Operating democratic elections and campaigns in an oppressive environment is very problematic.  Poor economic conditions, civil conflict, corruption, and political instability can be negative forces working against democratic elections.  However, the power to counteract these negatives lies with independent electoral committees and observer bodies who can regulate the electoral process and promulgate the growth of democratic elections.
The challenges faced in this year’s controversial elections in Zimbabwe, Central African Republic, Togo, Guinea-Bissau, and Ethiopia speak to the difficulty of running unscathed democratic elections while under a state of threat and oppression.  The successful handling of some of these elections (Central African Republic and Guinea-Bissau) and the problematic outcome of the others (Zimbabwe, Togo and Ethiopia) is a testimony of the necessity of peaceful, transparent, free and fair elections handled by efficient, and well-staffed and resourced, independent electoral commissions.
Looking at the various elections across Africa reveal that progress towards democracy is being made, even in the context of oppression.  The lowered incidents of voting fraud and election related violence highlight the chief areas of improvement.  Now, the key to realizing the principles of democracy throughout elections and campaigns lies with independent electoral commissions and observer bodies that ensure transparency and accountability can trump the forces of oppression.
Some of our member parties like the Civic United Front (Tanzania), Rassemblement des Républicains (Cote d’Ivoire), Alliance National des Démocrates pour la Reconstruction (DRC) are most probably going to be facing elections this year under particularly difficult circumstances.  There are signs that a strained environment might mark the electoral processes in these countries. Consequently, there is a need for the political and civic actors in these countries and their international partners to ensure that the electoral process is peaceful, inclusive, and democratic.
The best way to guarantee this and foster democracy is to enhance the role of independent electoral commissions in the preparations and organisation of elections.
By Erin Smith and Nelson Muffuh
•    The Quest for Peace in Cote d’Ivoire
•    Towards Elections or Chaos in DRC?
•    Liberalism and Plans for Africa’s Development

The Quest for Peace in Cote d’Ivoire
The main political factions in Cote d’Ivoire agreed on the 29th of June 2005 to kick-start a much-delayed process of disarmament and reaffirmed a commitment to hold presidential elections on 30 October.
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Towards Elections or Chaos in DRC?
La situation politique en RDC reste préoccupante suite à la crise politique provoquée par les partis politiques qui ont refusé de siéger dans les institutions de la transition.
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Liberalism and Plans for Africa’s Development
Recent attempts to address poverty in Africa, such as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad), have taken on the form of partnerships between African nations and the developed world. Similar initiatives have followed, the most recent of which is British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Commission for Africa. Yet for all their good intentions, most of these proposals are still struggling to get off the ground.
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