next five years and also choose the prime minister.

As a background, India’s electoral system is quite complex: it is a multiparty system with more than 50 regional parties and two major national parties. Given that local contexts and challenges are vastly different between the regions, many analysts are having difficulty predicting the outcomes.

Moreover, this elections is logistically challenging: the Election Commission of India has sent more than 10 million polling officials and security officers to carry out the elections at a staggering 930,00 polling stations.

The results are scheduled to be announced on May 16. From a viewpoint of a democratic exercise, and to set an example in a region where democracy is difficult to achieve, it will be interesting to see the results both in terms of who wins and how the logistics pan out.

Maiko Nakagaki is a Program Officer for Global Programs at CIPE.

Holding Government Accountable in Pakistan

pak-econ-scorecard

For the first time since its independence in 1947, Pakistan saw its first ever peaceful transition from one democratically elected government to another in 2013.  While this was a remarkable success for Pakistani democracy, the country still lacked a process for holding civilian governments accountable for their electoral promises.

Working with economic think tank Policy Research Institute of Market Economy (PRIME), CIPE Pakistan initiated a project to monitor key economic promises made by the current government in its pre-election manifesto.

Through a consultative process, PRIME developed a scorecard to gauge the progress made by the government in the areas of economic revival, energy security, and social protection, focusing on 26 of the goals mentioned in the winning Pakistan Muslim League’s pre-election manifesto. Scores are based on a possible 10 points in each category, with the most thorough implementation earning the most points.

The first Scorecard report released on January 27 shows that the average score for the economic revival is 3.17 out of 10, energy security scored 4.16, and social protection scored 6. This report covered the period between June 2013-December 2013.

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The Private Sector and the Future of Venezuela

Venezuela's President Maduro talks to supporters during a meeting at Plaza Bolivar in Caracas

By Aurelio Concheso

December’s local election results are in for Venezuela, and the opposition can rightly claim that it not only retained major urban areas such as Greater Caracas, Maracaibo and Merida, but regained others it had lost such as Valencia, Barquisimeto, and San Cristobal. In addition they made inroads in “Chavista cities” such as Chavez´s own home town of Barinas and Diosdado Cabello’s home town of Maturin. Moreover, despite how the Electoral College blatantly manipulated the way results were broadcast, in the overall national vote tally the opposition candidates beat out the government’s by 51 to 49 percent.

On the minus side for the opposition, former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles tried to bill the contest as a referendum on President Maduro, but this didn´t pan out either from the perspective of voter turnout (only about 58.5 percent vs. over 80 percent in the April presidential election) or the difference in total vote.

What we are left with moving forward is a political environment that continues to be polarized. During the two months previous to the election, the government made private business the culprit for inflation and scarcities of goods, while simultaneously taking steps that practically insure higher inflation, perhaps hyperinflation in 2014.

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Thinking Outside the Box: Political Reality TV in Lebanon and the West Bank

al-zaim

As changes continue to unfold in Egypt, young activists in Cairo’s Tahrir Square are trying to translate street power into actual political capital. On July 4th, the Egyptian military met with the youth leaders of the Tamarod (Rebel) movement to lay out a political roadmap following President Morsi’s ouster. But for the youth to be politically engaged throughout this crucial period, they will need to find innovative ways to channel their passion into stable and effective participation in the normal political processes of democracy. On his brief visit to Washington, DC, an Egyptian youth activist coined the term “democratic entrepreneurship.” What he envisioned has already manifested itself in Lebanon and Palestine, where two democratic entrepreneurs came up with a brilliant idea: political reality TV shows.

Al-Za‘im (the Leader) in Lebanon and Al-Ra‘is (the President) in the West Bank are two pioneering TV programs that resemble a reality-singing competition, like American Idol, with a political twist. Whereas the participants on American Idol are aspiring singers, the contestants of Al-Za‘im and Al-Ra‘is are young aspiring politicians who must complete challenges that range from giving one-minute speeches to implementing projects at the municipal level. The judges are business celebrities, well-known journalists, and political leaders, who offer immediate feedback based on their professional experiences. At the end of the day, the audience has the power to decide who gets to move on to the next round.

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Business Issues at Forefront of Albanian Elections

Edi Rama

On June 23rd, Albanians took to the polls for parliamentary elections with big implications for the future of their country. With European Union candidate status on the line, this particular election was viewed by the international community as a “crucial test” for Albania’s democratic maturity.  Albania’s candidacy status has been denied its past three attempts at a bid, partially due to the lack of transparency and fairness in its electoral process.

The Socialist Party candidate and former Mayor of Tirana, Edi Rama, won handily with 53 percent of the vote, ousting the incumbent, Sali Berisha, and his Democratic Party after eight years in power. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe lauded the election as being free and fair, and a marked improvement from the past. In addition, the losing party officially accepted the results for the first time in the five parliamentary elections since 1992.

Another first for this election cycle was the prominence of business issues in party platforms. Jobs and the economy were the number one issues in the campaigns of all three major political parties. Never before have Albanian politicians shown such an interest in engaging with business in a public-private dialogue. It remains to be seen how the new government will continue these conversations now that the election is over, but there is a cautious optimism among business leaders in Albania that there will be a much more supportive atmosphere for genuine cooperation.

CIPE is currently partnering with a broad coalition of business associations and chambers of commerce to help strengthen the ability of the Albanian business community to conduct advocacy and act as a constructive partner in the public-private dialogue with government. By coalescing, the Albanian business community can take advantage of favorable political winds to improve the overall business climate and, thus, climb further up the ladder towards EU accession.

David Mack is Program Assistant for Eastern Europe & Eurasia at CIPE.

Politics – a Family Business?

President Benigno Aquino III with "Team PNoy" candidates (Photo: Yahoo)

President Benigno Aquino III with “Team PNoy” candidates (Photo: Yahoo)

The recent mid-term elections in the Philippines brought both change and continuity. At stake were 12 of the 24 senate seats, 229 district seats in the House of Representatives, and more than 18,000 local posts, including mayors and governors. President Benigno S. Aquino III and his political allies, Team PNoy, gained important wins, notably in the Senate. This augurs well for the advancement of the President’s anti-corruption and economic growth program of the “straight path” or “tuwid na daan.” Many credit these policies for the March upgrade of the country’s sovereign borrower rating to an investment grade by Fitch for the first time in history. But is the top-level commitment to make government more effective through good governance and economic reforms enough to affect change on the ground? The peculiar kind of continuity in Philippine politics poses that question.

The election results indicate that, as in the past, the biggest winners were the political dynasties and their often questionable tactics involving “guns, goons, gold, and glitter” to mobilize voters. There were, however, some significant upsets by candidates who ran on a good governance platform and won against entrenched political dynasties. Leni Robredo’s win of the congressional seat in Naga City ended the 35 year reign of the Villafuertes family, and Rolen Paulino’s mayoral win against Anne Marie Gordon in Olongapo City ended the quarter-century rule of the Gordon family. But many other dynasties still continue to dominate.

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Paraguay the Day After

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By Raul Ayala Diarte

With the images from Paraguay’s national elections this past Sunday fresh in our eyes – elections in which businessman Horacio Cartes of the Colorado Party rose to a clear victory by a wide margin – any doubts about the electoral and democratic process in Paraguay have been cleared. The country has now repeatedly held transparent electoral processes since the fall of the dictatorship in 1989.

Nearly 70 percent of the voting population participated in this election – one of the highest percentages in history – to elect a president, vice president, senators, deputies, governors and state boards, and parliamentarians for the Southern Common Market (Mercosur). The election was classified as exemplary by international observers from more than 12 organizations, among them the Organization of American States, the European Union, the Union of South American Nations, the Carter Center, and by the local and international press. What is more important is that the candidates accepted the results and there were no incidences to feed the morbid fascination of those that were anticipating problems in the electoral system.

These elections are historic because the world – and particularly the countries of Latin America – were watching everything with critical eyes. They are historic because for the first time we had an election where the Colorado Party (which was hegemonic for 60 years) was running as the opposition and retook power by winning the majority of seats in play (i.e. Senators, Deputies, and Governors) while the Liberal Party, the current governing party, could not even retain the seats it took in 2008.

The traditional parties that dominate Paraguayan politics, the Colorado Party and the Authentic Radical Liberal Party (PLRA), took more than 80 percent of all votes: Colorado taking 45.8 percent and PLRA 36.94 percent.

The coalition of parties of former President Fernando Lugo obtained 3.32 percent of the votes, amounting to 79,327 voters, which contributes to a better understanding of why Paraguayan society did not defend him during the impeachment trial that cost him the presidency in June 2012. Lugo has lost almost all of his support, as the figures demonstrate, although the coalition got better results in the Senate elections, obtaining five of the 45 seats available.

The Precursor

Like never before in its history, Paraguay became politically isolated by the majority of its South American neighbors. The cause of this isolation, as we know, was the impeachment via political trial of former President Lugo, which the majority of jurists and citizens in our country believe was carried out in the letter and spirit of our Constitution.

Nevertheless, for various leaders in the region motivated by political and ideological interests  – as Uruguayan President José Mújica openly recognized – the impeachment was seen as illegal and as a result caused a rupture in Paraguayan democracy.

Because of this “political” interpretation, regional organizations sanctioned and suspended Paraguay’s participation in key international organizations. The “only way” in which Paraguay could be reintegrated into regional institutions is through the clean election conducted on April 21st. It is important for Paraguay to maintain good relations with its neighboring countries since without international cooperation its landlocked location does not give it many other options for development. The electoral system certainly requires profound reforms to grant more equality to the candidates, but this electoral process played out without any major complications.

In Paraguay, the electoral processes have been characterized by a lack of concrete policy proposals. Nevertheless, this election was different due to civil society’s contribution in helping expand the proposals, perhaps not to the level of a well structured governing plan, but enough to qualify as a substantial improvement in content. To understand this better, it is important to highlight that in the 2008 elections where Fernando Lugo won, a government plan did not exist and the campaign relied on just six core themes. Six months after assuming office, Lugo himself created what was called Cerrito I, which was a plan for a better structured government.

To counter this trend and contribute to the electoral process and an informed vote, the Foundation for Development in Democracy (DENDE) and CERNECO – civil society organizations supported by CIPE, organized candidate debates broadcasted by all the open television channels in the country. The purpose was to allow Paraguayan citizens the opportunity to hear and contrast the candidates’ proposals on the issues that matter to them the most. This event was an innovation in the country, and perhaps the region, where all the television stations in the country – private, public, open, and cable – and more than 500 radio stations broadcasted the debates on March 17 and March 24.

According to estimates, over 3 million people from all over the country observed the debate and according to surveys, 71 percent of these people saw and heard the candidates’ proposals for the first time, demonstrating that the debate reached every corner of the country.

The success of this debate can be attributed to the fact that the four leading candidates all participated. This contrasts with what has happened in other countries in which candidates leading in the polls avoid debates, as is the case of Cristina Kirchner in Argentina and Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela.

What awaits the future government?

The new government will face multiple challenges as well as high expectations and necessary compromises.

With regards to the economy, the priority will be to utilize the country’s favorable natural resource advantages and the ability to produce food to feed 60 million people, an amount 10 times greater than the current population. It is also a priority to establish an industrialization process to generate employment, as well as to control the fiscal deficit.

Other pending topics include:

  • The fight against poverty and inequality
  • The fight against corruption, nepotism, the patronage system, and the quality of politics
  • Making institutions function so that they provide guarantees to citizens

An additional challenge will be to continue to eliminate practices carried down from the previous dictatorial government.

“When the people speak, politicians remain silent.” This phrase summarizes the respect given to popular will as it is reflected in the ballot boxes. ∎

This article originally appeared in Spanish on www.RevistaPerspectiva.com

Raul Ayala Diarte is the executive director of the Foundation for Development in Democracy (DENDE).