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After an anxious week of threats and violence, voters in Pakistan went to the polls on May 11 to elect a new parliament. They gave another mandate to former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Party (PML-N) and sent the ruling Pakistan People’s Party to join the opposition.
There were a number of election observation missions working in Pakistan over the last few months, and they have reported encouraging provisional findings. The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) and the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) fielded one of the larger international missions and had this to say (you can read the full statement here):
The 2013 elections were a critical step in continuing the nation’s return to democracy, which began five years ago. Millions of Pakistanis expressed their support for the democratic process by voting despite extremist attempts to disrupt the polls. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) estimated voter turnout around 60 percent. Voters’ courage and resolve in casting their ballots despite the mounting violence was a victory for democracy and the people of Pakistan. The stage has been set for the country’s first transfer of power from one democratically elected government to the next.
The European Union (EU) also sent an election observation mission to Pakistan, and they too were impressed (preliminary statement here):
Strong commitment was shown to the democratic process by political parties, candidates and voters, who continued to participate in the electoral process despite high levels of militant attacks in parts of the country that escalated against certain parties in particular and ultimately affected the process. Violence by non-state actors unbalanced the playing field and distorted the election process considerably in affected areas. It did, however, not deter Pakistani citizens from casting their vote in unprecedented numbers and reconfirming their determined support for democratic rule, thereby defying extremist threats and actions.
In a region where non-state actors, terrorists, and opponents of democracy have been throwing their minds, bodies, and weapons against the will of their fellow countrymen and -women, it is refreshing to know that in all likelihood Pakistan – despite the regrettable violence during the campaign - is poised to have its first transition of power between elected civilian governments.
The path toward democratic stability is rarely straight and never easy. Pakistan has been forced to endure coups, violence and unrest. This election is a significant achievement for the people of Pakistan and shows how a determined electorate can foil a small minority trying to destroy progress.
Chinese Prisoner’s Death Holds a Message for Americans and China
Liu Xiaobo, China’s most prominent dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner died this week. His death holds a message for Americans and for China.
Release of Chinese Political Prisoner a Timely Reminder to Support Freedom Advocates Abroad
More than half the world’s population still lives in countries where basic political rights and civil liberties are only partly respected, if at all.
Bringing Freedom to the Forefront of 21st Century Politics
Is the global liberal democratic order in danger? Purposefully constructed in the aftermath of World War II, this order -- and the American leadership that is central to its success --has contributed to securing peace and expanding prosperity in the United States and around the world. Today, that order appears to be dissolving. This crisis is not new or sudden; it has been mounting for several years. Global challenges like authoritarian capitalism, violent extremism, demographic pressures, and displaced populations have placed global freedom in decline. Fraying traditional alliances united by core values of freedom are increasingly weak to respond. It is alarming that the downdraft in democratic resilience over the past decade or more includes countries that have long been part of the consolidated democratic West. This is democratic deconsolidation. In much of the Western world, we see a rise in demagogic populism, illiberalism, nationalism, protectionism, and waning conf
The Importance of Speaking Truth to Tyrants
What the president of the United States says matters. Even during the realpolitik policies of détente under Richard Nixon, it was still clear that American policy was based on a set of core values. Nixon’s practical goals of reaching deals with America’s adversaries was never based on the “great chemistry” with himself or praising the Soviet or Communist Chinese leadership doing a “fantastic job.” When the president aligns himself with the autocrats and dictators, he aligns America with their oppression. He sends a message that corruption and brutality are not our concern. Contrast that with how Ronald Reagan defied much of world opinion in calling out the brutality of the Soviet system. Natan Sharansky, then a refusenik imprisoned in a Soviet gulag, later wrote for the Weekly Standard of his thoughts on Reagan’s pronouncement that the USSR was an evil empire: “It was the great, brilliant moment whe