Space for Civil Society, Space for the People: ANFREL Marks the International Day of Democracy
BANGKOK-- On the 15th of September, the Asian Network for Free Elections(ANFREL) marks the International Day of Democracy together with the rest of the world. ANFREL’s members have a deeply held belief in Democracy and, as always, ANFREL’s members from across Asia continue to work tirelessly to protect and promote elections as a foundational part of Democracy.
Thankfully, several countries in Asia have made and continue to make encouraging progress towards meeting their democratic and electoral obligations to their people. In each of these success cases, Civil Society has played a vital role in the country’s democratic development. Truly remarkable progress is possible when Civil Society has space to work freely and independently with an engaged citizenry and other Electoral Stakeholders with a sincere desire to improve the Electoral Processes in a country. Unfortunately, other countries in the region still fall badly short of meeting basic electoral and democratic standards. In these countries, Civil Society in general and Election Monitors in particular too often face persecution, intimidation, and harassment for their attempts to report on and document election irregularities.
While it is of course true that elections alone do not make a country democratic, it is also true that the absence of free and fair elections ensures an undemocratic system. As declared in the Bangkok Declaration on Free & Fair Elections, ANFREL and the Declaration’s signatories which include Civil Society and Electoral Management Bodies “believe that free, fair, transparent, peaceful and democratic elections are possible in all countries across Asia.” Indeed, a legitimately elected government that represents its people is not a concept that belongs to any one region or people. Rather, it is the universal right of all citizens.
As the theme of this year’s International Day of Democracy is “Space for Civil Society”, ANFREL calls for recognition and respect for the valuable role that Civil Society plays in any healthy democracy. Indeed, ANFREL & Civil Society’s goals are the peoples’ goals: respect for human rights and the right to choose one’s own government. Interfering with the legitimate work of Civil Society is to interfere with the voice and will of the people. To protect and promote the role of Civil Society is to protect and promote the rights of people everywhere. Recognizing this truth, ANFREL and its members will continue to work for a future where each country has a thriving Civil Society that helps deliver the electoral democracy that its people deserve.