Democratic governance ‘gives Africa a face-lift’


President Obama announced billions of dollars in new public and private investment in Africa’s rapidly growing markets — on everything from construction to banking to clean energy infrastructure — at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, PBS reports. Gwen Ifill (above) talks to Chris Fomunyoh of the National Democratic Institute and Torek Farhadi International Trade Centre about the growing partnership.

A wave of attachment to democratic governance across Africa has given the continent a face-lift, says Fomunyoh:

Obviously, the narrative still needs to be fully written. And there are still countries that are struggling both in terms of economic development, as well as with democratization and putting in place institutions that can really guarantee that a lot of this worth that is generated through trade and investment can actually be spread to the African populations that really need it the most.

However, when you look back at what has transpired in the continent in the last 10 — in the past 10 to 15 years, there’s been a lot of — there’s a success story that can be told for most of Africa

NDI is one of the core institutes of the National Endowment for Democracy.

Afghanistan fraud charges ‘may jeopardize democratic transition’




Afghanistan‘s presidential election has been plunged into crisis after one candidate demanded a halt to vote counting, suspended cooperation with election authorities and called for a UN commission to mediate over “blatant fraud”, The Guardian reports:

It was an unexpectedly strong challenge to an election that had initially been celebrated as a qualified success, with high turnout in both the first round and a 14 June run-off, despite Taliban threats and violence.

Former foreign minister and mujahideen doctor Abdullah Abdullah had already signalled that he was unhappy about preliminary turnout figures for the second round, and wary of large leaps in voter numbers in the strongholds of his rival Ashraf Ghani, a former finance minister and World Bank technocrat.

The Free and Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan (FEFA) spokesman Fahim Naime called on the electoral commissions and presidential candidates not to harm the election process, Deutsche Welle reports.

“We call on the IEC and Abdullah Abdullah to resolve this issue as soon as possible, because as time passes the crisis deepens. If it continues this way, we might reach a point where the commissions won’t be able to resolve these problems,” Naim told DW. He also called on the IEC to take steps in order to restore trust with Abdullah Abdullah.

“In the meantime the candidates should respect the votes of the people and not take such actions that can harm the election process,” Naime said.

Michael Kugelman, a South Asia expert at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, says in a DW interview Abdullah has made a dramatic accusation while presenting no substantive evidence. In order to uphold the integrity of the electoral process, Kugelman adds, Afghan election officials probably won’t start to investigate these allegations until the vote counting process has concluded.

An election observer mission from the US-based National Democratic Institute [a core institute of the National Endowment for Democracy] concluded two days after the poll that “the problems it observed did not appear to be widespread or systematic”.


Proposed Ukraine referendums violate international law

ukrainesolidarnoscThe proposed referendums on the independence of two parts of eastern Ukraine announced by armed separatist groups violate the tenets of international law as well as Ukraine’s constitution, regardless of their timing, says a leading democracy assistance group.

Under the circumstances of coercion, armed occupation of government offices and violence, a referendum, regardless of its outcome, would lack legitimacy and broad public acceptance within Ukraine and by the international community, the National Democratic Institute said today:

In neither of these two Ukrainian oblasts do the separatists have a representative mandate from the populations and, to the contrary, several public opinion polls in April reported that the majority of those populations do not support the separatists’ actions and do not believe that the rights of the Russian-speaking population are being violated. Whether or not the separatists have the ability to print ballots and organize polling stations, such referendums would breach precepts of international law and undermine international relations based on respect for the territorial integrity of states.

Some analysts said Mr. Putin was hedging against the inability of insurgents to pull off a successful ballot measure, The New York Times reports.

 “They control dozens of buildings, but not the entire territory, and don’t have the administrative capacity to organize a vote,” said Michael McFaul, who until earlier this year served as the United States ambassador in Russia. “Moreover, polls show that a free and fair election there would not produce support for splitting with Ukraine.”

Download the NDI statement. 

Libya’s ‘unexpected strength’

Credit: NDI

Credit: NDI

Libya remains in deep chaos. Various militias are competing for political and economic power, carrying out attacks and otherwise buffeting the fragile government, say two leading experts.

Work on a new Constitution has only recently started, well over a year later than envisioned in the political blueprint that was drawn up as the civil war ended in October 2011, Dartmouth College’s Dirk Vandewalle and researcher Nicholas Jahr write for The New York Times:

This is a shame because, despite severe security issues and other debilitating weaknesses, Libya these days has one unexpected strength: Most of its people agree on major issues that are often hopelessly divisive, like minority rights, Islam and federalism.

Polling by the University of Benghazi early last year suggested that a solid 55 percent of the population favored granting some form of recognition to languages other than Arabic, including the long-silenced ones spoken by the Amazigh and the Tebu, two minority groups. According to a study by the National Democratic Institute published last November, a majority of Libyans supported reserving seats for women and ethnic minorities in the constitutional assembly (and some seats were, in fact, set aside for those groups).

Other reports last year by the National Democratic Institute [a core institute of the National Endowment for Democracy] and the University of Benghazi indicated that an overwhelming majority of Libyans believed Shariah, the legal code of Islam based on the Quran, should be enshrined in the new Constitution as a source of legislation (though not the only one). And while many Libyans, particularly in the east, support some degree of decentralization, they favor a centralized state over full-on federalism or any far-reaching devolution of power to the provinces.

“Libya faces fiendishly difficult problems, but there is at least one tangible issue that could be fixed fairly easily,” they contend. “Reforming current electoral rules would close the gap between the people and their leaders, and make good on an enviable asset that is rare in such fragile countries: a popular consensus on major issues that transcends cleavages over smaller ones.”


Dirk Vandewalle is an associate professor of government at Dartmouth College. Nicholas Jahr is a freelance researcher and reporter.

Iraq’s April 30 Elections: Consolidating Democratic Gains or Cementing Sectarian Divides?


Later this month, Iraqis will go to the polls to elect new members of the Council of Representatives, the country’s legislative body, as well as members of provincial assemblies in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Preparations for the April 30 elections have been turbulent to date, with looming questions regarding the ability of displaced Iraqis to participate in the polls; the controversial disqualification of certain candidates; and the now-rescinded resignation of the commissioners of the Independent High Electoral Commission, the body charged with organizing the polls. Sectarian rhetoric and ethnic appeals have also characterized the campaign messages of certain candidates and party coalitions.

Amid sharpening sectarian divisions and an increasingly precarious security environment, the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) present a panel of experts to share their perspectives on Iraq’s national elections, and what they mean for the country’s democratic development.NDI recently conducted a nationwide pre-election poll to gauge citizen perspectives on prospects for peaceful elections; anticipated voter participation rates and shifts in partisan support; and longer-term issues such as perceived improvements or declines in cross-cutting issues such as security, basic service provision, employment and education. The results reveal distinct regional divides and opinions on the country’s state of play ahead of these critical elections.

NDI’s Iraq-based Resident Director, Elvis Zutic, will discuss the poll’s key findings and his views on the country’s political, electoral and security contexts. Discussants will complement his assessment with analyses of the importance of these elections, and how the outcome of the polls will impact Iraq’s broader development progress and its relationships with regional and international actors.

Featured Speakers:

Elvis Zutic Resident Director, NDI Iraq

Sarhang Hamasaeed Senior Program Officer, Middle East and North Africa Programs, USIP

Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad Former Ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, and the United Nations Counselor, Center for Strategic and International Studies

Manal Omar, Moderator Associate Vice President for the Middle East and Africa, USIP