We’ve been following the election situation in Georgia with great concern.
The political opponents with controversial ties to Russia and Ukraine faced off during a deeply polarised pre-election campaign.
On election day and since, allegations of voter fraud and irregularities have resulted in calls for recounts.
We’re talking about Georgia, the country in the Caucasus, of course.
But if your mind travelled to Georgia, the US state, you’re not the only one. In fact, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe – which monitored the US presidential election as well as Georgia’s parliamentary election – highlighted how incumbents have undermined confidence in the electoral processes in both Georgia (the country) and the US.
Despite the extraordinary challenges created by COVID-19 pandemic, we have just seen the highest voter turnout in a US general election for a century. That is a powerful testament to the passion and determination with which the US electorate pursues its democratic rights. It is incumbent on all those concerned to honour voters’ decisions and ensure that every voice is heard in this election.
It might have been easy to forget that there are have been other elections taking place outside the US this week. But it is important to recognise a worrisome trend: in 2020, the quality of elections is on a downward slope.
In Tanzania, President Magufuli won a landslide victory on October 28. Major social media platforms were blocked on election day, few independent observers were allowed and many foreign journalists did not receive accreditation to cover the election. Opposition figures who called for mass demonstrations to contest the election results were arrested this week and now face terrorism-related offenses. Magufuli’s party won almost all the seats in the parliament, enough to change the country’s constitution and allow Magufuli to run for a third term.
In Côte d'Ivoire, President Alassane Ouattara has just won a third term in power after claiming 94 per cent of the vote in an election that was boycotted by the opposition, who maintain that the constitution sets a limit of two terms in office. The fact that this is even up for debate speaks to deep-rooted integrity issues in the highest courts in the land.
In Uganda, singer Bobi Wine was brutally arrested after he was confirmed as a candidate for the upcoming elections.
In Myanmar, an exclusionary electoral process offers Aung San Suu Kyi and the country’s hybrid civil-military regime an easy (and hard to contest) victory on November 8, to the detriment of ethnic minorities who are denied the right to vote in some areas following opaque decisions that cite security concerns.
The wide array of tactics being used to sway and manipulate elections constitute what some are calling a third wave of autocratisation. According to recent analysis, for the first time since 2001, there are more autocracies than democracies in the world.
We can’t let this continue, and Transparency International is working to protect the integrity in electoral processes that is essential for the accountable use of power. Notably, Transparency International Georgia and their 600 volunteers have been at the frontlines of the parliamentary election that took place last Saturday.
Where elections fail to deliver democracy, the public has other ways of making their voice heard. The mass protests that continue in Belarus twelve weeks after authoritarian leader Lukashenko’s re-election, despite the government’s violent response, are heartening proof of this.
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