America taught other countries how to conduct safe and fair elections. Review those lessons before election violence turns America into a banana republic.
Armed groups in banana republics crush the will of the people with electoral violence. Their violence and threats against candidates, activists, journalists, voters and election officials undermines the legitimacy of electoral results and trust in the political process.
National Democratic Institute (NDI) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan American group that has strengthened democracy around the world for decades. This StoryMap summarizes some of NDI's lessons from work in Cote d'Ivoire, Peru, Lebanon, Thailand and Kenya. It shows how citizen election monitoring, holding media accountable and understanding dictators' playbook can protect democracy.
Electoral violence subverts democratic elections. Violence against candidates, activists, journalists, voters and election officials reduces voters' choices and suppresses the vote. Armed groups seeking to overthrow a government often resort to violence during elections. In other cases, violence can break out when large numbers of people protested official election results. The effects of violence or the threat of violence undermine the legitimacy of election results and the political process. What causes electoral violence?
- Politicians inciting their supporters to overturn election results
- Cultural, religious, and racial tensions
- Scarcity of and ongoing disputes over resources
- Large-scale inequalities in wealth and opportunity
- Weak security and rule of law institutions.
- Lack of public confidence in the process a lack of transparency
- Groups expecting to be systematically excluded from gaining power
- Electoral system rigged by voter suppression or partisan vote counting
Local nonpartisan citizen observers promote accountability among democratic institutions and build confidence in the electoral process through impartial, accurate information and assessments. Widespread and timely electoral violence monitoring can identify potential risks. Networks of hundreds or thousands of trained, professionalized observers, nonpartisan citizen election monitoring organizations are well suited to play key roles in violence monitoring and mitigation.
Citizen election observers ensure that violence monitoring. Filter crowdsourced data on rumors and violence with a professional monitoring group to ensure reports are factual. Citizen observer groups can help dispel rumors and mitigate possible triggers of electoral violence.
- Attempted kidnapping and assassination of opponents
- Tensions and violence due to voter registration process concerns or complaints
- Violence between rival groups creating “no go" areas for campaigning
- Attacks on or threats against election officials
- Threats or intimidation of voters, causing fear of participating in elections
- Attacks at or near polling locations
- Destroying election-related materials
- Protests that turn violent
- Political and racial violence
Media driven political violence
Print, broadcast, radio, online publications, and social media like FOX, Facebook and Google, can cause politically-motivated violence. They often fuel polarizing views, incite tensions and distort facts. Citizen monitoring serves as a reliable alternative source of information to highly polarized media that aggravate rumors, report in a biased manner, or fail to report incidents of violence and coercion.
Citizen observers should monitor the media for hate speech and inflammatory or divisive rhetoric. Groups should use their widespread networks and nonpartisan reputation to harness public scrutiny of media behavior and alert authorities to irresponsible media conduct. Filter crowdsourced data on rumors and violence with a professional monitoring group to ensure reports are factual. Citizen observer groups can help dispel rumors and mitigate possible triggers of electoral violence.
National Democratic Institute (NDI)
NDI and its local partners work to promote openness and accountability in government by building political and civic organizations, safeguarding elections, and promoting citizen participation. The Institute brings together individuals and groups to share ideas, knowledge, experiences and expertise that can be adapted to the needs of individual countries.
"In banana republics , high government officials pressure other officials to protect their friends and carry out vendettas against political enemies. This is precisely what the Trump administration. This is precisely what the Trump administration is doing in regard to Lt. Colonel Vindman and Mr. Stone. Upon learning that their superiors had quashed their sentencing recommendation in the Stone case, three of the DoJ prosecutors declined further involvement in the case and one resigned from the department entirely. Trump made it clear that he hopes that the Pentagon will take further action against Alexander Vindman.
“A corrupt authoritarian and his henchmen are wielding the Justice Department as a shield for friends and a sword for political rivals. It is impossible to overstate the danger”, commented Walter M. Shaub, Jr., former head of the Office of Government Ethics. - Forbes
Elections are an alternative to violence
Elections don't cause of violence. They are an alternative to violence. Elections fairly held peacefully and inclusively resolve the competition for power. Credible, transparent and inclusive elections provide contestants with a fair chance to win office and a channel through which contestants voters can communicate their preferences about candidates and issues, thus reducing the temptation to resort to violence. Genuine elections provide legitimacy to the winners, which increases the government's capacity to manage conflict going forward.
TakeAway: Don't let Republican violence and voter suppression turn America into a banana republic.
Image credit: BrewinMate and PointsInCase