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Democracy In Focus: Elections

The United States supports the advancement of democracy abroad because countries with freely elected, accountable governments tend to respect the rights of their own people and contribute to a freer, more prosperous and peaceful world. This November, millions of Americans will participate in one of the most basic elements of a vibrant democracy – competitive elections and a fair electoral process, not just on voting day, but in the months leading up to elections.

Free and fair electoral processes, independent and fair judiciaries, respect for pluralism of ideas, vibrant civil societies, including independent NGOs and free media, a robust private sector, checks and balances to power, civilian control of militaries, and accountable police forces are characteristics of a vigorous, working democracy.

The following collection provides an overview of recent U.S. statements in support of and encouraging free-and-fair elections around the world.

“…I am convinced that ultimately government of the people, by the people, and for the people is more likely to bring about the stability, prosperity, and individual opportunity that serve as a basis for peace in our world….

Around the globe, people are making their voices heard, insisting on their innate dignity, and the right to determine their future.

…the path to democracy does not end with the casting of a ballot.  Nelson Mandela once said:  ‘To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.’”

- Excerpts from President Obama’s Remarks to UN General Assembly, September 25, 2012

“…it’s always important to remind ourselves that consolidating democracy requires more than elections. It requires the rule of law. It requires strong institutions, including an effective and impartial judiciary. It requires openness in government so citizens can hold us, hold leaders, accountable. Attributes like these ensure that democracy delivers concrete results to the people. And when those are subverted, there needs to be accountability.”

Secretary Clinton on the Upcoming Albania Elections, November 1, 2012

Policy References

“We congratulate the people of Burma on their participation in the electoral process, and Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy on their strong showing in the polls. This election is an important step in Burma’s democratic transformation, and we hope it is an indication that the Government of Burma intends to continue along the path of greater openness, transparency, and reform.” - White House on the Elections in Burma, April 2, 2012

“…the U.S. and Brazil…worked hard to build societies that respect the rights of minorities that believe in free and fair elections, human rights, the rule of law, social inclusion; and the entire hemisphere, indeed the entire world is inspired by Brazil’s incredible rise from an illegitimate military government to a thriving, prosperous democracy.” - Secretary Clinton on Elections in Brazil, June 1, 2011

“…India remains a stirring example of a successful, multi-party democracy that offers hope to societies wracked by political turmoil and sectarian or tribal divides.”
- Deputy Secretary Burns on a Democratic India, September 27, 2011

“Of course, democracy is not just an election. It is the capability of a society – including government, civil society, and individuals – to fully exercise civic participation, freedoms of expression, assembly, and movement…”
- Deputy Assistant Secretary Hanrahan “Toward a Democratic Ethiopia”, October 10, 2012

“The United States supports a set of universal rights. And these rights include…equality for men and women under the rule of law, and the right to choose your own leaders — whether you live in Baghdad or Damascus, Sanaa or Tehran.

…Because democracy depends not only on elections, but also strong and accountable institutions, and the respect for the rights of minorities…

… the United States of America was founded on the belief that people should govern themselves.” President Obama’s Remarks on American Opportunity for Diplomacy in the Middle East and North Africa, May 19, 2011

“…exciting to see the development of the disability community in participation in elections over the last number of decades….Disabled people are getting disabled registered to vote, both of the political parties are including disability in the get-out-the-vote, and then the whole effort to ensure that when people actually go to vote, that they will have the right to vote.” Judith Heumann, Special Advisor for International Disability Rights, on Voting Rights for the Disabled. October 17, 2012

“Let me also take the opportunity once again to congratulate the people of Liberia who participated, and had their voices heard, in these elections. Yours was the victory as you exercised your constitutional rights and voted in a free and democratic election.” Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield on the Liberian elections, February 23, 2012

“Georgian citizens have set a regional and global example by conducting a competitive campaign, freely exercising their democratic rights, and affirming their commitment to undertake a peaceful transfer of power.” White House on the Elections in Georgia, October 2, 2012

“Democratic elections are not just about how polling is conducted on Election Day…but for the election not to be free or fair because the overall conditions for participation, competition, transparency, and accountability are not present. In other words, what happens in the run-up to the election and what happens after Election Day are often as important, if not more so, in determining whether or not an election meets OSCE standards as the balloting alone.”Public member of the U.S. Delegation to the 2011 OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, Patrick Merloe (National Democratic Institute), September 30, 2011

“For…democracy to thrive… leaders will need to build a culture of cooperation that transcends political differences, what Alexis de Tocqueville, the great historian of America’s early years, termed the habits of the heart. They’re at the core of every successful democracy….”

- Secretary Clinton on the Upcoming Albania Elections, November 1, 2012

U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division on Protecting the Right to Vote and Prosecuting Ballot Fraud (external site)

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