Elections are one of the key elements of democracy. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights ensures the fundamental right of every citizen in democratic nations to take part in the government of his or her country through transparent and open elections.1 However, peacebuilders continue to face the challenge of ensuring and guarding the integrity of elections through people’s participation, especially in ethnically plural societies. In the Philippines, the International Observer Mission reported that the 2022 presidential elections “were marred by a higher level of failure of the electronic voting system than ever before, along with a higher level of blatant vote-buying, disturbing level of red-tagging and a number of incidents of deadly violence.”2 The rampant use of disinformation allegedly perpetuated by those with well-oiled political machinery continues to pose challenges in the age of new media and only exacerbates the pre-existing divisive political rhetoric and public mistrust in the system.
In this issue of our newsletter, five MPI alumni and one former training facilitator reflect on the lessons they have learned in observing and participating in elections in their respective countries and the role of peacebuilders in establishing and/or maintaining the peaceful conduct of this democratic process. Latifa Nawroozi shares the impact of the 2014 and 2019 elections in Afghanistan and how they contributed to the Taliban takeover. Ridwan al-Makassary writes about the crucial role of peacebuilders in ending election-related violence in Papua, Indonesia. Padmakumar MM reflects on the importance of critical thinking to curb disinformation especially during elections. Balázs Áron Kovács weighs in on how peacebuilders can balance their role as a bridge to the communities while being engaged in electoral politics. And Jose Caetano Guterres and Elsa “Uka” Pinto look back on the 20 years of Timor-Leste elections and the efforts of many peacebuilders to ensure free and fair elections in the country.