How Dictators Use Zombie Election Monitors

zombiesCheck out this zombie-themed Buzzfeed in time for Halloween. Produced by the National Endowment for Democracy’s International Forum for Democratic Studies, it illustrates several ways in which authoritarian regimes employ “zombie election monitors” to create confusion about the authenticity of elections in order to add a veneer of legitimacy to their regimes. The Buzzfeed is based on Chris Walker’s October 2013 article with Alexander Cooley, “Vote of the Living Dead”, as well as continued research that the Forum has conducted. It incorporates many current examples of pseudo-elections and zombie monitoring from Azerbaijan’s 2013 presidential elections through as recent as Scotland’s independence referendum.

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Syrian moderates ‘could have stemmed ISIS’

ISIS ISWThe emergence of the Islamic State, aka ISIS or ISIL, could have been stemmed had the United States provided assistance to moderate Syrian rebel factions, according to a former ambassador.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford and former Defense Secretary and CIA Director Leon Panetta both criticize the refusal to arm moderates who could have served as a counterweight to the Islamic State.

“I think we made the wrong decision in not providing assistance to the rebels,” Panetta said on “Frontline’s” “The Rise of ISIS,” which aired on PBS Tuesday night (check local listings).

The film portrays how Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, driven by “paranoia,”  alienated the country’s Sunnis, accusing Sunni leaders — including Vice Prime Minister Tariq al-Hashimi – of terrorism.

The attacks on Hashimi, one day after the last U.S. soldier left Iraq, marked a real departure, said Laith Kubba, the National Endowment for Democracy’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“It took a lot of people by surprise and showed that Maliki is really independent from the Americans,” he said.  

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Crowdmaps & hashtags: but has Ukraine vote fueled Putin narrative?

 ukraine crowdmapping

UkraineFLAGVladimir Putin may have more ammunition to extend his influence over the Ukraine’s war-torn east after the country’s parliamentary election, Bloomberg’s Daryna Krasnolutska writes:

The outcome will muffle input from areas that hug Russia’s border as President Petro Poroshenko embarks on a political and economic transformation he says will prime Ukraine for European Union membership. It risks further inflaming tensions between Russia and its former Cold War adversaries, whose clashes over the annexation of Crimea and Ukraine’s insurgency have triggered a wave of sanctions.

“Besides the near-collapse of former President Yanukovych’s camp, several seats have been left unoccupied and the east saw a comparably low turnout,” Otilia Dhand, an analyst at Teneo Intelligence, said by e-mail from London. “Russia will almost certainly challenge the legitimacy and representativeness of these elections.”

Kremlin spinmeisters will be tempted to argue, given that so few managed to vote in the areas under separatist or Russian control, that the new Ukrainian parliament is unrepresentative and therefore illegitimate, the Foreign Policy Initiative’s Jamie Kirchik writes for Foreign Policy’s Democracy Lab, drawing on his observations as an election monitor with the International Republican Institute:

While it is indeed true that enthusiasm for the post-Yanukovych political order is substantially lower in the East, and that this dissatisfaction may partly explain lower turnout there, it cannot annul the results of a democratic election. Moreover, the only reason why so many people didn’t vote in the East is because of a war started by Russia; Moscow disenfranchised those voters, not Kiev. The vast majority of Ukrainians, including those in the East, have repeatedly expressed support for a united Ukraine.

nadiadiukThe vote also confirmed civil society activists’ determination to make the transition from protest to politics, says the National Endowment for Democracy‘s Nadia Diuk.

“The decision to jump from civic activism to politics was not an easy one in Ukraine, where politics is considered a dirty business and politicians generally have had a bad reputation,” she writes. “Nonetheless, a group of activists and journalists, including Mustafa Nayyem, who helped to launch the Maidan last year, announced a month ago that they would join various parties.”

Western hubris?

‘‘Ukraine is pregnant with reforms,’’ said political analyst Oleksiy Haran. ‘‘The elections showed that both the government and voters expect structural changes to bring Ukrainians closer to the European Union.’’

“The crisis in Ukraine has spurred some analysts to conclude that Russia has responded reasonably to Western interference in Ukraine,” the Atlantic Council’s Ian Hansen writes for the Moscow Times. “The ensuing Ukrainian violence and deterioration of U.S.-Russian relations can be blamed on Western hubris and far-fetched idealism.” But, he adds, “even if one accepts this narrative, the associated recommendation for the West to abandon its plan to ‘Westernize’ Ukraine remains flawed.”

ukraine polls oporaCrowdmapping has become a staple of election monitoring efforts in Ukraine, Tetyana Lokot @tanyalokot writes for Global Voices Online:

During the 2012 parliamentary elections, three separate maps were set up by local civic organizations to engage citizens in reporting elections violations via email, text message or website submissions. This year, OPORA citizen network recreated their crowdmap and has received close to 900 reports of possible violations from all over Ukraine.

Another crowdmapping initiative, Opir (Resistance), was built by volunteers who banded together during the Euromaidan protests (above). The project combines an online map with Android and iOS apps, to provide more opportunities for reporting suspicious activity in the polling stations to Ukrainians who are increasingly using the Internet on their smartphones. Besides submitting reports and photos/videos of incidents, users can sign up to join mobile monitoring groups that combine drivers, lawyers and journalists and travel between precincts to monitor the voting process.

Setting the stage for renewed tensions with the West, the Russian government said on Tuesday that it would recognize the results of coming elections in the separatist-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine, where rebel leaders have scheduled a vote in defiance of the Ukrainian government and in violation of an agreement signed last month in Minsk, Belarus, The New York Times reports (HT: FPI):

The European Union’s executive body is close to signing off on two disbursement of loans promised to Ukraine that would give Kiev about €760 million ($965 million) in additional funding by the end of the year, two senior officials said Tuesday. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)  

The de facto division underlines a reality that has been clear since the two sides signed a peace deal in early September: Kiev has given up effective control of rebel-held territory, handing Russia a strong lever to influence its neighbor. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)  

Ukraine is unlikely to receive a second tranche of a $17-billion loan program from the International Monetary Fund this year as expected, Finance Minister Oleksander Shlapak said on Tuesday, in the latest economic blow to the debt-ridden country. – Reuters

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Forces for Change: Civil Society in Bosnia and Herzegovina

bosnia 1ZASTAVA-BIH-1-604x270The 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement succeeded in ending the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), but the resulting constitution continues to hinder the country’s democratic transition. The current power-sharing system, derived from a compromise made to end the war, has since allowed political leaders to conceal their poor performance behind ethno-nationalist issues. Politics remain divided across ethnic lines, as demonstrated by the outcome of the October 2014 general elections. There is nevertheless an increasingly vocal public opposition toward the established ethno-political elite, as was evident in the recent wave of citizen protests 

The National Endowment for Democracy has been making grants in Bosnia and Herzegovina since 1994.  As the worst performing state in the Balkans today, BiH has been the Endowment’s top priority in Southeast Europe since 2008. In early 2014, NED commissioned an independent evaluation of its grants program in BiH, which was conducted by Dr. Doga Ulas Eralp. The purpose of the evaluation is to provide an outside and objective assessment of NED’s engagement strategy for strengthening democratic culture and dialogue in BiH.  

The discussion will begin with a short presentation by Dr. Eralp outlining some of his findings and recommendations for future assistance to civil society and democratic development in BiH. Participants will be encouraged to share their thoughts on the specific findings, as well as any implications for other post-conflict societies facing similar challenges.   

Ivana Cvetkovic Bajrovic, the Senior Program Officer for Europe at the National Endowment for Democracy, will moderate the discussion.  

Forces for Change:

An Assessment of the National Endowment for Democracy’s

Support to Civil Society Organizations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2008-2013


Dr. Doga Ulas Eralp

American University

moderated by

Ivana Cvetkovic Bajrovic

National Endowment for Democracy

Friday, November 7, 2014 9:30–11:00 a.m. 1025 F. Street, N.W., Suite 800, Washington, D.C. 20004 Telephone: 202-378-9700

Light refreshments will be served 

RSVP (acceptances only) with name and affiliation by Tuesday, November 4


Doga Ulas Eralp is a professor at the International Peace and Conflict Resolution Program at American University’s School of International Service (SIS). He received his Ph.D. from the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University. As an international mediator he has been an active participant in the facilitation of dialogue processes in Turkey, Cyprus, Macedonia, Nepal, Syria and Bosnia-Herzegovina among others. Dr. Eralp has published widely on issues around democratization, international human rights, and conflict transformation in the Western Balkans, Middle East, European Union and Turkey. His 2012 book Politics of the European Union in Bosnia-Herzegovina: Between Conflict and Democracy has received considerable attention from policy makers.  Dr. Eralp’s current work focuses on evaluating the contributions of emerging powers to peace processes across the globe.

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Having it both ways? Arab states ‘share Isis’s ideology’


Credit: MEMRI

Bombing Isis and banning Islamist movements may suppress such movements for a while but it does nothing to address the ideological problem. Unless the question of compulsion in religion is tackled head-on, they will resurface later or similar groups will emerge to replace them, argues Brian Whitaker, the author of several books about the region, most recently Arabs Without God: Atheism and Freedom of Belief in the Middle East.

Although freedom of belief is a widely accepted principle internationally, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, it is still far from becoming established in the Arab countries. This is true of both governments and society, he writes for the Guardian:

For Arab governments, enforcing religious rules and allying themselves with God helps to make up for their lack of electoral legitimacy. This causes a particular problem in combating the ideology of groups such as Isis because most Arab states – including several members of the military coalition against it – share Isis’s approach to compulsion in religion. Isis may be more brutal in practice but, basically, they are on the same ground – asserting the superiority of Islam and the legitimacy of religious discrimination.

“This kind of fudging and fence-sitting has served them quite well until now, but with the growth of religious intolerance and the spread of sectarian-related conflicts in various parts of the region it is becoming less and less tenable,” Whitaker observes. “So long as they shy away from a clear commitment to freedom of belief, their stance helps to legitimise the actions of groups such as Isis.” RTWT

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