General News of 2014-02-28

Clean elections are bedrock of democracy - Kofi Annan

Former UN Secretary General and Nobel peace prize laureate, Kofi Annan, has said clean and transparent elections with integrity are the bedrock of democracy.

The Chairman of the Kofi Annan foundation, in a speech delivered on Friday February 28, 2014, at the Austrian Parliament in Vienna, at which he called for an urgent debate on the state of democracy, Mr Annan said despite being the root of democracy, clean democratic elections are by no means assured.

In his view, media monopolies and opaque political financing obstruct transparent democratic practices and create imbalanced playing fields during election campaigns, compromising electoral integrity.

“This year alone, over forty percent of the world’s population will have a chance to vote in democratic elections,” Mr. Annan said, but pointed out that: “Too often, elections are manipulated, flawed, or used to confer a degree of legitimacy to authoritarian regimes.”

He said despite free and fair elections, mistrust between citizens and institutions is palpable in Europe and beyond.

Annan’s address to the Austrian parliament followed an invitation by the Foreign Policy and United Nations Association of Austria.

The former UN Secretary General argued that short-term vision, reactionary policies and growing political polarization currently undermine many governments’ ability to serve their people.

According to him, there was the need to build strong Electoral Management Bodies, and “to create institutions and norms of multi-party competition which bolster democracy as a mutual security system amongst political contenders.”

He also stressed the need to strengthen the rule of law in line with universal standards and principles, to protect the elections-related rights of citizens and political contenders, and to ensure that political power is transferred peacefully.

“Democracy depends on an assurance that citizens are equal under the law and enjoy its protection,” Mr Annan reiterated.

Citing recent disturbances in Asia and Latin America as an example, Mr Annan said: “Organised protests from Thailand to Venezuela indicate that something is wrong with our political institutions, and that political leaders are not effectively managing the expectations of the electorate.”

“We cannot give the impression that the street is an alternative to elections” Mr. Annan identified several key issues to be addressed to strengthen the integrity of elections and to deepen democracy worldwide,” he said.