Conference on Electoral Systems Convenes in Caracas
Representatives of 25 Latin American and Caribbean countries met in Caracas, Venezuela, on May 15-19 for the first Inter-American Electoral Systems Conference. Sponsored jointly by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) of Washington, D.C., the Costa Rica-based Inter-American Center for Electoral Promotion and Assistance (CAPEL), and the Venezuelan Supreme Electoral Council, the conference covered a range of issues relating to the development and administration of democratic electoral systems.
More than 150 senior electoral officials, party leaders, academics, and civic activists participated in the conference, including representatives from South and Central America’s newest democracies—Brazil, Chile, Panama, and Nicaragua. Practical matters topped the agenda, and sessions were devoted to such topics as civic education, electoral tribunals, vote counting and fraud control, the role of political parties, and voter registration. In his keynote address to the conference, Venezuelan president Carlos Andrés Pérez stressed the increasingly important role of technology in guaranteeing free and fair elections and called for the creation of a regional institute to promote democracy. Makers of election equipment from around the world displayed their wares throughout the conference, giving participants a chance to become better acquainted with the latest in voting and tabulation machines, indelible ink, security paper, and other election paraphernalia.
Improving election procedures has taken on a special urgency for the region as one country after another has become democratic in recent years, and many participants expressed the hope that the conference might become an annual event. Research papers presented at the conference will be published in an Inter-American Electoral Systems Technical [End Page 142] Elections Manual, to be edited by Dr. Gabriel Murillo Castafio of the University of the Andes in Bogotá, Colombia. The manual will be available in the fall from IFES, 1620 I Street, N.W., Suite 611, Washington, DC 20006.
Books: Preserving and Promoting Democracy
Can democratic regimes survive in the world’s most conflict-torn regions? Is promoting democracy a proper end of foreign policy? Two important questions—and the subjects, respectively, of two new and timely books.
The first, Democracies in Regions of Crisis, is the product of a two-year study by the Washington, D.C.-based National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), a political development institute affiliated with the U.S. Democratic Party that has conducted nonpartisan programs in over 30 countries. The volume examines the history and development of three democracies that have flourished in regions “where democracy is the exception, not the rule”—Botswana, Costa Rica, and Israel.
Drawing on the proceedings of conferences held with political, academic, and military leaders in each of the three countries, the study identifies “certain patterns that explain why democracy works in these distinctive regions.” These include indigenous roots for democratic institutions, a concerted national effort to promote a democratic political culture, meaningful safeguards on the military, the dispersal of political and economic power, universal education, and strong political parties. Democracies in Regions of Crisis is available from NDI, 1717 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Suite 605, Washington, DC 20036.
The second book, The New Democracies: Global Change and U.S. Policy, is a collection of essays from The Washington Quarterly, the journal of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (Washington, D.C.). The volume focuses on the key policy questions for consolidating and extending the democratic revolution, and also examines the prospects for democracy in Africa, Latin America, China, and the Soviet Union. As editor Brad Roberts writes in his introduction, “However bright the democratic prospect, the speedy and complete democratic transformation of the world is not imminent. Democracy is not uncontested.”
Individual essays discuss human rights policy, the role of the Catholic Church, the international activities of U.S. political parties, and external election assistance. Contributors include noted scholars and activists such as Zbigniew Brzezinski, Hernando de Soto, Ralf Dahrendorf, U.S. Senator Charles Robb, George Weigel, and Joshua Muravchik. The New Democracies is available from the MIT Press, 55 Hayward Street, Cambridge, MA 02142. [End Page 143]
Copyright © 1990 National Endowment for Democracy