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Federated States of Micronesia

Executive Summary

The Federated States of Micronesia is a constitutional republic composed of four states: Chuuk, Kosrae, Pohnpei, and Yap. Individual states enjoy significant autonomy and their traditional leaders retain considerable influence, especially in Pohnpei and Yap. The latest election for the 10 members of the unicameral Congress who serve two-year terms occurred in March 2017, and observers considered the election generally free and fair. The previous election for all 14 members to Congress, including the four members from at-large state districts who are elected to four-year terms, occurred in March 2015. Congress, in its first session in 2015 following the elections, elected Peter M. Christian as president from among the four at-large members who are eligible to serve as president.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

There were no reports of egregious human rights abuses.

The government sometimes took steps to punish officials, but impunity was a problem, particularly for alleged corruption.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution and law provide citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The March 2017 election for Congress for 10 legislators who serve two-year terms was generally free and fair. In 2015 the country held elections for all 14 legislators, including four at-large members from the four states. Following the 2015 election, Congress selected Peter M. Christian as president from among the four at-large members who were eligible to serve as president.

Political Parties and Political Participation: There are no restrictions on the formation of political groups, but there were no significant efforts to organize political parties, and none existed. Candidates generally sought political support from family, allied clan groupings, and religious groups.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit participation of women or members of minorities in the political process; however, cultural factors in the male-dominated society limited women’s representation in government and politics. Women were well represented in the middle and lower ranks of government at both the federal and state level, but they were notably few in the upper ranks. At year’s end three women held cabinet-level positions of secretary of finance and administration, postmaster general, and secretary of health and social affairs. There was one female associate justice on the national Supreme Court and one female associate justice on the Pohnpei State Supreme Court. The country’s first female ambassador served as permanent representative to the United Nations. There were two elected women in the Pohnpei State legislature. There were no female members of other state legislatures or national Congress.

The country is a multicultural federation, and both Congress and the executive branch included persons from various cultural backgrounds.

Malawi

Executive Summary

Malawi is a multiparty democracy. Constitutional power is shared between the president and the 193 National Assembly members. International observers characterized the 2014 elections for president, parliament, and local councils as free, transparent, and credible.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

Human rights issues included extrajudicial killings; torture; arbitrary detention, the preceding abuses all committed by official security forces; harsh and life-threatening prison and detention center conditions; criminal libel; corruption; lack of investigation and enforcement involving cases of violence against women, including rape and domestic violence, partly due to weak enforcement; criminalization of same-sex sexual conduct; and child labor, including worst forms.

In some cases the government took steps to prosecute officials who committed abuses, but impunity remained a problem.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution and law provide citizens the ability to choose their government through free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In 2014 citizens voted in simultaneous presidential, parliamentary, and local elections. International observers characterized those elections as generally peaceful, free, credible, and transparent. Voters elected Arthur Peter Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party as president with 36.4 percent of the vote. Mutharika defeated incumbent president Joyce Banda, marking the first time an incumbent party lost the presidency since the country’s first multiparty election in 1994. Presidential and vice presidential debates took place and were broadcast on radio and television for the first time, which provided voters a tool for evaluating and contrasting candidates and their policies. The 2014 elections also filled the positions of local councilors following a nine-year gap; the term of councilors elected in 2000 had expired in 2005.

Since 2014 the country has held several by-elections for vacated seats; the next tripartite elections are scheduled for May 2019, with political parties already actively campaigning. Media regularly reported that the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) diverted state resources for partisan events. The DPP sometimes requisitioned national or local government vehicles to ferry supporters to partisan events. In 2017 representatives from several government-affiliated entities attended a DPP fundraising event held at the presidential palace, with their respective institutions paying the bill.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit participation of women or members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate. Cultural and traditional gender bias and lower levels of literacy, education, and economic empowerment prevented women from participating in the political process to the same extent as men. There were 32 women in the 193-seat National Assembly and 56 women among the 462 elected local councilors. There were four women in the 20-member cabinet. Women constituted approximately 25 percent of the civil service. There were 10 female justices among the 35 Supreme Court of Appeal and High Court justices.

Malaysia

Executive Summary

Malaysia is a federal constitutional monarchy. It has a parliamentary system of government selected through regular, multiparty elections and is headed by a prime minister. The king is the head of state and serves a largely ceremonial role; he serves a five-year term; the kingship rotates among the sultans of the nine states with hereditary rulers. In May parliamentary elections, the opposition Pakatan Harapan coalition defeated the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, resulting in the first transfer of power between coalitions since independence in 1957. Before and during the campaign, opposition politicians and civil society organizations alleged electoral irregularities and systemic disadvantages for opposition groups due to lack of media access and malapportioned districts favoring the then-ruling coalition.

Civilian authorities at times did not maintain effective control over security forces.

Human rights issues included: reports of unlawful or arbitrary killings by the government or its agents; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; censorship, site blocking, and abuse of criminal libel law; substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association; corruption; violence against transgender persons and criminalization of adult same-sex sexual activities; child labor; and trafficking in persons.

The government arrested and prosecuted some officials engaged in corruption, malfeasance, and human rights abuses, although civil society groups alleged continued impunity.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The law provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage. In May the opposition Pakatan Harapan coalition unseated the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition in general elections, marking the first federal transition of power between coalitions since independence in 1957. In the lead up to the elections, then-opposition political parties were disadvantaged due to government control over traditional media outlets and malapportionment of constituencies, among other issues.

While authorities generally recorded votes accurately, there were irregularities that affected the fairness of elections. The constitution fixes the number of seats in parliament assigned to each state to the advantage of rural states and regardless of population shifts over time. Moreover, it does not require equal populations in electoral constituencies in any given state. Each constituency elects one member of parliament. The Electoral Commission has established constituencies with widely varying populations, further to the advantage of rural populations. For example, the rural district of Igan had 18,000 registered voters, while the urban district of Kapar had more than 144,000 registered voters. Local and municipal officials are appointed at the state or federal level.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The country’s general election was held on May 9 amidst allegations of partisanship on the part of public institutions, in particular the Election Commission and the Registrar of Societies. A consortium of NGOs released a formal report in July detailing irregularities in the election, including vote buying, the use of public funds for partisan activity, and allegations of biased behavior by public officials. According to the NGOs, none of which were formally accredited to observe the polls, federal and state governments spent over RM5 billion ($1.25 billion) on “handouts” after legislatures had been dissolved and lawmakers were ostensibly prohibited from making new financial commitments. The report also alleged one accredited election observer actively campaigned for the former government.

Despite strong objections by opposition political parties and civil society, in March the former government approved redrawn parliamentary districts that critics said unfairly advantaged Barisan Nasional through gerrymandering and malapportionment.

Citing Election Commission regulations that stipulate only a party’s president or deputy president can appear in campaign materials (besides candidates in that specific district), in April police removed then opposition leader Mahathir’s photo from a billboard in a key parliamentary district.

The Election Commission disqualified at least six candidates from the Pakatan Harapan opposition coalition from participating in the May election, including a party vice president and two-term incumbent member of parliament. After police blocked an opposition candidate from entering a nomination site in Negeri Sembilan State, the incumbent chief minister was declared the winner by default. In November an election court invalidated the result and called for a re-election, a decision the incumbent appealed.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Many opposition candidates were unable to compete on equal terms with the UNMO-led coalition and were subject to restrictions and outside interference. The lack of equal access to media was a serious problem for the opposition in national elections. News about the opposition was restricted and reported in a biased manner in print and broadcast media. Registering a new political party remained difficult because of government restrictions on the process.

The Registrar of Societies announced at a press conference in April that the opposition Bersatu party would be temporarily deregistered for failing to provide documents requested by the government. Later that month a Kuala Lumpur High Court judge temporarily blocked the 30-day dissolution of Bersatu, arguing that if Bersatu remained “provisionally dissolved, it may cause irreparable damage to the political party in its attempt to provide an alternative choice for the voters” on election day.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit participation by women or members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate. The deputy prime minister in the new government is the first woman to hold the post. The Pakatan Harapan government appointed the first non-Malays as Chief Justice, Law Minister, and Attorney General.

Maldives

Executive Summary

The Republic of Maldives is a multiparty constitutional democracy. On September 23, voters elected Ibrahim Mohamed Solih president. Observers considered the election itself as mostly free and fair despite a flawed pre-election process. Parliamentary elections held in 2014 were well administered and transparent according to local nongovernmental organization (NGO) Transparency Maldives (TM), although there were credible reports of vote buying.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

On February 1, the Supreme Court ordered the release of and new trials for former president Mohamed Nasheed and eight other political prisoners who had been arrested under a variety of terrorism- and corruption-related charges and ordered the reinstatement to parliament of 12 opposition MPs. The ruling effectively gave the opposition the majority in parliament. In response, Maldives Parliament Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed (Maseeh) postponed the opening of parliament, the government arrested Supreme Court Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed, and President Abdulla Yameen declared a state of emergency (SoE). On February 6, the remaining three Supreme Court justices rescinded part of the order to release the political prisoners and in April rescinded the reinstatement of the 12 MPs. Following the 45-day SoE, the government continued to jail opposition leaders and supporters, consolidated its power in the Supreme Court and Elections Commission (EC), and disqualified opposition candidates in the lead-up to the September elections. Despite what the TM described as systematic rigging during the pre-election phase, voting on September 23 was generally free and fair, and resulted in the election of opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. Following the elections, the Criminal Court and High Court freed most jailed opposition leaders, and reinstated the 12 previously removed opposition MPs. In October, President Yameen formally contested the presidential election results on the grounds of fraud and vote rigging, but the Supreme Court ruled there was no constitutional basis to question the legality or results of the election. On November 17, President Solih was sworn in. On November 26, the Supreme Court annulled former president Nasheed’s conviction under terrorism charges.

Human rights issues included arbitrary detention by government authorities; unexplained deaths in prison; political prisoners; arbitrary and unlawful interference with privacy; the repeal of the antidefamation law; undue restrictions on free expression and the press; substantial interference with the right of peaceful assembly and freedom of association; severe restrictions on political participation; corruption; trafficking in persons; criminalization of same-sex sexual conduct; the lack of a legal framework recognizing independent trade unions; and child labor.

The government did not take steps to prosecute and punish police and military officers who committed abuses, and impunity for such abuses remained prevalent.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The presidential elections held in September were generally free and fair, despite a flawed pre-election process, according to the TM. The international community and the TM identified several issues of concern during the pre-election phase, including the disqualification of opposition candidates, restrictions on monitoring and candidacy, widespread disenfranchisement of voters, appointment of loyalists in key positions at the EC, and misuse of government resources for Yameen’s campaign. Immediately after the election, the TM reported minor administrative issues on voting day, but no issues that could have affected the results of the election as announced by the EC. On October 10, President Yameen formally contested the presidential election results on the grounds of fraud and vote rigging. On October 21, the Supreme Court ruled there was no constitutional basis to question the legality or results of the election, citing a lack of evidence in Yameen’s petition.

The parliamentary elections held in March 2014 were well administered and transparent, according to the TM, “but wider issues of money politics threaten[ed] to hijack [the] democratic process.” The TM reported vote buying was widespread due to gaps in the electoral legal framework, lack of coordination, and a failure to take action by the relevant institutions.

Political Parties and Political Participation: In July 2017 the PPM used a 2017 Supreme Court ruling on floor crossing to oust 12 PPM-turned-opposition parliamentarians from their seats. These members argued they had either left or been ejected from the party prior to the ruling and should be allowed to retain their seats. In a July ruling, the Supreme Court acknowledged all 12 had appealed their dismissals at the Supreme Court and declared the Supreme Court needed to issue separate rulings in these cases to reach a final decision on their standing. As of October 30, the Supreme Court had issued rulings on all 12 of the MPs, reinstating them to parliament.

In May the MPS attempted to stop opposition MDP’s presidential primary based on a civil court order initiated by the attorney general. The MDP proceeded with voting despite MPS confiscation of ballot boxes and brief shut down of several voting stations. Although former president Mohamed Nasheed won the MDP primary, he gave up the ticket after the EC informed the party it would not allow Nasheed to contest in presidential elections, given his past terrorism conviction that disqualified him as a candidate.

Several NGOs expressed concerns prior to the September 23 presidential election regarding President Yameen’s misuse of state resources for his campaign, police action to remove the opposition’s campaign posters and banners, and the shutdown of opposition campaign halls ahead of President Yameen’s visits to islands. NGOs also raised questions about the voter reregistration process leading to concerns of voter disenfranchisement, and the EC’s decision not to include the TM in the National Election Advisory Board as practiced in all previous elections.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit participation of women in the political process, and they did participate. The TM and the United Nations noted, however, a disproportionately low number of female candidates who contested in the local council elections in 2017. Thirty-nine women were elected as councilors for a total of 653 seats, and five women were elected to the 85-member parliament. Women’s rights activists highlighted lack of government and political party effort to encourage political participation of women.

Mali

Executive Summary

Mali is a constitutional democracy. President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita won reelection to a second five-year term on August 12 in national elections deemed to have met minimum acceptable standards by international observers despite some irregularities and limited violence. Parliamentary elections originally scheduled for October were delayed until at least June 2019 ostensibly to allow time to enact electoral reforms.

Civilian authorities did not always maintain effective control over the security forces.

Unlike in previous years the government, the Platform of Northern Militias (Platform), and the Coordination of Movements of Azawad (CMA) respected the ceasefire agreed to in the 2015 Algiers Accord for Peace and Reconciliation. Two terrorist organizations: al-Qaida coalition Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wa Muslimin (Support to Islam and Muslims, JNIM), and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) are not parties to the peace process. JNIM carried out attacks on security forces, armed groups, UN peacekeepers, international forces, humanitarian actors, and civilian targets throughout northern and central Mali. ISGS carried out attacks on civilians, security forces, and CMA and Platform elements along and near Mali’s border with Niger and Burkina Faso.

Human rights issues included reports of unlawful or arbitrary killings by both government and nonstate actors; forced disappearance by government forces; torture by government forces; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary detention by government forces; unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers by nongovernmental armed groups, some of which received support from the government; criminal libel; interference with the right of peaceful assembly; violence against women and children which was rarely investigated; and trafficking in persons. Authorities and employers often disregarded workers’ rights, and exploitative labor, including child labor, was common.

The government made little or no effort to investigate, prosecute, or punish officials who committed violations, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government, and impunity was a problem. The 2012 coup leader Amadou Sanogo, first arrested in 2013, remained under arrest awaiting trial. Sanogo’s trial began in Sikasso in 2016, but the presiding judge accepted a defense motion to delay the trial until 2017. At year’s end, the case was pending at the Court of Appeals, awaiting results of a DNA analysis. Impunity for serious crimes committed in the North and Center of the country continued. A magistrate strike, which began on July 25 and ended on November 5, severely slowed prosecutions and extended the length of pretrial detentions.

Despite the 2015 peace accord, elements within the Platform–including the Imghad Tuareg and Allies Self-defense Group (GATIA), the Arab Movement for Azawad-Platform (MAA-PF), and the Coordination of Patriotic Resistance Forces and Movements (CMFPR)–and elements in the CMA–including the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA), the High Council for the Unity of Azawad (HCUA), and the Arab Movement of Azawad (MAA)–committed serious human rights abuses, including summary executions, torture, and the recruitment and use of child soldiers. Extremist groups, including affiliates of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahel and al-Qaeda conglomerate JNIM kidnapped and killed civilians and military force members, including peacekeepers. The government, in collaboration with French military forces, conducted counterterrorism operations in northern and central Mali leading to the detention of extremists and armed group elements accused of committing crimes. Reports of abuses rarely led to investigations or prosecutions.

Accusations against Chadian peacekeepers from the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), who were accused of numerous human rights abuses in the Kidal Region, including killings, abductions, and arbitrary arrests in 2016, remained unresolved.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution and law provide citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage, and citizens exercised that right.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In 2018 President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (IBK) won the presidential election, deemed to have met minimum acceptable standards by international observers despite some irregularities and limited violence. One woman was among the 24 candidates who participated in the first round of elections, which were followed by a run-off election between the top two candidates.

The electoral campaign was strongly affected by security conditions in the central and northern regions. Restricted freedom of movement, logistical challenges, and financial limitations prevented many opposition candidates from campaigning in much of the Center and North, while government officials continued to travel to and administer programs in those areas.

Public media coverage of all candidates was generally equal and met standards outlined by the National Committee for Equal Access to State Media. The state media, however, favored the incumbent IBK by covering his actions as a candidate, as president, and of the government, and did not cover opposition candidates.

Security incidents and inaccessibility (mostly due to roads washed out after heavy rains) affected 490 polling stations, 2.1 percent of the total, during the runoff vote, according to an August 12 statement from Minister of Security and Civil Protection General Salif Traore. This was down from 869 polling stations or 3.77 percent of all stations that were affected in the first round of voting July 29. Of the 490 closed polling stations nationwide, 440 were in Mopti Region, according to Traore. He reported that 100 of the 440 closed stations in Mopti were unable to open due to lack of accessibility. Voter turnout was 43 percent for the first round of elections, and 34.5 percent for round two.

Legislative elections, originally scheduled to be held in October, were delayed until at least June 2019. A six-month extension of the current deputies mandate was instituted by the government.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit participation of women or members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate. Cultural factors, however, limited women’s political participation in formal and informal roles. A law passed in November 2015 requires that at least 30 percent of the slots on party election lists be reserved for female candidates and that 30 percent of high-level government appointees be women. The law was fully implemented in President Keita’s first cabinet of his second term, in which 11 of 32 ministers were women. There were only 13 women in the 147-member National Assembly. There were four women on the 33-member Supreme Court and two women on the nine-member Constitutional Court, including the head of the court.

The National Assembly had at least 16 members from historically marginalized pastoralist and nomadic ethnic minorities representing the eastern and northern regions of Gao, Timbuktu, and Kidal. The prime minister’s cabinet included pastoral and nomadic ethnic minority members.

Four members of the National Assembly were members of northern armed groups, including two Tuaregs from Kidal associated with the HCUA, one Tuareg from Kidal associated with GATIA, and one member from Gao associated with the MAA. National Assembly members previously allied with Ansar al-Dine ended their association with the group following the French intervention in 2013.

Malta

Executive Summary

Malta is a constitutional republic and parliamentary democracy. The president is the head of state, appointed by a resolution of the unicameral parliament (House of Representatives) for a term of five years. The House of Representatives appointed a new president in 2014. The president names as prime minister the leader of the party winning a majority of seats in parliamentary elections. Early parliamentary elections held in 2017 were considered free and fair.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over security forces.

Human rights issues included allegations of corruption at senior government levels.

The government took steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish officials who committed violations, whether in security services or elsewhere in the government.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution and law provide citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Observers considered parliamentary elections held in 2017 to be free and fair.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit participation of women or members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate. Cultural and traditional barriers remained an obstacle to increased participation by women.

Marshall Islands

Executive Summary

The Republic of the Marshall Islands is a constitutional republic led by President Hilda C. Heine. The Nitijela, the country’s parliament, elected Heine in early 2016 following free and fair multiparty elections in late 2015.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over security forces.

Human rights issues included corruption.

The government did not initiate or conclude investigations or prosecutions of officials who committed human rights abuses.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution provides citizens the ability to choose their government, including their representatives in the Nitijela, in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage. The constitution also recognizes the hereditary Council of Iroij’s right to decide on issues of custom and tradition, including land tenure. The council consists of traditional clan chiefs.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The most recent national legislative elections took place in November 2015 and were generally regarded as free and fair. A special election in November 2017 on Namdrik Atoll to fill the seat of deceased Member of Parliament Mattlan Zackhras, who also served as Minister in Assistance, was free and fair.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit participation of women or minorities in the political process, and they did participate. Traditional attitudes of male dominance, women’s cultural responsibilities and traditionally passive roles, and the generally early age of pregnancies, however, made it difficult for women to obtain political qualifications or experience. President Heine is a woman.

There were few minorities in the country and none in the legislature.

Mauritania

Executive Summary

Mauritania is a highly centralized Islamic Republic with a president as head of state and a constitution grounded in French civil law and sharia (Islamic law). The National Assembly exercises legislative functions but was weak relative to the executive. Voters elect deputies at the National Assembly, municipal mayors, and regional councilors. Voters reelected President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz to a second and constitutionally mandated-final five-year term in 2014. In August 2017 the government organized a referendum on constitutional amendments, which passed with 85 percent of the vote. One of the amendments led to the dissolution of the Senate and the transformation of the legislative system into a unicameral one. The number of seats at the new National Assembly increased from 147 to 157. In September the Union for the Republic (UPR), the president’s party, won 95 of 157 seats in the National Assembly in legislative elections.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

Human rights issues included allegations of torture by law enforcement officers; arbitrary and politically motivated arrests; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; restrictions on freedom of assembly, association, and religion; widespread corruption; rape and domestic violence against women with few victims seeking legal recourse; ethnic discrimination by government actors; criminalization of same-sex sexual conduct; continued existence of slavery and slavery-related practices with antislavery organizations subjected to restrictions on freedom of expression, association, and assembly; trafficking in persons; and minimal efforts to combat child labor.

The government took modest steps to punish officials who committed violations and prosecuted a number of violators, but officials frequently acted with impunity. Civil society organizations objected to the scant number of indictments handed down by the authorities.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections based on universal and equal suffrage and conducted by secret ballot.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In 2014 President Aziz won re-election to a second and constitutionally mandated-final five-year term with approximately 82 percent of the vote. Although some opposition groups alleged procedural irregularities and inconsistent application of vote counting policies, the Constitutional Council and international observers endorsed the results of the election.

In August 2017 the country organized a referendum that led to the dissolution of the Senate, resulting in a unicameral legislature. Voters approved the referendum with 85 percent of the vote, and the Constitutional Court validated the result 10 days later.

In September the president’s party, the UPR, won 95 of 157 seats in the National Assembly in direct legislative elections, which observers, including from the African Union, judged to be have been peaceful, calm, and credible. The UPR also won control of each of the 13 regional councils that replaced the Senate, as well as two-thirds of the 219 municipalities elected on the same day.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The government often favored individuals based on political ties.

The Beydane (Arabs) account for at most 30 percent of the population but occupied approximately 80 percent of top leadership positions. Haratines (Arab slave descendants) constitute at least 45 percent of the population but held less than 10 percent of the positions. The sub-Saharan ethnic groups (Halpulaar, Soninke, and Wolof) make up about 25 percent of the population and accounted for less than 10 percent of top leadership positions.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit the participation of women or members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate. Some observers, however, believed that traditional and cultural factors restricted women from participating in political life on an equal basis with men. The law reserves at least 20 seats in the National Assembly for women. Following the 2018 legislative elections, 30 women held seats in the 157-member National Assembly. Of the country’s 29 ministers, eight were women, four were Haratines, and five were from non-Arab sub-Saharan ethnic groups.

Mauritius

Executive Summary

Mauritius is a multiparty democracy governed by the prime minister, the Council of Ministers, and the National Assembly. International and local observers judged elections for both the prime minister and legislators in 2014 to be generally free and fair.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

Human rights issues included security force abuse of suspects and detainees; infringement on citizens’ privacy rights; government corruption; lack of accountability in cases involving violence against women; child marriage; and restrictions on labor rights.

The government took steps to prosecute and punish officials who committed abuses, whether in the security services or elsewhere in the government. Enforcement of prosecution and punishment was inconsistent and sometimes politically influenced, resulting in impunity.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: International and local observers characterized National Assembly elections held in 2014 as free and fair. The constitution provides for filling 62 of the up to 70 National Assembly seats by election. It also provides for the Electoral Supervisory Commission to allocate up to eight additional seats to unsuccessful candidates from any potentially unrepresented community, based on 1972 census statistics, through a procedure known as the Best Loser System (BLS).

Various political observers claimed the BLS undermined national unity and promoted discrimination. In 2012 the UN Human Rights Committee ruled that a requirement obliging citizens running for election to declare their ethnic and religious status violated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In response to that ruling, the government amended the constitution in 2014 to exempt candidates in the 2014 legislative elections from having to declare themselves as belonging to one of four recognized “communities”: Hindu, Muslim, Sino-Mauritian, or General Population (those who do not belong to one of the other three categories). The growth of the Muslim and General Population groups relative to the other two communities since 1972 was a particular source of concern, and critics proposed reforms to eliminate the BLS system altogether after the 2014 election. Candidates who did not declare their membership in a specific community during the most recent election were not eligible for a BLS seat.

International observers of the 2014 legislative elections noted some concerns. These included unequal representation because of the failure to redraw electoral district lines to reflect population changes since 1999, a low number of female candidates, inequitable access to media to promote wider coverage of candidates, the counting of ballots on the day after the elections, and the absence of legislation effectively governing the financing of political parties and candidates.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Political parties operated without restriction or outside interference. Opposition parties alleged that the government-owned television station MBC TV favored the ruling party.

Participation of Women and Minorities: The law provides equal rights for women and minorities to vote, run for office, serve as electoral monitors, and otherwise participate in political life on the same basis as men or nonminority citizens. In 2015 Ameenah Gurib-Fakim became the first female president of the country. The law promotes the participation of women in local government by requiring that at least one of three candidates contesting elections in each ward or village be of a gender different from the others. One-third of elected candidates in the 2012 village and municipal elections were women. The law is silent, however, concerning gender balance in national legislative elections. Following the 2014 legislative elections, women constituted only 11 percent of elected members of the National Assembly and 8 percent of the Cabinet of Ministers.

Although the Hindu plurality (48 percent of the population) has dominated politics since independence, the political system did not exclude any groups from participation, although minority groups were significantly underrepresented.

Mexico

Executive Summary

Mexico is a multiparty federal republic with an elected president and bicameral legislature. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the National Regeneration Movement won the presidential election on July 1 in generally free and fair multiparty elections and took office on December 1. Citizens also elected members of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, governors, state legislators, and mayors.

Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces.

Human rights issues included reports of the involvement by police, military, and other state officials, sometimes in coordination with criminal organizations, in unlawful or arbitrary killings, forced disappearance, torture, and arbitrary detention by both government and illegal armed groups; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions in some prisons; impunity for violence against journalists and state and local censorship and criminal libel; and violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons.

Impunity for human rights abuses remained a problem, with extremely low rates of prosecution for all forms of crimes. The government’s federal statistics agency (INEGI) estimated 94 percent of crimes were either unreported or not investigated.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The law provides citizens the ability to choose their government through free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The July 1 presidential, legislative, gubernatorial, and other local elections were considered by international observers to have been generally free and fair with only minor reports of irregularities. Local commentators pointed to the electoral authorities’ quick and transparent publishing of results as increasing citizen trust in the electoral and democratic system as a whole.

During the electoral season (September 2017 to June 28), 48 candidates were killed. In Guerrero 14 candidates were killed, followed by five in Puebla. Of the victims, 12 were members of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, 10 belonged to the Party of the Democratic Revolution, seven to the National Regeneration Movement, six to the National Action Party, five to the Citizens’ Movement, two to the Ecologist Green Party of Mexico, one each to the Social Encounter Party and the Labor Party, and three of the victims did not have a party affiliation. As of July the killings resulted in just one arrest, and none resulted in convictions. In comparison with the 2012 elections, there were 10 times more killings of candidates in 2018.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit participation of women or members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate. As of September women held 49 percent of 128 senate seats and 48 percent of 500 deputies’ seats. The law provides for the right of indigenous persons to elect representatives to local office according to “uses and customs” law (See “Indigenous Peoples”) rather than federal and state electoral law.

On September 8, the Chiapas Electoral and Citizen Participation Institute (IEPC) reported 36 women elected to political office in Chiapas resigned so that men could take their places. IEPC claimed the women were forced to give up their positions as part of a premeditated strategy to install men in office. The president of the National Electoral Institute, Lorenzo Cordova, stated the replacement of successful female candidates with men was “unacceptable in a democratic context” and that “it constitutes regression on the principle of gender parity and inclusion.”

Moldova

Executive Summary

Note: Unless otherwise noted, all references in this report exclude the secessionist region of Transnistria.

Moldova is a republic with a form of parliamentary democracy. The constitution provides for a multiparty democracy with legislative and executive branches as well as an independent judiciary and a clear separation of powers. Legislative authority is vested in the unicameral parliament. The 2014 parliamentary elections met most Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Council of Europe, and other international commitments, although local and international observers raised concerns about the inclusion and exclusion of specific political parties. The significant number of parliamentarians switching parties in 2017 amid allegations of political pressure and bribery significantly reshaped parliament’s structure and the parliamentary majority. Two rounds of presidential elections in 2016 resulted in the election of Igor Dodon. According to the OSCE election observation mission, both rounds were competitive and respected fundamental freedoms. International and domestic observers, however, noted polarized and unbalanced media coverage, harsh and intolerant rhetoric, lack of transparency in campaign financing, and instances of abuse of administrative resources.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

Human rights issues included torture at prisons and psycho-neurological institutions; harsh prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention by authorities; restrictions on freedom of the media; refoulement of political asylum seekers to a country where they had a well-founded fear of persecution; high-level corruption; cases of forced abortion; rape and other violence against persons with disabilities in state institutions.

While authorities investigated reports of official human rights abuses, they rarely successfully prosecuted and punished officials accused of human rights violations or corruption. Selective prosecution of officials for political reasons intensified. Impunity remained a major problem. Opposition parties reported increased pressure and politically motivated detentions during the year.

In 1990 separatists declared a “Transdniester Moldovan Republic” (Transnistria) along the border with Ukraine. A 1992 ceasefire agreement established a peacekeeping force of Moldovan, Russian, and Transnistrian units. The central government did not exercise authority in the region, and Transnistrian authorities governed through parallel administrative structures. During the year there were reports that police engaged in torture, arbitrary arrests, and unlawful detentions.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The law provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In 2014 the country held parliamentary elections that met most OSCE, Council of Europe, and other international commitments, although local and international observers raised concerns about the inclusion and exclusion of specific political parties.

The country’s first direct presidential elections in 20 years took place in 2016. A run-off was required, as no candidate obtained more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round. According to international observers, the elections were conducted in a broadly fair and democratic manner. Coverage of the electoral campaign by some media outlets, however, demonstrated political bias. Observers also raised concerns about the lack of transparency in campaign financing and some election-day irregularities. An unspecified number of citizens abroad or from Transnistria were unable to vote due to an insufficient allocation of ballots to their polling stations.

The government held early mayoral elections in May and June to fill vacant mayoral seats in the towns of Balti, Nemteni, Leuseni, Volovita, Pirlita, and Jora de Miiloc, as well as the capital city Chisinau. According to international and local observers, the elections were held in a broadly fair and democratic manner. Days after the election, however, a lower-court judge ruled the Chisinau mayoral election, which had been won by an opposition candidate, invalid during closed-door hearings. The Supreme Court later upheld the ruling. Opposition and civil society criticized the judge for reaching a decision based on an argument that neither mayoral candidate made in court. The courts asserted in their ruling that both mayoral candidates had engaged in “illegal campaigning” because both had posted, in violation of election law, videos on social media on election day that called on citizens to vote.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Opposition parties reported intimidation and harassment of their members by local authorities, including threat of loss of employment.

Since 2014 the pro-Russian opposition “Our Party” has been subject to pressure, blackmail and slander campaigns. Following the departure of the party’s leader, Renato Usatii, to Russia in 2015, Our Party mayors and municipal councilors faced continuous threats. Our Party members located in the country’s second largest city of Balti were prone to attacks and harassment of party members and their family members. For example, party members reported threats of forced dismissal, criminal cases, and arrests. In January, the party’s municipal councilors went on a four-day hunger strike against pressure from the ruling Democratic Party to force the city council to organize a referendum to recall Balti mayor and Our Party leader Renato Usatii.

The National Anticorruption Center (NAC) conducted searches in over 20 mayoralties in the country in 2017, allegedly investigating cases of power abuse during public procurement for water and sewage system repairs. The NAC investigated and detained Nicoleta Malai, the mayor of Ghelauza village, and charged her with three criminal cases for corruption and abuse of power in a case of public procurement for water supply. She was detained for 72 hours in November 2017, allegedly for refusing to switch her political affiliation to the ruling Democratic Party. She claimed she was not offered food or water, and was held in a cell with no electricity.

On October 12, news reports stated the head of the opposition Dignity and Truth Party branch in Ungheni, Gheorghe Petic, was detained on charges of rape after harshly criticizing the ruling party’s leadership and nation’s Border Police for allegedly covering up illegal smuggling activities. Petic denied the charges, claiming they were politically motivated.

The electoral code provides for the election of 50 seats in parliament from party lists and 51 from single mandate districts. Civil society and opposition political parties criticized the district delineation process as biased toward certain political parties due to alleged gerrymandering, a lack of transparency, underrepresentation of the diaspora, and the questionable independence of the commission charged with shaping the districts.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit the ability of women and members of minorities to participate in the political process, and women and minorities did participate. The law provides that either gender must have a minimum of 40 percent of candidates on the party lists of candidates for parliamentary and local elections.

Two Romani women elected to the local councils in Riscani and Chetrosu in 2015 reported ethnic and gender-based discrimination from their male colleagues on the council. They resigned from their positions due to discrimination and low pay and stated they would not seek re-election in 2019. Within the Romani community, women in rural areas also reported that Romani men discouraged them from running in local elections so men could fill the seats.

The electoral code provides for a 10 percent financial supplement from the state budget for political parties to promote female candidates and establishes a 40 percent quota in single mandate districts. The law applies a multiplier to the financial supplement given to parties for every winning female candidate in districts.

The law provides for sanctions against political parties for publicly promoting discriminatory messages or stereotypes, for using discriminatory language in mass media, and for failing to meet the required gender quotas.

Voter education materials as well as campaign materials of the majority of candidates were available in the state language and in Russian. Although permitted, other minority languages were virtually absent from voter education and campaign activities.

Monaco

Executive Summary

The Principality of Monaco is a constitutional monarchy in which the sovereign prince plays the leading governmental role. The prince appoints the government, which consists of a minister of state and five ministers. The prince shares the country’s legislative power with the popularly elected National Council. Multiparty elections for the National Council on February 11 were considered free and fair.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

There were no reports of egregious human rights abuses.

There were no reports of abuses committed by government officials.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The authority to change the government and to initiate legislation rests solely with the prince. The constitution can be revised by common agreement between the prince and the elected National Council. The constitution and law provide citizens the ability to choose the National Council in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Observers considered the National Council elections on February 11 to be free and fair.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit the participation of women and members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate.

Mongolia

Executive Summary

Mongolia is a multiparty parliamentary democracy governed by a democratically elected government. The 2017 presidential elections and 2016 parliamentary election were considered free and fair, although some observers expressed concern during the presidential elections about allegations of vote-buying and candidates’ involvement in corruption.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

Human rights issues included corruption; trafficking in persons; violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons; and harsh labor conditions for some foreign contract workers, especially those from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

Government efforts to punish officials who committed abuses or to remedy discrimination were inconsistent.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The law provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The most recent national elections were the 2017 presidential elections and the 2016 parliamentary election. In a 2017 report, an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) limited election observation mission assessed the presidential elections as orderly and efficient. The mission, however, noted allegations of vote buying and candidates’ involvement in corruption during the presidential elections. The OSCE noted there was legal uncertainty surrounding the first-ever presidential runoff in 2017 because the electoral legal framework contained few runoff provisions. While the General Election Commission issued clarifying regulations in a timely manner, there was widespread perception that parties blurred the line between governing and campaigning between the two rounds of voting.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit participation of women or members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate.

Montenegro

Executive Summary

Montenegro is a mixed parliamentary and presidential republic with a multiparty political system. Voters choose both the president and the unicameral parliament through popular elections. The president nominates, and the parliament approves, the prime minister. The observation mission of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE/ODIHR) stated that the 2016 parliamentary elections were conducted in a competitive environment and fundamental freedoms were generally respected. The opposition coalition did not accept the election results and began a continuing boycott of parliament, although all but two parties have since returned. On April 15, Milo Djukanovic, president of the Democratic Party of Socialists, was elected president of the country, winning approximately 54 percent of the vote in the first round. This is his second term as president, having additionally served six terms as prime minister. The OSCE/ODIHR, the European Parliament delegation, and the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly noted the April 15 election proceeded in an orderly manner but had a few minor irregularities that did not affect the outcome. Despite opposition protests, elections were generally considered free and fair.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

Human rights issues included corruption; trafficking in persons; attacks on journalists; and crimes involving violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons.

Impunity remained a problem, since the government did not punish officials who committed human rights abuses.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The law provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The country held presidential elections on April 15. In its final report on June 28, the OSCE/ODIHR observation mission noted that, although the candidate nominated by the governing party held an institutional advantage, fundamental freedoms were respected. Candidates campaigned freely and the media provided the contestants with a platform to present their views. The technical aspects of the election were adequately managed, although observers noted the transparency and professionalism of the State Election Commission remained issues of concern. Election day proceeded in an orderly manner despite a few observed procedural irregularities.

In 2016 the special prosecutor stated that law enforcement authorities prevented an attempted attack on the government on the October 16 election day. The special prosecutor accused 14 persons, including the leaders of the opposition coalition Democratic Front (DF), Andrija Mandic and Milan Knezevic, of attempting to overthrow the government violently in order to proclaim electoral victory for the DF and prevent the country from joining the NATO alliance. Parliament voted to strip Mandic and Knezevic’s parliamentary immunity, and both were subsequently indicted for this crime. The case continued during the year.

Twelve opposition members of parliament disputing the results of the 2016 parliamentary elections continued to boycott parliament.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Nebojsa Medojevic, one of the leaders of the pro-Russian opposition DF alliance, together with 11 others, began trial for alleged money laundering linked to DF financing during the 2016 elections. Two other DF leaders, Andrija Mandic and Milan Knezevic, and 12 others were also standing trial on separate charges of involvement in an alleged coup plot during the 2016 elections. The DF accused the prosecutor’s office of acting under the influence of the ruling DPS party and bringing false charges against the DF.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws formally limit the participation of women or minorities in the political process, and they did participate. All minority groups had representatives in the parliament except the Roma, Ashkali, and Balkan Egyptians, who remained unrepresented in spite of a law that provides representation to minority groups that win less than 3 percent of the vote or constitute less than 15 percent of the population. The law also provides for positive discrimination in the allocation of electoral seats at the municipal level for minorities constituting 1.5 to 15 percent of the population. However, there were no political representatives of the Roma, Ashkali, or Balkan Egyptians at the municipal level.

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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future