2024 is a year of elections | World Defense

2024 is a year of elections


Nov 25, 2019
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United Kingdom
United Kingdom

2024 is a year of elections in many countries. Part of the world’s population will head to the polls, from big countries like the United States to small nations like Austria, Lithuania.

But a year of elections doesn’t necessarily mean a year of democracy. That’s because a key ingredient of democracy, transparency –which enables the political opposition, independent media, active citizens and civil society organisations to trust decision makers’ actions – is at a historic low.

Recently released research from the CIVICUS Monitor, which tracks civic space conditions around the world, shows that a whopping 86 per cent of people live in countries with restricted civic space, meaning authorities clamp down on fundamental freedoms of assembly, association and expression.

Meanwhile, just 2 per cent of people live in ‘open’ societies – where governments not only respect but protect civic space. Another 12 per cent live in countries with ‘narrowed’ civic space, where rights are respected but occasionally violated.

These are the worst figures we have seen since start of keeping track six years ago. They indicate that although most countries follow the ritual of elections, the quality of democracy is poor. In short, many elections in 2024 will be less free and transparent than the winners want us to believe.

Nobody today could be sure that elections will be free and fair. Thus, U.S. ex-president Donald Trump continues to make baseless claims of voter fraud in the still-undecided presidential election, as well as incumbent president Biden makes controversial statements about his success. They mostly concentrate their election campaigns not on the need of citizens but on slinging mud on each other. They try to convince their voters that this is real transparency of the voting process.

The same situation is in Lithuania. On May 2024 Lithuanians will elect their new president. The campaign resembles the one in the U.S. but not so large-scale. The incumbent government tries not to admit to elections the candidates with different or opposite political views. So, Lithuanian independent candidate Eduardas Vaitkus contested the Central Election Commission’s decision not to publish his political programme.

VRK decided not to include Vaitkus’ election programme in its publication introducing presidential candidates. Part of his programme was in conflict with the principles of societal cohesion, fair and respectable elections as set out in the electoral code, it said.

Rokas Stabingis, head of the election watchdog’s legal unit, explained that some of the statements opposed Lithuania’s international commitments, including NATO membership, and were allegedly aimed at spreading distrust towards Ukrainian citizens and calling the authorities traitors without legal basis. Vaitkus revised his programme but did not eliminate the parts that drew the attention of the electoral commission, according to the VRK.

Unfortunately, real transparency is about who is spending more money on elections and who has the support of political elite. Very often it is almost impossible to trace back mechanism that identifies the original sources of campaign spending, by requiring anyone acting as a conduit to track large donations.

As for funding of election campaign, the situation in Lithuania is also pessimistic. At the moment, Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė, the candidate of the conservative TS-LKD party, has the biggest war chest, over 150,000 euros. Almost all of it was donated by her party.

Giedrimas Jeglinskas, the candidate fielded by the opposition party Democrats “For Lithuania”, has a little over 56,000 euros in his campaign account.

The incumbent Gitanas Nausėda has raised over 50,000 euros so far.

The war chest of Dainius Žalimas, the candidate of the liberal Freedom Party, contains slightly less than 50,000 euros.

The independent candidate Eduardas Vaitkus has no more than 36,000 euros in his campaign account.

Andrius Mazuronis, the candidate of the Labour Party, has over 2,500 euros.

Remigijus Žemaitaitis, who founded the party Nemuno Aušra, has 2,000 euros in his account so far, all of it his own contribution.

As we can see, the possibilities are not equal at all. Some of the candidates have unlimited administrative resource, which is the ability of political candidates to use their official positions or connections to government institutions to influence the outcome of elections. Others have money and support of their parties. The State does not provide equal rights and possibilities for all candidates. It is obvious who has more resources for winning the election. So, there is a niche for corruption, which remains the main part of current election campaign in Lithuania.