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The Carter Center: Observing Elections Around The World

The Carter Center: Observing Elections Around The World

Village Elections in China

China has moved toward open competitive elections at the village level in the last decade. In 1997, the government invited The Carter Center to help standardize village election processes.

China initiated elections in some 700,000 villages to help maintain social and political order in the context of unprecedented economic reforms. Through improved electoral procedures, the Center has helped strengthen confidence in local self-government.

Democracy Program

The Democracy Program, in cooperation with the Ministry of Civil Affairs, has advised on better procedures, trained election officials, and educated voters about their rights under a new election law.

Building upon these achievements, the Center is working with the National Peoples Congress to design electoral guidelines for higher levels of government as well. Electoral processes will be an important part of political reform in China: "democracy with Chinese characteristics."

Effective election monitoring begins long before voters cast their ballots. The Carter Center requires an invitation from the country's electoral authorities and a welcome from the major political parties to ensure the Center can play a meaningful nonpartisan role. Observers analyze election laws, assess voter registration processes, voter education efforts, and the openness of campaigns, focusing on competitiveness, unhindered participation in the election process,and access to the media. These assessments begin months in advance. The presence of impartial observers reassures voters they can safely and secretly cast their ballots and that vote tabulation will be conducted without tampering. Thus, election monitoring deters fraud in the voting process.

The Carter Center has observed more than 47 elections in 24 countries on four continents. 

  • Sierra Leone held presidential and parliamentary elections in May 2002 following the end of a 10-year civil war. The Carter Center was the only U.S.- based organization that monitored the elections, which observers found were peaceful and relatively well-managed. The delegation commended the voters of Sierra Leone, political party agents, and polling station workers for their impressive commitment to peaceful voting under very challenging conditions. The Carter Center noted the need for increased transparency in election rules and decisions by the election commission and improved voter registration process and voter education.
  • In support of democratic development in Mali and the rest of West Africa, the Center observed both rounds of Mali's 2002 presidential elections. Overall, The Carter Center found the elections characterized by a peaceful, tolerant, and competitive political climate, although both rounds had widespread procedural irregularities. Perhaps most importantly, the winning candidate, Amadou Toumani Touré, enjoyed legitimacy in the eyes of the Malian electorate and the international community.
  • Observing its third election in East Timor since 1999, The Carter Center in 2002 commended the country on its presidential election that met international standards for freeness and fairness. The Center monitored the violent 1999 referendum vote for independence from Indonesia and the 2001 vote for the Constituent Assembly. In its statement, the Center said democratic development would be needed at all levels of government if East Timor were to succeed as a democratic nation.
  • The Center lauded the large and peaceful turnout in Zambia's presidential and parliamentary elections in December 2001. The Center's delegation, co-led by former Nigeria Head of State Abdulsalami Abubakar, former Benin President Nicéphore Soglo, and former Tanzania Prime Minister Judge Joseph Warioba, also reported vote-counting procedures sometimes were chaotic, and tabulation of results in constituency centers and at the electoral commission was not fully transparent. The governing party candidate, Levy Mwanawasa, won just 29 percent of the vote and narrowly defeated a divided opposition, which lodged claims of vote rigging.