Editorials

In-depth editorials originally presented in International IDEA's e-mail newsletters:

Sep
30
2016
Crisis of Representation

The digitalization of all aspects of our lives has contributed to dramatically change the context for inter-personal and political communication, agenda-setting and policy-making. Today’s digitally connected world is characterized by the high speed of information and communication flows, which reinforces the increasingly globalized nature of our societies and contributes to “horizontalize” the relations between citizens and elected representatives. However, many traditional political parties originate in the 19th century, and still use 20th century tools to face 21st century challenges. This is creating an increasing disconnect between citizens and political parties, which is often referred to as “the crisis of representation”.


Sep
27
2016
Rethinking the Crisis of Representation

A survey by the Pew Research Center found that a majority of the people in EU member states do not believe their voices are being heard in Brussels. In Italy and Greece, the numbers were as high as 81 per cent and 80 per cent, respectively.


May
30
2016
Safeguarding the integrity of politics

International IDEA has been working on the negative influence of money in political processes for over 15 years. Because I see this phenomenon as one of the major threats to democracy, I decided—when I started as Secretary-General of International IDEA in June 2014—to intensify our efforts in this area, by launching the institution-wide initiative of Money in Politics.


Mar
08
2016
Japan’s Gender Gap

The Japanese Government needs to work hard to achieve its goal of ensuring that, by 2020, 30 per cent of all decision-making positions are filled by women. In this context, International IDEA was invited by the Sasakawa Foundation to support its project on women’s political representation.


Mar
08
2016
Africa: Taking Gender Politics to the Next Level

African countries such as Rwanda, South Africa, Namibia, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania are ranked as global leaders when it comes to women’s political representation. Yet, even as there is good reason to celebrate the significant progress it is also clear that the road towards full gender equality is long. The time has now come for a second generation of efforts at deepening women's empowerment across Africa, and new innovative approaches.


Mar
08
2016
How we work to promote gender equality

The under-representation of women in politics undermines the core democratic principle of equal participation and representation. In this newsletter we highlight International IDEA’s work to increase women’s participation on global, regional and national level. Read about our work in Tunisia, Egypt, and the Ukraine as well as reflections from our regional directors in Latin America, Africa and West Asia, and Asia. As well as our work to help countries implement the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals.


Mar
04
2016
Winds of change blow across South America

Several long-term administrations in South America have suffered crippling losses in their attempts to stay in power. But these events might not mark a shift in the region from the left to the right, according to Daniel Zovatto, Regional Director of Latin America and the Caribbean.


Mar
01
2016
Soplan vientos de cambio en América del Sur

Evo Morales ha sufrido una derrota histórica en el referendo del pasado 21 de febrero en el que buscaba el apoyo ciudadano para aprobar una reforma constitucional que le permitiese volver a presentarse en el 2019 para en un nuevo mandato presidencial hasta 2025. Según resultados preliminares del Tribunal Supremo Electoral, el “No” venció al “Sí” por estrecho margen (51.30% a 48.70%).


Dec
16
2015
Letter from Secretary-General Yves Leterme

In 2015 International IDEA aided important elections in Myanmar and the work for a new constitution in Nepal. We celebrated our 20th anniversary, launched the book Democratic Transitions and organized trainings, events around the globe. Read more about the work we have done and what we are hoping to do in 2016.


Jul
29
2015
Legislative Elections in Venezuela: What’s at stake

After months of uncertainty, and amidst intense domestic and international pressures, in late June the National Election Board (CNE: Consejo Nacional Electoral) set 6 December as the date for electing the 167 members of the unicameral National Assembly.


Jul
28
2015
Elecciones legislativas en Venezuela - Lo que está en riesgo

Tras meses de incertidumbre, y en medio de intensas presiones internas e internacionales, a finales de junio el Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) estableció el 6 de diciembre para elegir a los 167 miembros de la Asamblea Nacional unicameral.


Jun
30
2015
Argentina: ¿cambio dentro de la continuidad o vía alternancia?

El próximo 25 de octubre, Argentina celebrará elecciones presidenciales y legislativas de las que saldrá el sucesor de la presidenta Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (CFK) y una reconfiguración del Congreso.


Jun
30
2015
Argentina: Change with continuity or by alternation?

On October 25, Argentina will hold presidential and legislative elections that will determine the successor to President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and a reconfiguration of the Congress.


Mar
08
2015
Reflections from the Secretary-General - International Women's Day 2015

On behalf of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), I am pleased to join the rest of the world in the commemoration of the 2015 International Women’s Day.


Nov
03
2014
Elecciones en el Cono Sur

El mes de octubre ha dejado en el Cono Sur importantes novedades en el panorama político-electoral. Tres elecciones (Bolivia, Brasil y Uruguay), que suponían una dura prueba para los heterogéneos oficialismos de izquierda superaron muy bien el examen.


Sep
12
2014
Reflections from the new Secretary-General

Since taking up my position in June this year, I have started to see international politics and developments through the democracy support perspective of International IDEA, and a number of things have struck me.


May
22
2014
Voter turnout, social media and the financing of politics in the European elections

Citizens of the EU go to the polls in 28 countries this week to elect 751 representatives to the European Parliament - and it is clear that these elections illustrate many of the challenges and issues facing electoral processes around the world today.


Mar
06
2014
Is it all about the money?

Lack of access to political funding presents a huge challenge to women seeking to enter political life today. Only 21% of seats in parliaments globally are held by women, and International IDEA’s work has shown that political finance is one of the key stumbling blocks towards a more equal representation of women in political decision-making.


Dec
12
2013
The missing link - connecting young people to politics

One of the major challenges facing democracy this century is how to translate citizen demands into responsive and accountable politics. Formal institutions of democracy are now established in most countries around the world, but there is often a missing link in the form of meaningful citizen participation in politics.


Sep
19
2013
What citizens say about democracy: 10 years of listening and learning

In the UN-led discussions on what is known as the ‘post-2015’ development agenda, momentum is gathering on shaping the terms of the debate on what will succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) when they expire in 2015. But what role will democracy play in the new agenda, both as a goal in itself, and as an enabler of sustainable development?


Jun
14
2013
Democracy dares not speak its name

In the UN-led discussions on what is known as the ‘post-2015’ development agenda, momentum is gathering on shaping the terms of the debate on what will succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) when they expire in 2015. But what role will democracy play in the new agenda, both as a goal in itself, and as an enabler of sustainable development?


Jun
14
2013
Democracy dares not speak its name

In the UN-led discussions on what is known as the ‘post-2015’ development agenda, momentum is gathering on shaping the terms of the debate on what will succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) when they expire in 2015. But what role will democracy play in the new agenda, both as a goal in itself, and as an enabler of sustainable development?


Mar
08
2013
Women in the driver’s seat of democratic politics

Gender equality in politics is not about the system allowing women in. It is not about politics giving something to women. It is about women actively taking their rightful place as equals with men in political decision-making. It is about women being agents of change.


Dec
13
2012
A mixed bag for democracy in 2012

The end of the year brings with it inevitable reflection upon 2012 – will the promise of democracy hold in the Arab world and Myanmar, and is democracy evolving to respond to the needs and demands of citizens around the world?


Sep
20
2012
A call for political courage on the integrity of elections

Elections have the potential to further democracy, development and security - or to undermine them. What makes the difference is whether national and international actors have the political courage and the ability to tackle threats to the integrity of elections.


May
29
2012
The glorious messiness of democratic politics

At the time of writing this, thousands are again assembled in Tahrir Square in Cairo to protest the outcome of the Egyptian elections. It’s quite a paradox, in two ways. Firstly, Egyptian revolutionaries have been longing for free elections, but now many of them lament the result of the first free Presidential election in the country’s history. Secondly, Egyptian liberals and seculars started the revolution at Tahrir, then failed to get sufficiently organized to be successful in both Parliamentary and Presidential elections - and now they are back to Tahrir.


Mar
08
2012
Creating a level playing field for women in politics

International Women’s Day reminds me every year that there is no shortage of international and national commitments to gender equality and women’s political participation. Yet until we move beyond paying lip service to these principles, real progress will remain elusive.


Dec
15
2011
The integrity of elections

Holding elections is not rocket science. But upholding the integrity of elections is another matter. Elections take place on a weekly basis around the world – not all of them in democratic countries, and not all of them marked by fair electoral competition.


Sep
15
2011
The century of the citizen

On this International Day of Democracy 2011, it is time to realise that we are now firmly in the century of the citizen. 


May
31
2011
The butterfly effect and the Arab Spring

If a butterfly flaps its wings in Cairo, could this cause a hurricane in Beijing? Students of the so-called ‘butterfly effect’ know that small changes in one place can sometimes lead to enormous events in another.


Mar
17
2011
The lead of Arab states

With its call for a no-fly zone over Libya, the League of Arab States has placed itself more firmly on the side of the Libyan people’s call for democracy than the EU, the US and the UN combined. It is indeed testimony to the revolutionary nature of these times.


Dec
14
2010
Democracy is more important than incumbency

The run-off presidential elections in Côte d’Ivoire held on 28 November 2010 carried many hopes: after a decade of violence, instability and international peacekeeping efforts, elections were expected to bring to the country a legitimate government and a lasting peace.


Sep
15
2010
Our past and our future: reflecting on an anniversary

This year’s International Day of Democracy – September 15th – is also an opportunity to recall International IDEA’s 15th anniversary and to reflect on past and future challenges for democracy and adequate responses to them.


May
31
2010
Sudan’s elections bring challenges into focus

The April 2010 elections in Africa’s largest country, Sudan, offered us a snapshot of some of the challenges currently facing electoral processes throughout the world and particularly in countries with a heavy legacy of conflict


Mar
08
2010
The empowerment and advancement of women

On the surface, 2010 may look like a good year for women in democratic political systems around the world. At the same time, headline-grabbing achievements of women attaining executive power mask a global reality of lack of representation of women in political life.


Dec
17
2009
EU’s Conclusions on democracy support echo recommendations of International IDEA-led global consultations

The recent conclusions of the European Union’s Council on Democracy Support in the EU’s External Relations (Brussels, 17 November 2009) are a significant step in the right direction – a step that International IDEA warmly welcomes and sees as a strong echo of its own process of global consultations on the role of the EU in democracy building.


Sep
15
2009
Democracy beyond the crisis

Those engaged in supporting democracy in their countries and in the world cannot fail to notice a thought-provoking calendar coincidence: this year’s worldwide celebrations of 15th September - the International Day of Democracy, overlaps with a somewhat less celebratory remembrance of the first anniversary of the global financial crisis.


May
25
2009
Encouraging participation

‘Democracy is not about what governments do; it is what people do to make their governments accomplish things for the common good […].” These words pronounced by Peter Anyang’ Nyongo, when he headed the African Association of Political Science in 1991, still resound.


Feb
20
2009
Democracy: the challenge of recession

What impact will the recession have on democracy? One instinctive response may be: well, the economic boom did not have a uniformly positive impact. High prices of oil and gas have fuelled autocratic and/or populist tendencies in many countries and regions.


Dec
11
2008
Participation and Inclusiveness

The election of Barack Obama was hailed by world political leaders who hope it will usher-in a revival of multilateralism and a return to primacy of international law. Their hopes are important; they are certainly hopes that I share. Yet, they are largely generated by mistakes of the past.


Sep
30
2008
Democracy should not be taken for granted

Last year the UN General Assembly established an annual International Day of Democracy to be celebrated on 15 September. Some may ask, what can an international day of democracy accomplish? Well, not much in itself. But what is significant is that UN member states actually have agreed that democracy is worth celebrating. In the run up to this first Democracy Day, the African Union Commission and International IDEA launched a Joint Activity Plan for supporting democracy in Africa.


Jul
01
2008
Democracy in the 21st century: advance or decline?

Recent times have witnessed an upsurge in voices warning of a looming global crisis of democracy. The warning cries point to a variety of factors as providing substantive cause for alarm. Some, for example, highlight the negative political impact of rapidly rising energy prices. Others point to the continuing fallout from the military intervention in Iraq, ostensibly undertaken by the U.S. government in the name of democracy.


Apr
16
2008
Constitution Building in Asia: the tipping point for democratization?

Two important constitution-building processes currently underway in Asia are reaching a tipping point. Last week, the Nepali people elected members of a Constituent Assembly; while in May the Burmese people will vote on a draft Constitution.


Feb
11
2008
Elections: A vehicle for Triggering or Tempering Conflict?

Elections are divisive in nature. Indeed, one of the key functions of democratic elections is to clarify where the dividing lines between competing political forces lie.


Dec
04
2007
Mexico: Reducing the Political Reach of the Peso

2007 has been a year of many developments in democracy worldwide, not least in regions where International IDEA has a strong presence. Latin America, a region which is about to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the Third Wave of democratization that spread like wildfire through the region in the late seventies, celebrated a tidal wave of elections over the past year. The great majority of these elections passed without a hitch. In Mexico though, the elections were seriously contested and the country experienced a very tumultuous post-electoral period.


Sep
26
2007
Myanmar: Striving for democracy, from within

The popular protests in Myanmar demonstrate the power of democracy. What they also demonstrate is how little the outside world can actually predict events. Conventional wisdom on Myanmar has tended to be that people are too oppressed and too afraid to stand up for democracy. In the last few days tens of thousands of Burmese have, literally, demonstrated otherwise. They deserve our support in their call for a true, democratic and inclusive national dialogue to build a better future for their country.


Jun
21
2007
Editorial: From diversity to democracy to development

Development has been described as the gradual expansion of people’s choice. Democracy can be described in a similar way. Choice makes sense only if we are, and remain, diverse. Diversity becomes irrelevant if the possibility of choice is out of reach.


Mar
28
2007
Elections are no quick fix in post-conflict countries

The stakes for first post-conflict elections are high. Recent developments in Africa such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (2006), Burundi (2005) Sierra Leone (2002) have proven that elections need to be seen as one link in the fragile chain of events that allow a country to emerge from years of conflict and pave the way towards the peace and “sustainable stability”.


Feb
06
2007
Editorial: Strengthening Political Parties and Party Systems

Political parties are arguably democracy’s weakest link. In Africa, barometer polls indicate that few expect politicians to even try delivering on election promises. In Europe, Latin America and Asian democracies parties are the least trusted among institutions – even if notably more South Asians have a positive outlook. This is a challenge not only to politicians, but to democracy itself. Few dispute the holding of multiparty elections as the prime criteria for a society to be recognized as democratic.


Nov
16
2006
Editorial: Shaping States through Constitutions

From Nepal to Bolivia, from Bosnia and Herzegovina to Georgia, constitutions are increasingly becoming hot political issues. Obviously, they are no longer merely seen as rubber stamps to confer official dignity to established political power. More than half of the member states of the United Nations have undergone constitutional reforms since 1974. While individually unique, these processes reflect certain global trends.


Sep
07
2006
Editorial: Development requires democratic leadership

Democracy cannot rest on its laurels. The post Cold War belief that democracy had triumphed has subsided to reveal declining support for democracy in some parts of the world. This is mainly due to the perception that democracy has failed to improve peoples’ lives.


May
24
2006
Editorial: In it for the long haul: electoral system reform and administration

The lesson was clearly not lost on President Bachelet. As part of an ambitious plan for her first 100 days, Bachelet has requested IDEA’s technical assistance in designing a sweeping electoral reform program. During my April 24 – 26 trip to Chile, this request served as the centerpiece of discussions with President Bachelet, Foreign Minister Alejandro Foxley, Interior Minister Andres Zaldivar, Women’s Minister Laura Albornoz and representatives of the press and civil society in fashioning IDEA´s technical assistance program. Under the program IDEA will provide expert technical assistance and comparative knowledge in exploring alternatives to Chile’s highly unique electoral system—the binomial system—which has served to encourage the establishment of the two major coalitions, building in congressional stability to the point of immobility.


Mar
08
2006
Editorial: It's not all about the numbers

Michelle Bachelet in Chile. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in Liberia. Angela Merkel in Germany. Maria do Carmo Silveira in Sao Tome and Principe. Luisa Diogo in Mozambique. Tarja Halonen in Finland. Helen Clark in New Zealand. These presidents and prime ministers are not the first women to lead countries, but they share a trait with the world’s first democratically elected female president, Vigdis Finnbogadottir of Iceland: they were elected on their own merits. Since its founding in 1995, International IDEA has understood that women’s participation in politics was, and remains, central to democratic governance.


Jan
23
2006
The Nurturing Challenge

As the new secretary-general of International IDEA, I find it intriguing that a principle so universally accepted as democracy is also so complex in its implementation and maintenance.

Contact

Annika Silva-Leander, Senior Adviser to the Secretary-General (Secretary-General's Office)
a.silva-leander

Online contact form