IRI Co-Hosts Officials Participating in American University’s Summer Institute on Democracy and Elections

IRI co-hosted election officials from the Middle East, Africa, Asia and the Caribbean for a roundtable on the importance of elections and election observation.  The roundtable was part of American University’s Summer Institute on Democracy and Elections: Challenges for the 21st Century.

During the roundtable, officials heard presentations from Georges Fauriol, Senior Vice President of IRI; Richard Soudriette, President of IFES; and Pat Merloe, Director of Election Programs at the National Democratic Institute.  The presentations focused on the role of elections in democratic societies, the importance of broad participation in the election process, the role of international and domestic observers and the role of public opinion polling prior to elections.

Pat Merloe began the roundtable with an overview of the importance of elections and the critical role political parties, civil society, media and observers play in the process.  Merloe highlighted that each group’s participation in an election builds confidence in the process and he encouraged all countries to open themselves to election observers as a way to strengthen their electoral process.

Richard Soudriette followed with three case studies of recent elections in Haiti, Iraq and Belarus and the role international and domestic observers played in the process.  In Haiti and Iraq, observers ensured the will of the voters was respected and in Belarus observers raised international awareness of the fraudulent election outcome.

Georges Fauriol discussed the role of public opinion research prior to Election Day and highlighted four case studies – Indonesia prior to the 2004 elections, Iraq prior to the January 2005 elections, Angola in anticipation of 2006 elections, and Macedonia prior to 2002 elections.  In Indonesia and Iraq, IRI polling indicated a high level of voter participation and a high level of voter confidence in election institutions. However, the polls also found the need for increased civic education in preparation for the elections to ensure voters clearly understood what they were voting for.  In Macedonia, IRI polling revealed strong voter disenchantment with government and political leaders.  The poll helped the new government set goals and expectations.  In Angola, where elections have yet to be held, IRI polling helped to establish a valuable baseline of who the electorate was and their basic attitudes on issues facing the country.

American University’s Center for Democracy and Election Management is sponsoring the 10-day Summer Institute on Democracy and Elections: Challenges for the 21st Century.  Participants are taking part in high-level discussions led by eminent election experts-scholars, election professionals, election observers, and journalists who have worked on elections in the United States and throughout the world.

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