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.
A Burmese man checks his mobile phone.(Photo: Flickr)
Since 2011, Burma has slowly been transitioning into a fledgling democracy from a reclusive military dictatorship. Some positive steps have taken place – multi-party elections have been held and more than 3,000 political prisoners have been freed. Yet as the U.S. deputy national security adviser stated recently, “[p]arts of the reform effort have stalled, parts have moved forward and parts, we’ve seen, have even moved backward, so it’s a mixed picture.”
The biggest test for Burma’s democratic transition is the upcoming general elections taking place in November. For citizens to make informed decisions and to hold future leaders accountable, they must be empowered with knowledge. The potential political leaders also must be educated about how to govern, as well as find ways to communicate and engage with their constituents. And technology, more specifically mobile phones, will have a large role to play for both groups.
Coalition members meet with political parties. (Photo: @sentellbarnes, IRI)
Nigeria’s upcoming elections have been attracting a lot of international attention because of the country’s population, economy, and political status, which are among the highest on the continent. Over the course of a few weeks in early 2015, Nigerians will elect state and national level leaders, including governors and the president.
While Nigerian civil society and the private sector have had difficulty in the past moving national political dialogue towards substance and policy, recent success has been seen at the state level. It is hoped that success will continue in the rhetoric surrounding the state elections, so much so that there can be spill-over into the national dialogue.
Over the past few years, the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) has partnered with coalitions of business and professional associations in seven states across the North Central Zone and Enugu State. The partnerships have been centered on building the advocacy capacity of the various coalitions. Because Nigeria is has a federated system, civil society can attempt to effect change at the state level when it would prove too costly, inefficient, bureaucratic, or in a few cases too corrupt, at the national level.
Since 2005, CIPE has been working with the business community in Afghanistan to build their capacity to work with the government to improve the business environment in Afghanistan. CIPE has helped business associations identify the challenges and barriers to business, develop practical policy solutions, and effectively communicate the policies to government officials.
A major step for the business community was the launch of the CIPE-supported Afghanistan National Business Agenda (NBA) in 2011. The NBA is a grassroots program to build consensus among the business community of the most urgent policy priorities. The Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) led a coalition of 11 business associations in conducting public forums in five major cities with over 1,300 business people to gather input on improving the business environment. Based on the input from these forums, the coalition produced a report outlining the business community’s reform agenda.
Since the launch of the NBA in 2011, CIPE has supported the NBA coalition in advocating for the implementation of the policy reforms. The advocacy campaigns have been highly successful, increasing land and infrastructure for businesses, reducing and simplifying taxes and licenses, reducing corruption, and improving government services.
The 2014 Afghanistan presidential elections presented a great opportunity for a renewed efforts by the business community to advance their reform priorities. ACCI, in partnership with Harakat, organized a National Business Forum on February 27 to once again bring the business community together to unify behind a common agenda.
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.
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.
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.