Election Monitoring vs. Disinformation


jod.26.1The ongoing authoritarian push-back against democratic norms and institutions is a significant and growing threat, not least the challenge posed to credible citizen election monitors and international observers by authoritarians who deliberately derail the democratic process and attempt to mislead citizens and the international community about their electoral corruption.

An article in the July issue of the Journal of Democracy by Pat Merloe, the National Democratic Institute’s senior associate and director of election programs addresses the battle for control of the narrative about the character of elections in autocratic states, NDI notes:

In “Election Monitoring vs. Disinformation,” Merloe describes electoral transparency as “absolutely and inescapably fundamental to genuine elections” because citizens not only have a right to honest elections, they have a right to know whether their elections are authentic. Credible citizen election monitors, international observers, media and contestants must be able to witness key aspects of election processes and have timely access to electoral data to assess and report their findings. Otherwise, citizens are unable to verify official pronouncements or cries of fraud.

Autocrats subvert democratic elections by infringing on the political rights of their opponents and voters, hindering monitors, and spreading disinformation through state-controlled media, government-backed election monitors, and favorable or naive international voices. Merloe stresses that identifying the array of tactics used by autocrats to sabotage elections is important for exposing electoral misconduct and safeguarding electoral integrity. He cites 2013 elections in Azerbaijan, Zimbabwe and Venezuela as recent examples of authoritarian meddling in the democratic process.

Merloe has more than 30 years of experience in public policy advocacy and promoting human rights, government accountability and citizen empowerment, NDI notes:

He has participated in over 150 NDI missions in 65 countries. In a recent post for the NDI DemocracyWorks blog, Merloe asserts that firm determination, democratic learning and innovation is required to face a “democratic recession” — a term popularly used to describe restraints that democratic development has faced in the last decade. Among his previous publications are Promoting Legal Frameworks for Democratic Elections and a chapter on human rights and elections in International Election Principles: Democracy & the Rule of Law. A selection of his publications, congressional testimony and speeches are listed here.


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