Tag Archive for Elections

Election Times in Nepal

P1010153

The recent holding of the first phase of local elections in Nepal and the imminent holding of the second round on June 14th are a positive sign and an important landmark in the democratic transition of the country. Nearly 50,000 candidates stood for 13,556 positions as mayor, deputy mayor, ward chairman and ward member in 283 local municipalities.

Since the stablishing of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, after the 1996-2006 Maoist insurgency and the overthrow of the Nepalese monarchy, constant issues have happened trying to ensure a peaceful transition that promotes greater inclusion of the country’s different identity groups. In this context, the elections are seen as the engagement between different parties and the electorate.

The frequent changes in government in recent years have been detrimental to the country’s development and economic growth. Political uncertainty has made foreign investors reluctant to get involved in the area, and domestic industries have suffered the consequences of the lack of funds, deteriorating even more the situation of the most disadvantaged people.

Inclusion in the country is strongly linked to social justice and identity, and both issues greatly affect the complex Nepalese ethnic mosaic. On top of it, inclusion is linked to demands for federalism.

Local governments have an important role in the participation of all identity groups and sections of society by creating a sense of belonging. This idea was already highlighted by the Shared Societies Project in its publication on Local Government and Shared Societies.

Although vote counting results are still trickling in, the Kathmandu Post reports that the CPN-UML is leading the nationwide vote count, followed by the Nepali Congress, with the CPN-Maoist Centre in third place. The final results will be revealed in the next few days and the second round of local polls will be held in the four remaining southern provinces on June 14th. The outcome of this election will be crucial in determining the future direction of democratic Nepal.

In this context, the Club de Madrid’s Shared Societies Project (SSP) strives to aid Nepal’s quest for inclusion by engaging with local partners to work towards the incorporation of all voices in the democratic transition of the country.

For a more detailed account of the provisional election results, click here.

April elections: a Shared Societies opportunity for Afghanistan?

Photo credit: Al Jazeera

History in Afghanistan has as many twists and turns as one can ever imagine. And a new one could be in the making. This could be surprising for some but for the first time in many years the next elections, to be held this April, will feature 11 presidential tickets and all of them will be ethnically diverse. All tribes have their leaders separated and represented in various presidential candidate teams and that triggers a question: is the era of ethnic divisions, that had its climax during the civil war (1992-1996) over?

The answer to this kind of complex questions about Afghanistan will hardly consist in a simple “yes” or “no” but the good news is that it is “probably yes” or “partly yes” (for instance check out this article with the four main questions on the table regarding the elections). As Helena Malykar, Afghan political analyst and historian said in her Al Jazeera report:

The ousting of the Taliban by the US-led military forces at the end of 2001 and establishment of a new regime based on democracy, equal rights and freedoms, has offered Afghans a new environment. During the last decade, while Machiavellian games for power have continued to be played, a wave of change has also made its way into the society, especially among the young generation of Afghans. Changing values are slowly transforming this nation and this shift is quietly, but fundamentally challenging the old ways.

Photo credit: Al Jazeera

Photo credit: Al Jazeera

It’s true that the reasons why all the presidential tickets are integrating leaders from different backgrounds might not be very clear. The rumors in Kabul point to President Karzai as having a lot to do with this refound diversity in an attempt to control the process. Others think it is not a convictions/ideals driven process but calculation on the part of the candidates themselves. And yes, the common visions and programs may mean little but the fact is that the younger generation is striving for a better quality of life and better public services like education, health care or infrastructure rather than focusing on ethnic issues. As Malykar says

there are clear and present signs that voters may transcend ethnic and sectarian dividing lines during the April presidential elections. Whether the division of votes will be motivated by immediate material gain or based on a forward-looking vision, remains to be seen.

Therefore the process in Afghanistan towards a Shared Society is both challenging and promising. The fact that all the presidential tickets will be ethnically mixed at least opens the door to implement three of the Shared Societies Commitments and Approaches on Inter-Community Development: “take steps to reduce tensions and hostility between communities”, “initiate a process to encourage the creation of a shared vision of society” and “promote respect, understanding and appreciation of diversity

 

Malaysia’s Elections – a Chance for Hard-line Civil Society?

Malasia Elecciones

The next Malaysia elections need to be called by June 2013 and commentators herald this occasion as an opportunity for opposition parties with manifestos touching upon issues of transparency, equality and social justice to defeat ‘the world’s longest continually-elected political coalition, the National Front (Barisan Nasional)….’.

The National Front party has grown stale and unresponsive to the growing middle class who are increasingly dissatisfied with ongoing corruption and demand better civil liberties. The party has won every election since 1957 and the current opposition warns of a possible electoral fraud.

Current security and economic growth are unsustainable because they are based on preferential treatment of Malay people and policies that discriminate other minority groups. Although Malay people enjoyed their privileges, the new middle class demand liberalization of the economy and modernization of the society.

Malaysia is a vibrant society consisting of Malay, Chinese and Indian communities where giving preferential status to one means discriminating the other, thus neglecting social cohesion and inclusion.  This type of political behaviour leads to unrest as evidenced by mass street rallies organized throughout decades by a broad-based civil society movement, the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections, who demand a more level playing field.

The current government is in a strong position due to its monopoly on the media, giving ‘fiscal sweeteners’ to its electorate and pumping money into the economy to induce economic growth as a part of its political strategy. Moreover, all Malaysian newspapers need a government permit to go to print. However, in a very recent landmark judgment, the High Court quashed the Home Ministry’s decision to deny a publishing permit for a popular online news portal. The judge ruled the Home Ministry’s decision as being unreasonable and in fact unlawful. This judgment strengthens freedom of speech and could help to pave the way for Malaysian democracy and allow independent newspapers to exist, as the vast majority of the media is currently owned and controlled by the government.

The Shared Societies Project hopes that the peoples of Malaysia will use the upcoming elections as an opportunity to elect the best party with the best potential for achieving social cohesion and democratic development which will unite the peoples of Malaysia in building a diverse and equal Malaysia.

Relevant News:

http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/asia/south-east-asia/malaysia/235-malaysias-coming-election-beyond-communalism.aspx?utm_source=malaysiareport&utm_medium=1&utm_campaign=mremail

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/16/malaysia-economy-idUSL4E8JG1X720120816

http://www.economist.com/node/21553513

http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/international/radio/program/connect-asia/malaysian-court-orders-government-to-review-print-permit-for-news-portal/1024106

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