Tag Archives: elections

Will a Federal Form of Government Succeed in South Asia’s Newest Democracy?

A fruit vendor in a bazaar in Palpa, Nepal weighs Nepal-grown suntala, a citrus fruit similar to a mandarin orange. Photo by Jennifer Anderson.

On November 26, millions of Nepalis peacefully voted in the country’s first general election since the end of the Maoist civil war and the end of the Monarchy. In the first phase of a two-phase election, Nepalis voted to elect 275 members to the House of Representatives and, historically, to elect representatives to the newly created seven provincial assemblies. The second phase will conclude on December 7, 2017. This is a critical moment in Nepal’s democratic consolidation. More than a decade ago, Nepal’s political parties agreed to change the country’s unitary system of government to a federal system. After years of political discord and bureaucratic stasis, Nepal’s Constituent Assembly successfully passed its new constitution in September 2015, which mandates a federal form of governance. Now, Nepal must follow through on establishing three tiers of government: Federal, provincial, and local. For democracy to succeed, the country’s leaders must deliver on the provisions of the Constitution, including federalization.

A fruit vendor in Tansen, the capital of Palpa district, Nepal. How will federalism improve life for marginalized communities and necessity entrepreneurs? Photo by Jennifer Anderson.

The demand for federalism was initially inspired by popular objections to the undue concentration of economic and political power among a small group of high-caste political elites in Kathmandu, the capital. Moreover, in-fighting among these centralized elites stunted economic reform efforts and fed a corrupt patronage network. Since democracy’s reinstatement in 2008, Nepal has rotated through a merry-go-round of 10 prime ministers and remained trapped in a low-growth, high-migration scenario. Many Nepalis—including historically marginalized communities like the Dalits, Madhesis, and Janajatis—hope federalism will give them a greater voice in policymaking and public governance. The remaking of Nepal into a functioning federal country that meets diverse sets of needs will prove to its citizens that democracy delivers.

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Democracy that Delivers Podcast #51: Podcast Throwback

It is Inauguration Week here in Washington, DC and in honor of this important symbol of democracy we are highlighting two conversations that have taken place on the podcast over the last year that focus on democratic and economic development and the link between the two:

Podcast guest Claude Fontheim (left) with hosts Julie Johnson and Ken Jaques.

In the first podcast throwback episode, CIPE Board member Claude Fontheim talked about how the rule of law, transparency, and good governance underpin strong, inclusive development. Fontheim explained that investment alone is not enough and that support for public institutions is needed to ensure that the benefits of trade and economic growth reach all segments of society. He discussed the direct link between development around the world and U.S. national security interests. Fontheim also talked about how U.S. companies contribute to the good governance of countries they invest in, and how they partner with NGOs and civil society to support initiatives in sectors such as health, education, and women’s rights.

Guest Dr. Kim Holmes (center) with hosts Jennifer Anderson and Ken Jaques.

In the second, Distinguished Fellow at The Heritage Foundation and recently returned CIPE Board member (after a 15 year hiatus) Dr. Kim Holmes discussed how his views on democratic and economic development have evolved through the years. Holmes explained specifically how his views on the role of economic development in conflict zones has changed and why. He also talked at length about his new book, The Closing of the Liberal Mind: How Groupthink and Intolerance Define the Left. 

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The Role of the Presidential Debate in Macri’s Argentina Election Victory

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This post has been updated on December 17, 2015.

What a difference a month can make!  During Argentina’s first presidential candidate debate in October, Daniel Scioli, the Peronist government party candidate, appeared to be a shoo-in with voters. A month later at the November debate held at the University of Buenos Aires Law School the tables were completely turned. Mauricio Macri, representing the opposition voice of market friendly change had now become the favorite to win the election. What happened?

The role of the presidential debates—the first in Argentine history (see my previous post on the first debate which talks about this CIPE supported initiative)—is difficult to quantify. What we can see is that Scioli paid a heavy political price for not participating in October’s debate. The other candidates made constant references during the debate to the empty podium that referenced his absence. The press also excoriated Scioli’s last minute decision to not participate.

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Argentina: Observing the Ballotage

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Mauricio Macri, nuevo presidente de Argentina (Foto EFE)

By Mario Felix Lleonart

Originally published on his blog Cubano Confesante.

I was brought by God’s winds to the epicenter of a democratic battle: the Argentina ballotage (runoff), the second round of an election for the presidency of the Republic between two candidates.

I landed on Sunday, November 15 in Buenos Aires, exactly at the moment of the first presidential debate in the history of Argentina. During an incredibly intense week, for the first time in my forty years I observed the effervescent passion of a nation that today can settle the future of their country through ballot boxes.

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Will Argentina’s First-Ever Presidential Debate Help Change Politics for the Better?

Candidates at the October 4 debate, with an empty podium for incumbent Daniel Scioli, who dropped out of the debate. (Photo: AP)

Candidates at the October 4 debate, with an empty podium for incumbent Daniel Scioli, who dropped out of the debate. (Photo: AP)

When the lights went down and the countdown to going live on the air began, everyone in the room knew they were witnessing history — the first ever debate among presidential candidates in Argentina.

It was a long, hard negotiation process that brought the candidates to the debate table. The debate was not without its flaws. The biggest of course was the decision of the leading candidate, Daniel Scioli, representing the current governing party (the Front for Victory), to not attend even after participating in all the negotiations leading up to the debate. Still, the room was electric and the audience complied with all the rules they were asked to abide by, including refraining from clapping or cheering for their favorite candidate.

The five candidates who did participate (Mauricio Macri, Sergio Massa, Margaret Stolbizer, Adolfo Rodriguez Saá and Nicolás del Caño) took advantage of the empty lectern representing the missing candidate, faulting him for disrespecting them and the people of Argentina by his failure to show up.

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Nigeria’s 2015 Elections: The Debates Must Go On

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Just over two weeks ago, Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) made the shocking (but not entirely surprising) decision to delay the country’s elections by six weeks. Citing ongoing instability caused by Boko Haram in the country’s Northeast and INEC’s own uncertainty about its ability to deliver outstanding voter cards to nearly 40 percent of the country’s 70 million registered voters, the decision to delay has divided opinions.

On one hand, there is doubt that Nigeria’s woefully inept security forces could provide the kind of protection voters need, and the potential disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of voters due to violence would not bode well for a country making efforts to become a more genuine democracy.  On the other hand, there is little reason to believe the military will be ready to both take out Boko Haram and create a secure voting environment in just six weeks. Furthermore, given the high stakes in the race between current President Goodluck Jonathan and General Muhammadu Buhari – in the closest and most hotly contested since the end of military rule in 1999 – many are interpreting the election delay as politically motivated.

What is interesting about most of the dialogue currently surrounding the elections, however, is that it is largely focused at the center. Indeed, think tanks and election-oversight bodies have released study after study with polling data and predictions for presidential electoral outcomes, as well as scenarios for how the elections will impact an already delicate security situation across the country.

Though much of the international community is focused on the preparations for and outcome of the presidential contest now scheduled for March 28 , there is very little conversation about the state level elections taking place two weeks later on April 11.

While the national level race is certainly interesting and important, the top issues facing Nigerian voters must ultimately be dealt with locally. Economic empowerment through job creation is a prime example. Despite Nigeria’s substantial oil revenues, the country nonetheless suffers from massive unemployment and income inequality – the primary factors contributing to endemic poverty, low quality of life, and the growth of insecurity.

The solutions for boosting employment and opportunities for Nigeria’s poor and disenfranchised will not come from the Presidency. State and local governments will need to work in coordination with local businesses to create an enabling environment for small, medium, and large enterprises to thrive.  Therefore, the outcome of state elections will have as much (if not more) impact on the daily lives of Nigerians than the contest for the presidency.

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Outcry Against Corruption Helps Drive a Change of Leadership in Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan election officials carry ballot boxes under police guard. (Photo: VOA News)

Sri Lankan election officials carry ballot boxes under police guard. (Photo: VOA News)

While it is hard to identify all of the issues that drove Sri Lankans during the country’s recent – and for many observers, surprising – elections, a cry for change was evident. Voters had clearly grown tired of corruption, cronyism, and authoritarianism, and there have been widespread calls for investigations into a range of alleged human rights abuses.

On January 8, in an unexpected turn of events, 15 million Sri Lankans, representing a 75 percent voter turnout, went to the polls and ousted incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa in favor of Maithripala Sirisena, Rajapaksa’s former Health Minister who shocked many by declaring his intent to run for office. Rajapaksa, who was South Asia’s longest-serving political head of state, in office since 2005, had turned increasingly authoritarian. He called these elections two years early, seeking a third term. It seems unlikely that he anticipated the defection of Sirisena and a number of other parliamentarians.

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