Kofi Annan Calls For Urgent Public Debate On The State Of Democracy

The Chairman of the Kofi Annan Foundation and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Kofi Annan, today noted that despite free and fair elections, mistrust between citizens and institutions is palpable in Europe and beyond. Mr Annan addressed the Austrian parliament in Vienna following an invitation by the Foreign Policy and United Nations Association of Austria. Arguing that elections with integrity are the indispensable root of democracy, Mr Annan nevertheless contended that their benefits are by no means assured. “This year alone, over forty percent of the world’s population will have a chance to vote in democratic elections,” Mr. Annan said. Yet, “too often, elections are manipulated, flawed, or used to confer a degree of legitimacy to authoritarian regimes.” He argued that short-term vision, reactionary policies and growing political polarization currently undermine many governments’ ability to serve their people. “Organised protests from Thailand to Venezuela indicate that something is wrong with our political institutions, and that political leaders are not effectively managing the expectations of the electorate.” Stressing that “We cannot give the impression that the street is an alternative to elections” Mr. Annan identified several key issues to be addressed to strengthen the integrity of elections and to deepen democracy worldwide." Mr. Annan argued that media monopolies and opaque political finance obstruct transparent democratic practices and create imbalanced playing fields during election campaigns, compromising electoral integrity. Mr. Annan cited the need to strengthen the rule of law in line with universal standards and principles, to protect the elections-related rights of citizens and political contenders, and to ensure that political power is transferred peacefully. “Democracy depends on an assurance that citizens are equal under the law and enjoy its protection.” Mr. Annan also addressed the need to build strong Electoral Management Bodies, and “to create institutions and norms of multi-party competition which bolster democracy as a mutual security system amongst political contenders.” Finally, Mr. Annan argued for policies which promote universal participation in political processes, particularly for women and traditionally marginalized groups such as the disabled. Mr. Annan’s recommendations are in line with the 2012 report of Global Commission on Elections, Democracy and Security, which he chaired. Kofi Annan is the founding chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation which works to promote better global governance and catalyse action towards a fairer, more secure world by promoting sustainable development, peace and security and human rights.