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Afghanistan

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The 2004 constitution provides citizens the opportunity to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage. The right to vote may be stripped for certain criminal offenses. Violence from the Taliban and other antigovernment groups interfered with, but did not prevent, the most recent presidential election, held in 2019. In September, after the Taliban takeover, the Taliban’s so-called chief justice was quoted as saying that the country would follow the 1964 Constitution with modifications until it drafted a replacement document. There was no further clarification, leaving uncertain whether there would be future elections or other democratic processes. The Taliban announced on December 27 that it was disbanding the Independent Election Commission, the Electoral Complaints Commission, and the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, stating they were “unnecessary for current conditions.”

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Elections were last held in 2019, and President Ghani’s second five-year term began in April 2020. President Ghani fled the country on August 15 as the Taliban approached Kabul. First Vice President Amrullah Saleh under President Ghani announced a government in exile in September. In September the Taliban’s spokesperson said future elections would be considered in the process of establishing a new constitution.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Under the pre-August 15 government, the constitution granted parties the right to exist as formal institutions. The law provided that any citizen 25 years old or older may establish a political party. The same law required parties to have at least 10,000 members nationwide to register with the Ministry of Justice, conduct official party business, and introduce candidates in elections. Only citizens 18 years old or older and who have the right to vote were permitted to join a political party. Certain members of the government, judiciary, military, and government-affiliated commissions were prohibited from political party membership during their tenure in office.

Before August 15, in large areas of the country, political parties could not operate due to insecurity. After August 15, the Taliban engaged with some political parties, including Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e Islami. Senior leaders of other key parties left the country as the Taliban seized Kabul, including most notably the predominantly ethnic Tajik Jamiat Islami, the predominantly ethnic Hazara Hezb-e Wahdat, the predominantly Pashtun Islamic Dawah Organization, and the predominantly ethnic Uzbek Junbish-i-Milli. Taliban representatives reportedly maintained communication with those parties, but their ability to operate in the country was limited.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws under the pre-August 15 government prevented women or members of religious or ethnic minority groups from participating in political life, although different ethnic groups complained of unequal access to local government jobs in provinces where they were in the minority. Individuals from the largest ethnic group, the Pashtuns, had more seats than any other ethnic group in both houses of parliament, but they did not have more than 50 percent of the seats. There was no evidence authorities purposely excluded specific societal groups from political participation.

The 2004 constitution specified a minimum number of seats for women and minorities in the two houses of parliament. For the Wolesi Jirga (lower house of the national assembly), the constitution mandated that at least two women shall be elected from each province (for a total of 68). The Independent Election Commission finalized 2018 parliamentary election results in May 2019, and 418 female candidates contested the 250 seats in the Wolesi Jirga in the 2018 parliamentary election. In Daikundi Province a woman won a seat in open competition against male candidates, making it the only province to have more female representation than mandated by the constitution. The constitution also mandated one-half of presidential appointees must be women. It also set aside 10 seats in the Wolesi Jirga for members of the nomadic Kuchi minority. In the Meshrano Jirga (upper house), the president’s appointees were required to include two Kuchis and two members with physical disabilities, and one-half of the president’s nominees were required to be women. One seat in the Meshrano Jirga and one in the Wolesi Jirga were reserved for the appointment or election of a Sikh or Hindu representative, although this was not mandated by the constitution.

In many regions traditional societal practices limited women’s participation in politics and activities outside the home and community, including the need to have a male escort or permission to work. The 2016 electoral law mandated that 25 percent of all provincial, district, and village council seats “shall be allocated to female candidates.” Neither district nor village councils were established by year’s end.

Women active in government and politics before August 15 continued to face threats and violence and were targets of attacks by the Taliban and other insurgent groups.

In September the Taliban announced a “caretaker government,” dominated by ethnic Pashtun members with no women and only a few members of minority groups, none at the cabinet level. In late December the Taliban announced that a second member of the Hazara minority had been appointed to the government, this time as deputy minister for economic affairs.

On September 17, the Taliban closed the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and announced that the reconstituted “Ministry of the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice” would be housed in its building. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs was founded in 2001 with a mandate to “implement government’s social and political policy to secure legal rights of women in the country.” The ministry often struggled with a lack of influence and resources.

According to media reports, the Taliban repressed members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) community and would not allow members of historically marginalized minority groups to participate in ministries and institutions (see section 6).

Albania

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 most recent national parliamentary elections were held on April 25. An International Election Observation Mission (IEOM) was formed as a common endeavor of the OSCE Office for Democracy and Human Rights, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. In its final report on the elections, the IEOM reported the elections were generally well organized and noted the Central Election Commission (CEC) “managed to adequately fulfill most of its obligations, including complex new ones related to electronic voter identification. Overall, the election administration at all levels enjoyed the trust of stakeholders.” The IEOM reported, “the ruling party derived significant advantage from its incumbency, including through its control of local administrations, and from misuse of administrative resources. This was amplified by positive coverage of state institutions in the media.” The mission also highlighted several deficiencies, including credible allegations of pervasive vote buying by political parties and the leaking of sensitive personal data. The report found that journalists remained vulnerable to pressure and corruption.

Local elections took place in 2019. The main opposition party and others boycotted the elections, alleging government collusion with organized crime to commit electoral fraud. The OSCE election observation mission reported that, because of the boycott, “voters did not have a meaningful choice between political options” and “there were credible allegations of citizens being pressured by both sides.”

Political Parties and Political Participation: Media outlets reported allegations of the use of public resources for partisan campaign purposes in the 2021 parliamentary elections, and there were reports of undue political influence on media. There were also reports of limited access to voting for persons with disabilities.

Algeria

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

On March 10, President Tebboune enacted a new electoral law. Typically, new laws must obtain parliamentary approval, but on February 18, Tebboune dissolved parliament’s lower house, thus necessitating the law’s promulgation via decree.

The new law outlines a significant procedural change to the way voters elect members of parliament. Under the previous system, electors voted for a political party’s candidate list rather than for individual candidates, and the candidates on the top of the list would obtain a seat in parliament. The government stated it made the change as part of its efforts to fight corruption. Opposition parties from across the political spectrum criticized the electoral law for creating a more complex process for qualifying for the ballot, as well as for establishing an electoral-monitoring body whose members would be appointed by the president and parliament, which is controlled by a coalition headed by the president’s party.

Presidential term limits, which were eliminated in 2008, were reintroduced in a 2016 revision of the constitution to limit the president to two five-year terms. The new 2020 constitution maintains term limits. The National Independent Authority for Elections (ANIE), established in 2019 to replace the High Independent Election Monitoring Body, is responsible for organizing the election and voting processes, monitoring elections, and investigating allegations of irregularities.

Recent Elections: In November 2020 the country held a constitutional referendum. Restrictions on freedom of assembly and association as well as restrictions on political party activities inhibited the activity of opposition groups. The referendum passed with 66.8 percent support and 23.7 percent turnout, according to the ANIE.

On June 12, the country held legislative elections. Official voter turnout was 23 percent, the lowest in the country’s history for a parliamentary election. The vote was the first held under the new electoral law. The new parliament did not have an established opposition party presence, as traditional opposition parties chose to boycott. After the polls closed, Mohamed Charfi, head of the ANIE, announced an “average final turnout rate” of 30.2 percent based on the average turnout percentage in each of the country’s 58 wilayas (states) – not of the percentage of all eligible voters who cast their ballots.

On November 27, the country held local elections and municipal level elections for wilaya (state) and commune-level legislative bodies, plus mayors. The ANIE announced a final turnout rate of 36 percent for municipal elections and 34.9 percent for provincial elections.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The Ministry of Interior must approve political parties before they may operate legally.

Opposition political parties claimed they did not have access to public television and radio. Occasionally security forces dispersed political opposition rallies and interfered with the right to organize. Since taking office in 2019, Tebboune’s government has blocked foreign funding and pressured media to limit government criticism. The government used COVID-19 restrictions to prevent political opposition meetings; however, the National Liberation Front and the Democratic National Rally continued to meet despite restrictions.

The law prohibits parties based on religion, ethnicity, gender, language, or region, but there were various political parties commonly known to be Islamist, notably members of the Green Alliance. According to the Ministry of Interior, in September there were 72 registered political parties, one more than in 2020. Parties must hold a party congress to elect a party leader and confirm membership before the Ministry of Interior counts them as a registered party.

The law does not place significant restrictions on voter registration.

Membership in the Islamic Salvation Front, a political party banned since 1992, remained illegal. The law also bans political party ties to nonpolitical associations and regulates party financing and reporting requirements. By law political parties may not receive direct or indirect financial or material support from any foreign parties. The law also stipulates resources from party members’ domestic contributions, donations, and revenue from party activities, in addition to possible state funding, must be reported to the Ministry of Interior. President Tebboune publicly stated his administration was revising political funding laws and that the new constitution would change campaign finance and funding laws.

On April 22, the Ministry of the Interior initiated legal action against the opposition party Union for Change and Progress (UCP). Authorities alleged that the UCP and its president Zoubida Assoul, who was also a lawyer and political activist, lacked legal status. The UCP denied these accusations and said it followed the law on political parties. On May 2, the Interior Ministry requested that the Council of State temporarily suspend the UCP, pending a legal ruling on its outright dissolution.

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

The electoral law eliminated gender quotas in parliament, and women’s representation in parliament fell from 120 to 34. During the 2017 legislative election campaign, the regulatory election body that preceded the ANIE sent formal notices asking parties and individuals to display candidates’ photos on posters. The ANIE did not require female candidates to use their photos on the campaign posters and ballots for this year’s legislative election for cultural and religious reasons.

Andorra

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution and the 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 2019 to be free and fair.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women or minorities in the political process, and they did participate. Citizens were ethnically and linguistically homogeneous but, as of the end of the year, represented only 48.7 percent of the country’s population. Most of the population consisted of immigrants, largely from Spain, Portugal, and France. The law requires 20 years of residency for naturalization. Because only citizens have the right to hold official positions, there were no members of minorities in government.

Angola

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: In 2017 the government held presidential and legislative elections, which the ruling MPLA won with 61 percent of the vote, and the country inaugurated MPLA party candidate Joao Lourenco as its third president since independence. The MPLA retained its 68 percent supermajority in the National Assembly in the 2017 elections; however, opposition parties increased their representation by winning 32 percent of parliamentary seats, up from 20 percent in the 2012 elections.

Domestic and international observers reported polling throughout the country was peaceful and generally credible, although the ruling party enjoyed advantages due to state control of major media and other resources. Opposition parties complained to the Constitutional Court regarding aspects of the electoral process, including the National Electoral Commission’s lack of transparent decision making on key election procedures and perceived irregularities during the provincial-level vote count.

The central government appoints provincial governors. Local government elections, originally planned to take place in 2020, faced a series of delays from legislative processes, procedural debates, and the COVID-19 pandemic. During the year President Lourenco proposed a constitutional amendment providing for local government elections to be implemented across the nation. In September the National Assembly passed the law, but no date was set for the elections. Opposition parties and civil society criticized the government for failing to provide a prospective date for the municipal elections.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The ruling MPLA party dominated all political institutions. Political power was concentrated in the presidency and the Council of Ministers, through which the president exercised executive power. The Council of Ministers largely determines which legislative proposals are submitted to the National Assembly for approval. The National Assembly consists of 220 deputies elected under a party list proportional representation system. The National Assembly has the authority to draft, debate, and pass legislation, but the executive branch often proposed and drafted legislation for the assembly’s approval.

Political parties must be represented in all 18 provinces, but only the MPLA, UNITA, and CASA-CE, to a lesser extent, had truly national constituencies. By law no political party may limit party membership based on ethnicity, race, or gender.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women and members of minority groups, including persons with disabilities; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons; and indigenous persons, in the political process, and they did participate. Of the 220 deputies in the national assembly, 65, or 30 percent, were women, up from 27 percent for the last three years. Four of 18, or 22 percent, of provincial governors were women, which was double the number from both 2018 and 2019, and seven of 21, or 33 percent, of cabinet ministers were women, down from 38 percent in 2018 and 2019. The country has multiple linguistic groups, many of which were represented in government.

Antigua and Barbuda

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: In the 2018 elections, the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party won 15 of 17 seats in the House of Representatives and Gaston Browne was subsequently named prime minister. The Caribbean Community Observation Mission and a Commonwealth Observer Group monitored the election. In their initial report, monitors noted the electoral boundaries had seen only minor adjustments since 1984, leading to large disparities in voter populations in different electoral districts. The monitors stated that despite problems with the electoral process, the results “reflected the will of the people.”

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate.

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The “law” provides Turkish Cypriots 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: Turkish Cypriots choose a leader and a representative body at least every five years. In 2018 Turkish Cypriots held “parliamentary elections” that observers considered free and fair. In October 2020 Turkish Cypriots elected Ersin Tatar as “president” in “elections” that were widely seen as influenced by pro-Tatar interference from Turkey.

Civil society leaders alleged the level of Turkish interference on behalf of Tatar’s candidacy was uncharacteristically high and led to the resignation of several Turkish Cypriot members from the bicommunal Technical Committee on Gender Equality.

According to reports by Turkish Cypriot journalists and statements by candidates during the year, Turkey’s interference in the “TRNC presidential” elections in October 2020 was significant. According to an investigative report by Turkish Cypriot journalist Esra Aygin published in June, the Turkish “embassy” in the “TRNC” and Turkish National Intelligence (MIT) pressured, threatened, and blackmailed former Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and his supporters, other candidates, and journalists during the election campaign. Aygin also reported receiving threats.

Aygin’s report, based on the work of a team of civil society representatives, lawyers, and researchers, showed “blatant interference by Ankara” in favor of Tatar. According to Aygin several journalists reported being pressured by Turkish officials who claimed they were in northern Cyprus to ensure Tatar’s election. In an interview with local media in July, former Turkish Cypriot leader Akinci alleged there was direct pressure, threats, and blackmailing from MIT and Turkey.

Political Parties and Political Participation: While membership in the dominant party did not confer formal advantages, there were widespread allegations of political cronyism and nepotism.

On June 23, a consortium of Turkish Cypriot organizations spoke out against the “government” in the north concerning its acceleration of “TRNC citizenship” applications. This Country is Ours Platform criticized a decision to reorganize the “Ministry of Interior” in order to approve new passport applications more quickly.

In August opposition Republican Turkish Party “member of parliament” Asim Akansoy said the “Ministry of Interior” was rapidly granting citizenships and asked, “Is it true that 200 people are given citizenship with the approval of the Ministry, per day?” Akansoy criticized the “government” for remaining silent regarding the matter and implied the “government” sought to increase the pro-Turkey voting base by offering “citizenship” to newly arrived immigrants from Turkey.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No “laws” limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. remained underrepresented in senior political positions. Nine of the 50 “members of parliament” were women.

Turkish Cypriot authorities did not permit Greek Cypriots and Maronites residing in the north to participate in elections they administered. Greek Cypriots and Maronites residing in the north were eligible to vote in elections in the Republic of Cyprus-controlled area but had to travel there to do so. Greek Cypriot and Maronite communities living in the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities directly elected municipal officials, but Turkish Cypriot authorities did not recognize them. There was no minority representation in the 50-seat “parliament” or in the “cabinet.”

Argentina

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: Alberto Fernandez was elected president in 2019 in elections generally considered free and fair. On November 14, the country held midterm municipal, provincial, and federal elections. Voters elected one-half of the members of the Chamber of Deputies, representing all of the provinces and the city of Buenos Aires, and one-third of the members of the Senate, representing eight provinces. Local and international observers considered the elections generally free and fair.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women and members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. The law requires an electoral list of candidates for national legislative office to contain equal percentages of male and female candidates. The law also states that in the case of the resignation, temporary absence, or death of an elected official, the replacement must be the same gender. The city of Buenos Aires and the provinces of Buenos Aires, Cordoba, Santiago del Estero, Rio Negro, Catamarca, Santa Cruz, Mendoza, Chaco, Misiones, Formosa, Salta, Chubut, Neuquen, and Santa Fe have gender parity laws pertaining to candidates for provincial and municipal bodies. Enforcement of these laws was weak and limited, however, and results were uneven among the provinces.

Armenia

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution and laws 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: On June 20, the country held snap parliamentary elections in which fundamental rights and freedoms were generally respected and contestants were able to campaign freely. Elections were preceded by a short and heated campaign marked by harsh and inflammatory language. The elections occurred amid heightened tensions and polarization following the fall 2020 intensive fighting in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the controversial November 2020 cease-fire statement. In the June elections, Nikol Pashinyan’s Civic Contract party won approximately 54 percent of the vote and the majority of seats in the National Assembly, falling one seat short of a two-thirds constitutional majority.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) election observation mission reported, “Fundamental rights and freedoms were generally respected, and contestants were able to campaign freely.” The October 27 final report noted that amendments to the electoral code made in April and May “had been publicly debated… and were supported by most political parties and civil society groups, and public outreach on the proposed electoral reforms was largely perceived as inclusive. However, the late adoption by parliament and subsequent entering into force of the amendments left limited time for the implementation of regulations and raising voters’ awareness of the new procedures.” ODIHR reported that while its observers assessed the territorial election commissions as generally professional and transparent in their conduct, the commissions did not publish their decisions online, nor did they uniformly post them for public display, contrary to legal requirements. ODIHR also noted that central and territorial election commission members expressed concern that many of the party-nominated precinct election commission members, especially those serving as chairpersons and secretaries, “lacked the sufficient education and experience to effectively perform their tasks.”

The final ODIHR report also noted that “high levels of harsh, intolerant, inflammatory and discriminatory rhetoric in the period leading up to election day tainted the debate.” Other shortcomings identified by ODIHR included incidents of pressure by political actors and employers on private-sector and public employees to attend campaign events, a number of allegations of vote buying, blurring of the line between the ruling party and state, allegations of the misuse of administrative resources, continued shortcomings regarding campaign finance, notably the absence of organizational expenses in the legal definition of campaign expenditures, and the narrow legal standing for submitting electoral complaints.

There were allegations of electoral bribes during the campaign, and law enforcement bodies launched 67 criminal cases in this regard. As of October 15, 35 persons were facing criminal charges related to electoral bribes.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The law does not restrict the registration or activity of political parties.

In its final report, the ODIHR observation mission stated, “Allegations of misuse of administrative resources also persisted throughout the campaign and were not sufficiently or uniformly addressed.” ODIHR observers received such reports from four of the country’s 10 regions and Yerevan. Other observers noted complaints that “administrative resources” were reportedly employed by both progovernment and opposition forces.

There were incidents of violence involving political figures. For example after the June 20 snap elections, Lori governor Aram Khachatryan publicly urged mayors who had supported the opposition to resign, claiming Civil Contract’s victory amounted to a vote of no confidence in opposition-linked community heads. Mayor of the Lori region’s Odzun village Arsen Titanyan, who had supported the opposition, accused Khachatryan of assaulting him in connection with Khachatryan’s calls for him to resign. Khachatryan denied the claims. A local civil society observer noted that the conflict between the governor and mayor also involved reports of vote buying in Odzun. A criminal case was launched into the alleged assault, but on September 22, media reported that the SIS had dropped the case.

Violence also occurred between members of the National Assembly. For example on August 24, a scuffle between parliamentarians broke out after Speaker Alen Simonyan ordered the removal of opposition parliamentarian Anna Mkrtchyan for calling the prime minister a “capitulator,” in reference to the 2020 cease-fire arrangement in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Another fight broke out in parliament on August 25, after Armenia faction head and former defense minister Seyran Ohanyan threw a water bottle at Civil Contract member Hayk Sargsyan. The latter had called former defense ministers who had allowed for exemptions to army service via telephone calls “traitors.” This scuffle was soon followed by a larger brawl, initiated when Civil Contract members of parliament hit several Armenia faction members of parliament. A human rights activist asserted that security officers intentionally delayed responding to the incident.

During the campaign and following the June parliamentary elections, Pashinyan claimed his party would employ a “steel mandate,” strictly prosecuting those who violated the law. The opposition and some independent human rights observers asserted such prosecution largely targeted the prime minister’s opponents. After the parliamentary elections, four opposition-linked former or current mayors in Syunik Province were arrested for various alleged crimes related to abuse of power, fraud, or bribes. As the mayors had openly opposed Pashinyan, their arrests raised questions related to potential selective application of the law and political motivations, as well as questions related to the necessity of pretrial detentions. Former mayors of Meghri and Sisian, Mkhitar Zakaryan and Artur Sargsyan, were elected to parliament but were not released from custody in a move that opposition figures asserted was not in keeping with their parliamentary immunity. They were released after the Constitutional Court ruled on December 7 that any citizen automatically gains immunity after being elected to the National Assembly and cannot be arrested or detained without the National Assembly’s consent. Kajaran mayor Manvel Paramazyan, who also was arrested in the wake of the June parliamentary elections, was released on bail, while the re-elected mayor of Goris, Arush Arushanyan, remained in custody as of year’s end.

Reports of political pressure on local officials continued through year’s end. For example in December, several Civil Contract members of the Yerevan City Council reportedly were pressured to vote in support of a no-confidence measure to oust Yerevan mayor Hayk Marutyan under threat of losing their government jobs or mandates. A former ally of Prime Minister Pashinyan, Marutyan was voted out on December 22.

There were reports of pressure on opposition candidates prior to and after the municipal elections from October to December in a number of localities, including Goris, Jermuk, Meghri, Tatev, Talin, Tegh, Vanadzor, and Vardenis. For example on December 15, former mayor of Vanadzor and opposition candidate for mayor Mamikon Aslanyan was arrested on charges of abuse of power and fraud stemming from a criminal case launched in September. The arrest came immediately after Vanadzor municipal elections, in which Aslanyan’s bloc received a plurality of votes and was in the process of discussions to form a city council government. Many commentators believed that, due to the timing, the arrest was politically motivated and constituted selective application of the law against the ruling party’s political opponent, even if the case had merits. They also questioned the necessity of pretrial detention in this case. For example, prominent human rights defender Artur Sakunts, head of HCAV, characterized the move as part of “a new KGB-like style, when a dossier [of disparaging information] is being developed on an individual and used [against him] only when necessary for political reasons.”

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women and members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Under the amendments to the electoral code approved during the year, women and men must each account for at least 30 percent of candidates in the National Assembly elections, an increase from the previous quota of 25 percent. ODIHR election observers reported that in the June 20 elections, all lists fully complied with the gender requirement, with women accounting for 37 percent of the 2,623 candidates for office. The patriarchal nature of society, however, inhibited large-scale participation by women in political and economic life and in decision-making positions in the public sector. Women held one of 15 cabinet positions, 10 percent of the seats in local legislatures, and approximately 37 percent of seats in the National Assembly – an increase from the approximately 23 percent of the seats they held in the previous National Assembly session. Whereas there was one female deputy speaker and one female faction head in the previous session, there were none in the National Assembly elected in June. There was one female governor in the country’s 10 regions.

Parties rarely featured women candidates in their campaigns (although one female head of a political party ran in the elections); women only occasionally campaigned on their own and rarely appeared as speakers in rallies. Female parliamentarians and other female officials often faced gender-related insults. In its report on the June elections, the ODIHR election mission stated, “Women were notably sidelined in campaign events, rarely participating as speakers.” The report noted that only 24 of 153 observed speakers during rallies were women and that 51 of 73 observed campaign events had no female speakers. There was an observable absence of messages targeting women and national minority groups during the campaigns.

The law provides an additional National Assembly seat for each of the country’s four largest ethnic minorities, the Yezidi, Kurdish, Assyrian, and Russian communities. Four members of parliament represented these constituencies and are chosen by the major political parties and not directly elected.

Australia

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

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

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The government held a free and fair federal parliamentary election in May 2019. Voters re-elected the Liberal-National Party Coalition government. The coalition won 77 seats in the 151-seat House of Representatives; the opposition Labor Party won 68 seats and others won six seats.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of historically marginalized or minority groups in the political process, and they did participate.

Austria

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 parliamentary elections in 2019 and presidential elections in 2016. There were no reports of serious abuse or irregularities in either election, and credible observers considered both to be free and fair.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Women’s participation in government at the national level increased because of the 2019 federal elections. There were 74 women in the 183-member lower house of compared with 63 during the 2017-19 legislative term. The coalition government had eight women in its 17-member body. The previous government had six female ministers.

Azerbaijan

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

Although the constitution provides citizens the ability to choose their government through free and fair elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage, the government continued to restrict this ability by obstructing the electoral process. While the law provides for an independent legislative branch, the National Assembly exercised little initiative independent of the executive branch.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In 2019 the president dissolved the National Assembly in response to an appeal to do so by the National Assembly; the president announced early elections for the body to be held in February 2020.

Some opposition parties boycotted the election, citing the restrictive environment, while other opposition parties and groups took part. According to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) election observation mission, the restrictive legislation and political environment prevented genuine competition in the February 2020 elections. ODIHR concluded that voters were not provided with a meaningful choice due to a lack of real political competition and discussion. Although many candidates utilized social media to reach out to voters, use of social media generally did not compensate for the absence of campaign coverage in traditional media. ODIHR observed several instances of pressure on voters, candidates, and candidates’ representatives. International and local observers reported significant procedural violations during the counting and tabulation of votes, including ballot-box stuffing and carousel voting. ODIHR concluded the flaws “raised concerns whether the results were established honestly.” Domestic nonpartisan election observers concluded the election results did not reflect the will of the people.

Similarly, in 2018 the president issued a decree advancing the presidential election from October 2018 to April 2018. Opposition parties boycotted the election, blaming a noncompetitive environment and citing insufficient time to prepare. According to the ODIHR mission that observed the election, the presidential election took place in a restrictive political environment and under a legal framework that curtailed fundamental rights and freedoms that are prerequisites for genuine democratic elections. The mission concluded that, in the absence of pluralism, including in media, the election lacked genuine competition. International and local observers reported widespread disregard for mandatory procedures, lack of transparency, and numerous serious irregularities, such as ballot-box stuffing and carousel voting, on election day.

Following a 2016 referendum, constitutional amendments extended the presidential term from five to seven years and permitted the president to call early elections if twice in one year legislators passed no-confidence measures in the government or rejected presidential nominees to key government posts. The amendments also authorized the president to appoint one or more vice presidents, designating the senior vice president as first in the line of presidential succession. In 2017 the president appointed his wife, Mehriban Aliyeva, as first vice president. While observers from the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly reported the 2016 referendum was well executed, independent election observers identified numerous instances of ballot-box stuffing, carousel voting – a method of vote rigging usually involving voters casting ballots multiple times – and other irregularities, many of which were captured on video. Observers reported significantly lower turnout than was officially reported by the Central Election Commission.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The ruling New Azerbaijan Party continued to dominate the political system. Domestic observers reported members of the ruling party received advantages, such as priority for public positions. During the year a Presidential Administration official continued direct communication with some of the country’s 58 registered political parties and groups. The official held meetings with political figures, including representatives of selected opposition parties, throughout the year. Despite the dialogue, however, restrictions on political participation continued.

Opposition members were generally more likely than other citizens to experience official harassment and arbitrary arrest and detention. Members of opposition political parties continued to be arrested and sentenced to administrative detention after making social media posts critical of the government or participating in peaceful rallies (see section 2.b., Freedom of Peaceful Assembly). According to domestic NGOs, eight opposition party members were considered to be political detainees or prisoners, including Azerbaijan Popular Front Party-members Agil Maharramov, Saleh Rustamli, Pasha Umudov, Alizamin Salayev, Niyamaddin Ahmedov, and Agil Humbatov.

In the continuation of a particularly high-profile, politically motivated case, on July 15, the Baku Court of Appeals sentenced Tofig Yagublu, a member of the Coordination Center of National Council of Democratic Forces and the Musavat Party, to a suspended sentence of two years and six months. Yagublu had been arrested for alleged “hooliganism” in connection with a car accident in March 2020. Human rights defenders considered the arrest a staged provocation against Yagublu. In September 2020 the Nizami District Court convicted Yagublu and sentenced him to four years and three months in prison. Later that month the Baku Court of Appeals released Yagublu to house arrest after he went on a 17-day hunger strike. Yagublu participated in a peaceful protest on December 1, 2021, and was detained; Yagublu distributed photographs following his release from detention that indicated he was severely beaten in custody (see section 2.b., Freedom of Peaceful Assembly). When officials released him, they reportedly deposited him in the desert outside of Baku.

Opposition parties continued to have difficulty renting office space, reportedly because property owners feared official retaliation. Regional opposition party members often had to conceal the purpose of their gatherings and met in teahouses and other remote locations. Opposition parties also faced formal and informal financing obstacles. For example, authorities limited financial resources of opposition parties by punishing those who provided material support, firing members of opposition parties, and employing economic pressure on their family members.

Restrictions on local civil society organizations limited their ability to monitor elections. Such restrictions included legal provisions severely constraining NGO activities and their ability to obtain registration that was required for legal status. For example, two nonpartisan election-monitoring organizations (the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center and the Institute for Democratic Initiatives) remained unregistered. The center reported that independent election observers were subjected to physical and psychological pressure during the February 2020 National Assembly elections.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No law limits the participation of women and members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva also held the appointed position of first vice president. The head of the State Committee for Family, Women, and Children Affairs (SCFWCA), a cabinet-level position, was a woman. A total of 17.6 percent of members of the National Assembly, including the speaker of the National Assembly, were women.

Female activists often faced additional pressure and harassment. There were confirmed incidents involving invasion of their privacy. For example, on March 9, activist Narmin Shahmarzade’s Facebook profile was hacked (see section 1.f.). Her private messages, including some of which were faked or altered, and photographs were shared on social media and the Telegram messenger app.

Family members of opposition politicians also were subject to harassment. On March 28 and April 3, intimate videos of Gunel Hasanli, daughter of opposition party leader Jamil Hasanli, were shared on a Telegram messenger app. Human rights defenders considered it an act of retaliation against Jamil Hasanli because of his political activities (see section 1.f. for details).

Bahamas

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.

The government’s sudden announcement of a snap election in September immediately closed the voter registry, effectively excluding any citizen who had not yet registered to vote.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: On September 16, Prime Minister Philip Davis took office after his Progressive Liberal Party defeated the incumbent Free National Movement in a snap general election in September. The Progressive Liberal Party won 32 of the 39 parliamentary seats, with 56 percent of the popular vote. The incumbent Free National Movement won the remaining seven seats. Election observers from the Organization of American States, Caribbean Community, and Commonwealth Secretariat found the election to be generally free and fair. Critics argued, however, that the abrupt announcement of the early election, which immediately suspended the voter registration process, disenfranchised those who had not yet registered, particularly youth and first-time voters. Furthermore, critics complained that holding the election during the COVID-19 pandemic led to historically low voter turnout (65 percent of registered voters, compared with more than 80 percent in other recent elections).

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. While a record seven women were elected to Parliament, fewer than 20 percent of the candidates presented by the two major parties were women. Leadership from both parties noted difficulties in recruiting female candidates. Other observers cited obstacles such as patriarchal traditions, expectations of personal attacks, and inflexible attitudes regarding gender roles.

Bahrain

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

Citizens have limited ability to choose their government and do not have the ability to choose their political system. The constitution provides for an elected Council of Representatives, the lower house of parliament. The constitution permits the king to dissolve the Council of Representatives after consulting the chairpersons of the upper and lower houses of parliament and head of the Constitutional Court. The king may not dissolve the Council of Representatives for the same reasons more than once. The king has the power to amend the constitution and to propose, ratify, and promulgate laws.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The government did not permit international election monitors for the 2018 parliamentary elections. Domestic monitors generally concluded that authorities administered the elections without significant irregularities. Some observers expressed broader concerns regarding limitations on freedom of expression and association, as well as continued concerns over voting district boundaries. According to Human Rights Watch, a number of measures created a political environment that was not conducive to free elections, including the dissolution of the country’s principal opposition political groups and laws restricting their former members from running for office; the absence of an independent press; and the criminalization of online criticism.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The government did not allow the formation of political parties, but some existing “political societies” developed political platforms, held internal elections, and hosted political gatherings. In 2016 and 2017 the government dissolved the two most prominent opposition political societies, al-Wifaq and Wa’ad, through legal actions.

To apply for registration, a political society must submit its bylaws signed by all founding members, a list of all members and copies of their residency cards, and a financial statement identifying the society’s sources of funding and bank information. The society’s principles, goals, and programs must not run counter to sharia or national interest, as interpreted by the judiciary, nor may the society base itself on sectarian, geographic, or class identity.

The government authorized registered political societies to nominate candidates for office and to participate in other political activities. The law bans practicing clerics from membership in political societies (including in leadership positions) and involvement in political activities, even on a voluntary basis.

Political societies are required to coordinate their contacts with foreign diplomatic or consular missions, foreign governmental organizations, or representatives of foreign governments with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which may send a representative to the meeting. Although this requirement was enforced in the past, there were no reports of the government enforcing the order during the year.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process. In the 2018 elections, six women won seats in the 40-member Council of Representatives, doubling the number of women, and the body elected its first female speaker in that year. The royal court appointed nine women that same year to the Shura Council, the appointed 40-member upper house, and the prime minister appointed a woman to the 26-seat cabinet. Approximately 9 percent of judges were women, including the deputy chief of the Court of Cassation. Two women in the police force held the rank of brigadier general and general director.

Shia and Sunni citizens have equal rights before the law, but Sunnis dominated political life, although the majority of citizens were Shia. In 2018 11 Shia candidates were elected to the Council of Representatives. The appointed Shura Council included 19 Shia members, one Jewish member, and one Christian member. Four of the 22 appointed cabinet ministers were Shia citizens, including one of four deputy prime ministers.

Bangladesh

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: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Awami League (AL) party won a third consecutive five-year term in a December 2018 parliamentary election that observers considered neither free nor fair and that was marred by irregularities including ballot-box stuffing and intimidation of opposition polling agents and voters. With more than 80 percent of the vote, the AL and its electoral allies won 288 of 300 directly elected seats, while the main opposition BNP and its allies won only seven seats. Parliament conferred the official status of opposition on the Jatiya Party, a component of the AL-led governing coalition, which seated 22 members in parliament. During the campaign leading to the election, there were credible reports of harassment, intimidation, arbitrary arrests, and violence that made it difficult for many opposition candidates and their supporters to meet, hold rallies, or campaign freely.

During the 2018 national elections, the government did not grant credentials or issue visas within the timeframe necessary to conduct a credible international monitoring mission to most international election monitors from the Asian Network for Free Elections. Only seven of the 22 Election Working Group NGOs were approved by the Ministry of Home Affairs, NGO Affairs Bureau, and the Election Commission to observe the domestic election.

Low voter turnout, intimidation, irregularities, and low-scale violence targeting opposition-nominated candidates during campaigns and voting marked several local government elections during the year. On February 28, the main opposition BNP announced it would boycott municipal elections countrywide on the grounds the Election Commission had “destroyed” the electoral system. The BNP also refrained from nominating candidates for parliamentary by-elections held during the year. The elections drew few voters, and in some constituencies the ruling AL candidates were “uncontested winners.”

In subdistrict (Upazila) elections from June through December, media reported intraparty violence between AL-affiliated candidates and their supporters left more than 50 individuals dead. Human rights organization ASK stated 157 persons died and 10,833 were injured in a total of 932 political clashes during the year. One candidate publicly boasted government officials and security services supported him, and he threatened ballots would not be secret. Media reported the Election Commission took virtually no action to address violations of the electoral code of conduct by ruling party leaders. AL officials downplayed the violence as the byproduct of “overly enthusiastic” candidates.

Barbados

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 most recent general election occurred in 2018, when the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) won all 30 seats in Parliament’s House of Assembly, and the governor general appointed BLP leader Mia Mottley as prime minister, with the support of the BLP members of the House of Assembly.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: The president, prime minister, and six cabinet ministers were women. The leader of the opposition political party was a woman.

Belarus

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, but the government consistently denied citizens this ability by failing to conduct elections according to international standards and detaining, imprisoning, exiling, or threatening those individuals who sought free and fair elections.

After his election in 1994 to a four-year term as the country’s first president, Alyaksandr Lukashenka steadily consolidated power in the executive branch to dominate all branches of government, effectively ending any separation of powers among the branches. Flawed referendums in 1996 and 2004 amended the constitution to broaden his powers, extend his term in office, and remove presidential term limits. Subsequent elections, including the National Assembly elections held in 2019 and the August 2020 presidential election, denied citizens the right to exercise their will in an honest and transparent process, including fair access to media and to resources.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: According to independent local observation groups, the August 2020 presidential election was marred by numerous abuses, the use of administrative resources in favor of the incumbent, the absence of impartial election commissions, unequal access to media, coercion of voters to participate in early voting, nontransparent vote tabulation, and restrictions on independent observers. Irregularities identified by NGOs and independent observers raised significant doubts regarding authorities’ claims that Lukashenka received 80 percent of votes during the presidential election.

Government pressure against potential opposition presidential candidates began three months prior to the 2020 presidential election and continued through 2021 against those candidates who had run for president, as well as those who had expressed interest but were barred. This pressure included exile and prison sentences for prominent former candidates. Prior to the presidential election, authorities restricted the ability of challengers to register as candidates, restricted candidates from campaigning, pressured and detained presidential campaign teams, pressured citizens who showed support for opposition candidates, and detained members of the press to limit opposition coverage.

The OSCE rapporteur’s Report under the Moscow Mechanism on Alleged Human Rights Violations related to the 2020 presidential election, released in November 2020, detailed a wide range of allegations of electoral irregularities concerning: “1) non-timely invitation of international observers, 2) shortcomings in the appointments of election management bodies on all levels, 3) restrictions of the right to stand (for office), 4) limitations in election dispute resolution, 5) overall disregard for freedom of assembly, 6) unequal playing field for candidates, including non-transparency in campaign financing, 7) non-transparent early voting process, 8) overcrowding of polling stations, 9) missing checks and balances, lack of possibility for verifying the electoral results, and 10) inaccessibility of all steps of the electoral process for observation inhibiting the effective assessment of the elections.” The report stated that “in view of the evident shortcomings of the presidential elections which did not meet the basic requirements established on the basis of previous election monitoring and the observations by citizen, the presidential election have to be evaluated as falling short of fulfilling the country’s international commitments regarding elections. Allegations that the presidential elections were not transparent, free or fair were found confirmed.”

International observers assessed that the 2019 National Assembly elections also failed to meet international standards. According to the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, and Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe election observation mission intermediate report, while the National Assembly elections proceeded calmly with a high number of candidates and observers, they did not meet important international standards for democratic elections, and there was an overall disregard for fundamental freedoms of assembly, association, and expression.

The observation mission report on the National Assembly elections found that a high number of candidates stood for election, but an overly restrictive registration process inhibited the participation of opposition candidates. A limited amount of campaigning took place within a restrictive environment that, overall, did not provide for a meaningful or competitive political contest. Media coverage of the campaign did not enable voters to receive sufficient information about contestants. The election administration was dominated by the executive authority, limiting its impartiality and independence, and the integrity of the election process was not adequately safeguarded. Significant procedural shortcomings during the counting of votes raised concerns regarding whether results were counted and reported honestly, and an overall lack of transparency reduced the opportunity for meaningful observation.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Authorities routinely impeded the activities of opposition political parties and activists. Some opposition parties lacked legal status because authorities refused to register them, and the government routinely interfered with the right to organize, run for election, seek votes, and publicize views. As of November 17, the government allowed approximately six largely inactive but officially registered pro-Lukashenka political parties to operate. During the year the government used its monopoly on broadcast media to disparage the opposition and promote Lukashenka and pro-Lukashenka parties and to restrict the ability of opposition candidates to publicize their views. There were reports of government resources being used to benefit the incumbent ahead of the 2020 election, such as government officials campaigning for Lukashenka during working hours.

During the year authorities fined and arrested opposition political parties’ leaders and political activists for violating the law on mass events and participating in unauthorized demonstrations (see sections 2.a. and 2.b.). The law allows authorities to suspend parties for six months after one warning and close them after two. The law also prohibits political parties from receiving support from abroad and requires all political groups and coalitions to register with the Ministry of Justice. Members of parties that continued to operate when authorities refused to register them, such as the Belarusian Christian Democracy Party, continued to be subjected to harassment and arbitrary checks.

In August three political parties – the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada), Belarusian Green Party, and Belarusian Left Party “Fair World” – were blocked from holding a conference on August 25 to mark the 30th anniversary of the Declaration of State Sovereignty, which commemorates the country’s independence from the Soviet Union. Multiple government agencies and hotels refused to rent space to hold the event.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups – including the ethnic Polish minority, persons with disabilities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) individuals – in the political process, but the government’s patriarchal attitude disfavored women’s efforts to achieve positions of authority. As of September, of the country’s 30-member Council of Ministers, one minister was a woman. Women increasingly joined the opposition as leaders, served as vocal members of the opposition, led regular “women’s marches,” and participated in protests more broadly compared with previous elections, although historically marginalized women, including rural and older women, remained the most politically disengaged groups (see section 6, Women).

Belgium

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. Voting in all elections is compulsory; failure to vote is punishable by a nominal fine.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Parliamentary elections held in 2019 were considered free and fair.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. In 2019 Sophie Wilmes became the country’s first female prime minister and oversaw the operation of the caretaker government. In October the country established a new federal government in which there were 10 female cabinet members, more than in any previous government.

Belize

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 November 2020 an estimated 82 percent of registered voters participated in parliamentary elections. The People’s United Party won 26 of 31 seats in the National Assembly. Party leader John Briceno was sworn in as prime minister in November 2020. Diplomatic observers reported isolated cases of vote buying and violations of campaign rules, but the election in general was free and fair.

Political Parties and Political Participation: In August the Supreme Court ruled that the suspension of legislator Julius Espat by the then speaker of the House of Representatives Michael Peyrefitte was unconstitutional. In 2016 Peyrefitte ordered Espat to vacate the legislative chamber during a session for what he described as “disregarding the rules of conduct in parliament.” Espat refused to leave willingly and was forcibly removed by police officers. As a result of his suspension, Espat did not receive a salary or benefits until his return to the House of Representatives five months later. The court awarded Espat 95,000 Belize dollars ($47,500), to be paid by the government. Espat and Peyrefitte had disagreed in the past, especially when Espat intended to question the actions of the then government for perceived acts of corruption.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Observers suggested cultural and societal constraints limited the number of women participating in government. Women remained a clear minority in government, making up only 13 percent of the 31-member House of Representatives. In the November 2020 parliamentary elections, 12 women candidates participated, an increase from past elections. A by-election was held on March 3 for the Corozal Bay electoral division that resulted in the election of a fourth woman to the House of Representatives. Of the 160 candidates in the March municipal election, 45 were women, of whom 51 percent were elected to office.

Benin

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. Constitutional amendments passed in 2019 requiring sponsorship from elected officials to participate as a presidential candidate, however, created a political process that is neither inclusive nor competitive. Freedom of expression and freedom of assembly were both limited throughout the presidential election political process.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: On April 11, the government held a presidential election that excluded candidates from established opposition parties. Voter turnout declined from 65 percent in 2016 to 27 percent according to the independent Electoral Platform of Civil Society Organizations and by 50 percent according to the government’s Independent National Electoral Commission. The Independent National Electoral Commission reported that voting did not take place in 16 of 546 districts due to violent demonstrations that prevented delivery of voting materials.

According to human rights activists, police in Tchaourou physically prevented voters from voting. During the campaign and immediately following the presidential election, police arrested more than 200 activists, opponents, and journalists, according to human rights organizations. ECOWAS observers, however, released a statement declaring that the “voting process took place in an orderly, transparent, and professional manner.” African Union observers released a statement calling the election “peaceful,” and International Francophone Organization observers released a statement stating that the “election complied with the legal measures, but without participation of all political parties.”

Legislative elections in 2019 excluded opposition parties; voter turnout was only 27 percent. Although there were incidents of voter interference by opposition demonstrators, election-day voting proceeded calmly in most of the country. Protesters in opposition strongholds in the central part of the country blocked some roads for much of the day, and media reported demonstrators in Parakou burned ballot materials at polling stations and prevented some citizens from voting. The government implemented an internet blackout on election day of social media sites, including WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and iMessage.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Only three candidates qualified for the presidential election. Prior to the election, the Independent National Election Commission disqualified 17 of the 20 presidential candidates who had submitted applications, citing failure to meet various application requirements, including obtaining at least 16 sponsorships from National Assembly deputies and mayors, designating a vice presidential running mate, and paying a 50 million CFA francs ($92,000) registration fee.

In 2018 the National Assembly legislated more stringent requirements for parties to qualify to run in elections. In 2019, two months before the legislative elections, the Constitutional Court declared all parties must possess a “certificate of conformity” with requirements to participate in elections. The election commission announced that no opposition party met the requirements, leaving only two progovernment parties on elections ballots.

In late 2019 the National Assembly, in which two pro-Talon parties had all 83 seats, passed a constitutional amendment requiring that presidential candidates obtain sponsorship from elected officials. To implement this amendment, the National Assembly adopted changes to the electoral code requiring that presidential candidates obtain endorsements from at least 10 percent of the country’s National Assembly members (83) and mayors (77), thereby giving them a direct role in determining presidential candidates.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women and members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. During the year voters selected Mariam Talata as vice president, the first woman to hold that position. Cultural factors, however, limited women’s political participation. By custom and tradition, women assumed household duties, had less access to formal education, and were discouraged from involvement in politics. According to the Electoral Platform of Civil Society Organizations, 11 percent of women voted in the presidential election. There were reports that persons with motor disabilities were unable to access polling stations due to a lack of ramps and other means of access. There were also reports that no measures were taken at polling stations for blind persons to complete their ballots.

Bhutan

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: In 2018 the government successfully held national elections. Voter participation was estimated at approximately 66 percent in the first round and 71 percent in the second round. International observers generally considered the elections free and fair. There were no reports of significant irregularities during the election process. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, in June the Election Commission conducted by-elections for National Assembly seats for the Mongar and Nganglam constituencies and in November 2020 for the Chhoekhor Tang constituency.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No law limits participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. The law prohibits ordained members of the clergy, including Buddhist monks and nuns, from voting or participating in politics.

Women were underrepresented in public office. Women occupied eight seats (17 percent) in the 47-member National Assembly. Seven of the 10 female candidates who contested 2018 National Assembly elections were elected, an increase from three in the previous election. One of the three recent by-elections had a female candidate elected to the National Assembly. There were three women in the 25-member upper house or National Council.

Bolivia

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: National elections took place in October 2020. MAS candidate Luis Arce won the election for president with 55 percent of the vote. His closest opponent, Citizen Community candidate Carlos Mesa, won 28.8 percent of the vote. The elections were peaceful, and Mesa conceded soon after the release of the preliminary vote tabulations. International electoral observation missions and domestic electoral observation organizations characterized the elections as free, fair, and transparent. In November 2020 Luis Arce and David Choquehuanca were sworn in as president and vice president, respectively, along with the 36 newly elected members of the Senate and 130 members of the Chamber of Deputies.

Subnational elections took place on March 8. The elections were marked by an atmosphere of peace and calm. International and national electoral observation missions monitored the elections and reported the elections met international standards. Electoral authorities reported the overall participation in voting was 85 percent. No-shows by many citizen poll workers led to delays in opening some voting booths and long lines for voters, especially in La Paz and El Alto. By law each voting booth must be supervised by citizen poll workers chosen randomly by computer from the official voter roll. Many experts attributed the high no-show rate of these poll workers to either COVID-19 pandemic fears or concerns regarding the complicated nature of the poll work for subnational elections. President Arce publicly criticized electoral authorities. By noon on election day, electoral authorities confirmed all voting booths had opened, and absent poll workers were fined 630 bolivianos ($92), as required by law.

There were reports the government exerted pressure on the independent electoral authority, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE). On July 1, MAS deputy Ramiro Venegas brought charges against TSE president Oscar Hassenteufel and TSE vice president Nancy Gutierrez for “not cooperating” with the legislature. On July 15, MAS deputy Jhonny Pardo filed a separate criminal complaint against existing and former TSE members, including Salvador Romero, Rosario Baptista, Maria Angelica Ruiz, and Nancy Gutierrez, for their decision to reinstate opposition leader Manfred Reyes Villa as candidate for Cochabamba mayor in the March subnational elections. Civil society activists denounced these charges as politically motivated and lacking substance. They cited them as evidence that the ruling MAS party was trying to control the independent electoral authority.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups:  No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. The law mandates gender parity in the candidate selection process at national, regional, and municipal legislative levels.

While women had a substantial amount of representation on the legislative level, occupying 52 percent of legislative seats, they remained significantly underrepresented in executive positions. Candidates for mayor, governor, vice president, and president were not chosen from party lists. Most executive political positions were held by men.

Women participating in politics faced violence and harassment. According to a survey conducted by the Association of Female Mayors and Councilwomen of Bolivia, 59 percent of councilwomen polled had suffered some type of violence or political harassment in their municipality, and 39 percent did not complete their term due to the severity of the threats and hostility they received.

On February 19, Juana Rojas Choque, a National Action Party of Bolivia (PAN-BOL) candidate for the municipal election in Puerto Villarroel, went into hiding because MAS supporters threatened to kill her and her family if she did not resign her candidacy. Before local elections in Copacabana on March 7, Nelly Tito Diaz was verbally and physically attacked for running as a PAN-BOL candidate after having been a member of the MAS-aligned Confederation of Female Indigenous Farmers (Bartolina Sisa). The ombudsman declared that any act of harassment and political violence must be punished, and investigations were opened in both cases.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution and the 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. Observers noted several shortcomings, however.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The country held general elections in 2018 and local elections in 2020. The results of the 2018 general elections were not fully implemented, as the Federation entity government and Herzegovina-Neretva Cantonal government were not yet formed. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights reported that the 2018 elections were held in a competitive environment but were characterized by continuing segmentation along ethnic lines. While candidates could campaign freely, the office noted that “instances of pressure and undue influence on voters were not effectively addressed,” citing long-standing deficiencies in the legal framework. The office further noted that elections were administered efficiently, but widespread credible allegations of electoral contestants’ manipulating the composition of polling station commissions reduced voter confidence in the integrity of the process. More than 60 complaints of alleged election irregularities were filed with the BiH Central Election Commission.

BiH municipal elections and separate elections in the city of Mostar were held in 2020. Amendments to the election law in 2020 paved the way for the city of Mostar to hold its first local elections in 12 years, bringing BiH into compliance with the ECHR decision in Baralija v. BiH. In 2019 the ECHR ruled in favor of Irma Baralija, a local politician from Mostar, who sued the state for preventing her from voting or running for office in elections in the city of Mostar, where local elections had not been held since 2008. The court found that a legal void had been created by authorities’ failure to implement a 2010 Constitutional Court ruling on the arrangements for local elections in Mostar. In December 2020, Mostar city elections were held accordingly. Civil society and international community observers characterized the process as generally free and fair. The Mostar City Council met for the first time in a new convocation on February 5, and a new mayor was elected on February 15.

Botswana

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 Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) won a majority in the 2019 parliamentary elections, returning President Mokgweetsi Masisi to office for a full five-year term and continuing the party’s control of the government dating from independence in 1966. Outside observers generally considered the vote credible; however, opposition parties challenged some of the election results in court, citing primarily irregularities with voter registrations. The Court of Appeals dismissed all claims and ordered the opposition parties and petitioners to pay court costs. Some losing opposition candidates had to sell personal property to cover court fees.

Using COVID-19 state of emergency powers, the government postponed indefinitely 11 special elections, scheduled from 2019 onwards, for district council seats to replace lawmakers who died. These elections took place in December.

Political Parties and Political Participation: In July 2020 the National Assembly suspended the leader of the opposition (an officially designated position), Dumelang Saleshando, for one week for accusing members of President Masisi’s family of improperly manipulating the government tendering process. The speaker of the National Assembly, who was appointed by the president, called for the suspension vote. In August the High Court ruled that the speaker’s actions were irrational and unprocedural because he violated Saleshando’s constitutional rights to freedom of expression and speech as a duly elected representative of the people. The only BDP member of parliament to vote against Saleshando’s suspension during the year left the party to join the opposition.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women and members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Nevertheless, observers suggested the lack of support from political parties, fundraising challenges, and cultural constraints, including the sexual exploitation of women in politics, limited the number of women in government. There were seven women in the 65-seat National Assembly, three of whom were elected and four appointed by President Masisi. The president named five female members of parliament to serve in the 30-member cabinet. There were also two women in the 34-seat House of Chiefs.

While the constitution formally recognizes eight principal tribes of the Tswana nation, amendments to the constitution also allow minority tribes to be represented in the House of Chiefs. The law provides that members from all groups enjoy equal rights. Outside observers noted many tribes were unrecognized or unrepresented, and women were underrepresented in the traditional chieftaincy system.

The election authority makes accommodation for persons with disabilities during voting, including providing ballots in braille upon request and installing temporary ramps at polling places. During the 2019 national election, polling places were established in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, an area inhabited primarily by indigenous groups. There are no restrictions on LGBTQI+ persons seeking to take part in the political process.

Brazil

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 national elections held in 2018, citizens chose former federal deputy Jair Bolsonaro as president and elected 54 senators and 513 federal deputies to the national legislature and 27 governors and state legislators to state governments. National observers and media considered the elections free and fair. Municipal elections in November 2020 saw record numbers of indigenous and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) candidates run and win positions across the country while women made modest gains.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate.

In August 2020 the Superior Electoral Court decided that publicly provided funds for campaign financing and advertising time on radio and television must be divided proportionally between Black and white candidates in elections. The decision, scheduled to take effect in 2022, was made in response to calls from Afro-Brazilian activists.

The law requires parties and coalitions to have a minimum quota of 30 percent women on the list of candidates for congressional representatives (state and national), mayors, and city council members. By law 20 percent of the political television and radio advertising must be used to encourage female participation in politics. Parties that do not comply with this requirement may be found ineligible to contest elections. In the 2018 elections, some parties fielded the minimum number of female candidates but reportedly did not provide sufficient support for them to campaign effectively. In 2018 the Superior Electoral Court ruled parties must provide a minimum of 30 percent of campaign funds to support the election of female candidates. Women remained underrepresented in elected positions, representing only 15 percent of federal deputies and 13 percent of federal senators.

Using data from Electoral Justice, CNN reported that more than 43,400 politicians, approximately 25 percent, changed their “color/race” declaration on candidacy forms in 2020. More than 17,300 candidates changed their declaration from white to Black or brown, while approximately 14,500 changed from Black or brown to white. Political parties were pressured to include more persons of color, including the establishment of a new electoral rule to provide additional funding and awareness to campaigns of Black and brown candidates. The candidates interviewed cited different reasons for their decisions, such as to correct a previous error or to acknowledge a racial identity they now believed they were empowered to recognize.

Observers reported that militias and drug trafficking organizations interfered in electoral processes by using violence and intimidation to “corral” votes, influence candidate lists, and limit rival candidates’ ability to access and campaign in some highly populated neighborhoods. This interference was particularly significant in municipal and state elections.

Brunei

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

Citizens do not have the ability to choose their government. The sultan rules through hereditary birthright. While the country is a constitutional sultanate, in 1962 the then ruler invoked an article of the constitution that allows him to assume emergency powers. The sultan has renewed the emergency powers every two years.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Political authority and control rest entirely with the sultan. The Legislative Council, composed primarily of appointed members with little independent power, provided a forum for limited public discussion of proposed government programs, budgets, and administrative deficiencies. It convenes once per year in March for approximately two weeks. Council members serve five-year terms at the pleasure of the sultan.

Persons age 18 and older may vote by secret ballot in village consultative council elections. Candidates must be Muslim, approved by the Ministry of Home Affairs, and have been a citizen or permanent resident for more than 15 years. The councils communicated constituent wishes to higher authorities through a variety of channels, including periodic meetings chaired by the minister of home affairs. The government also met with groups of elected village chiefs to allow them to express local grievances and concerns.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The National Development Party was the only registered political party. The party pledged to support the sultan and the government and made no criticisms of the government.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: The constitution requires that all ministers be of Malay ethnicity and Muslim except as permitted by the sultan. The cabinet included an ethnic Chinese minister. Members of non-Malay indigenous communities lacked representation at all levels of government. Women accounted for more than half of civil service employees, and many held senior positions, including at the deputy minister level; no woman has ever been appointed as a minister. Women are subject to an earlier mandatory retirement age than men (55 versus 60 years), which may inhibit their career progression. The law requires that elected village heads be Malay Muslim men; questioning of this requirement by a female Legislative Council member in March resulted in unusually contentious online discussions, ending with a pledge by the minister of home affairs to “consider” a change in policy.

Bulgaria

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 country held early National Assembly elections on November 14 and a two-round presidential election on November 14 and 21. A Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) observer delegation described the elections as competitive and respecting fundamental freedoms. Transparency International Bulgaria said the elections occurred without major election law violations but noted “unacceptable foreign interference” due to reports of Turkish political parties campaigning on behalf of Bulgarian candidates on election day and facilitating voting by Bulgarian citizens residing in Turkey. The caretaker government took measures to prevent vote-buying, although some political parties asserted they were selectively targeted by the Ministry of Interior’s actions which they claimed interfered with their ability to campaign.

There were no reports of major irregularities during the regularly scheduled National Assembly elections on April 4 or the early National Assembly elections on July 11. Most political commentators, including the election observation missions of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), considered both elections in line with fundamental freedoms, while noting that during the April elections “massive use of state resources gave the ruling party a significant advantage.” In April and July, the Association of European Journalists issued declarations calling on politicians to abandon the use of “hate speech, sexist, and disrespectful rhetoric.”

ODIHR criticized the existence of legislative “gaps, repetitive and ambiguous provisions, and inconsistencies,” including prisoner disenfranchisement and insufficient measures promoting the participation of women and members of minority groups. NGOs reported that address registration laws limited the ability of Roma occupying illegal housing to obtain identity cards, which in turn restricted their ability to register for and vote in elections.

NGOs accused authorities of negligence and failure to exercise flexibility and provide alternatives for approximately 14,000 persons quarantined in the last few days before the April elections, who faced a penalty if they went to the polling station. In March the ombudsman expressed concern that 2,000 technical personnel responsible for voting machines would be unable to vote because election authorities refused to allow them to vote anywhere other than in their originally assigned polling stations, as required by law.

In May and June, the caretaker government replaced many local police chiefs and all regional governors, claiming it was a measure to prevent vote-buying and voter intimidation. The Ministry of Interior conducted a campaign against vote-buying across the country ahead of the July and November early National Assembly elections, resulting in more than 1,000 case files, nearly 100 pretrial proceedings, and the freezing of 800,000 levs ($462,000) in cash and assets suspected as earmarked for vote-buying. Some political parties complained this campaign only targeted select parties and was used to intimidate their voters. Roma activists alleged the campaign was predominantly focused on Roma neighborhoods and aimed to intimidate and disenfranchise Romani voters. On November 9, the NGO Amalipe publicly protested police operations against vote-buying in Romani neighborhoods in Ruse, Burgas, Varna, Plovdiv, Montana, and other regions using an “unnecessary demonstration of force by breaking into suspects’ homes after breaking down doors and in front of children and very old people.” Amalipe and other NGOs and activists defended Lalo Kamenov, a Romani candidate for the National Assembly, whose parents’ apartment became a target of police action, alleging it was done to intimidate him. The NGO insisted the police operations “further solidify the false stereotype that vote-buying only takes place in Roma neighborhoods” and will have an adverse effect on Roma voting activity.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The law requires a political party to have at least 2,500 members to register officially. The constitution prohibits the establishment of political parties along religious, ethnic, or racial lines, but the prohibition did not appear to weaken the role of some ethnic minorities in the political process, as several parties represented various ethnic minority groups. NGOs may not engage in political activity.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Women held mayoral offices in 38 out of 265 municipalities and 23 percent of elected seats in the 47th National Assembly. There were no Romani members in the National Assembly, and Roma were underrepresented in appointed leadership positions compared to the size of their population. Ethnic Turks, Roma, and Pomaks (descendants of Slavic Bulgarians who converted to Islam under Ottoman rule) held elected positions at the local level.

Burkina Faso

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: President Roch Marc Christian Kabore was re-elected to a second five-year term with 57.74 percent of the popular vote in the November 2020 national elections. His party, the People’s Movement for Progress, won 56 of the 127 seats in the National Assembly, remaining the largest party in a legislative majority coalition with smaller parties. The Congress for Democracy and Progress, the party of longtime former president Blaise Compaore, ousted in a popular uprising in 2014, became the largest opposition party with 20 seats. Some leading opposition candidates alleged irregularities and fraud but acknowledged the results and urged a “spirit of political dialogue.” National and international observers characterized the elections as peaceful and “satisfactory,” while noting logistical problems on election day and a lack of access to the polls for many citizens due to insecurity, including the majority of IDPs of voting age. The government had earlier declared that voting would take place only in areas where security could be guaranteed.

The National Assembly adopted a bill in August 2020 to modify the electoral law. This new electoral law stipulates that in the event of force majeure or exceptional circumstances duly noted by the Constitutional Council, resulting in the impossibility of organizing the elections in a part of the territory, the elections shall be validated on the basis of results from those polling stations open on election day. This modification, which was approved with the support of the ruling coalition as well as key segments of the parliamentary opposition, was nonetheless criticized by part of the political class and civil society organizations, since it allows for the exclusion of many voters living in insecure areas of the country.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Political parties generally operated freely. In September 2020 the Minister of Territorial Administration, Decentralization, and Social Cohesion, in application of the electoral code, made public the list of political parties authorized to participate in the November 2020 presidential and legislative elections. According to the communique, 143 political parties and three political formations were legally constituted.

The 2015 electoral code approved by the National Transitional Council stipulated the exclusion of certain members of the former political majority. The code stated that persons who “supported an anti-constitutional change that led to a popular uprising” were ineligible to be candidates in future elections. The electoral law allows all political candidates to run for election and opened the vote to members of the Burkinabe diaspora in possession of a national identity card or passport.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women and members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Parties and government officials stated women were less engaged in politics due to cultural and traditional factors. Although the gender quota law requires political parties to name women to fill at least 30 percent of the positions on their candidate lists in legislative and municipal elections, no political party met this requirement in the November 2020 elections. In March 2020 a new law establishing “zebra lists” mandated that electoral lists alternate names of men and women to better achieve a 30 percent quota. The law includes positive incentives for political parties respecting the quota but no penalties for those who do not abide by the law. Monique Yeli Kam, of the Burkina Rebirth Movement, was the only female candidate among 14 certified as eligible for the November 2020 presidential election. Following the 2020 legislative elections and the formation of a new government, women held 19 of 127 seats in the National Assembly after the elections (compared with 14 women in the previous National Assembly). Of 18,602 city councilors, 2,359 were women.

Burma

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

Prior to the coup, the constitution provided citizens a limited ability to choose their government through elections held by secret ballot. The military deposed the democratically elected parliament and dissolved the Union Election Commission (UEC), appointing a former military major general to replace the ousted UEC chairman. On July 26, the military regime UEC announced that it had annulled the results of the November 2020 general elections, which domestic and international observers assessed as largely reflective of the will of the electorate, despite some identified irregularities and local election cancellations in some ethnic areas.

On October 16, the regime UEC announced that upcoming regional elections were cancelled across most of Rakhine State and in various other ethnic areas in Kachin State, Shan State and elsewhere.

The regime used laws against terrorism to arrest and punish groups and individuals who were active in the country’s precoup political life. The regime designated the NUG, the Committee Representing the Union Parliament, and PDF groups as unlawful terrorist organizations. According to the law, anyone associated with these groups could face 10 years to life in prison, although no one had come to trial as of year’s end.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Observers considered the 2020 national elections to be generally reflective of the will of the population, notwithstanding some structural shortcomings. The NLD, chaired by Aung San Suu Kyi, won more than 80 percent of the 1,150 contested seats at the state, regional, and union levels in those elections. The NLD won 396 of 476 races for national assembly seats; a military-affiliated party won 33, and various ethnic parties took 47 seats. The 2008 constitution bars Aung San Suu Kyi from the presidency due to her marriage to a British national.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Political parties faced narrowing political space amid regime investigations and threats to ban them from competing in elections. Political parties not aligned with the military were denied the rights to assemble and protest peacefully. The military regime, moreover, conducted politically motivated investigations into prodemocracy political parties and their leaders, particularly the NLD. In May the UEC began investigations into the 93 registered political parties, including financial audits. In an August 27 letter, the UEC threatened that if political parties did not submit financial statements, their party registration could be suspended.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women in the political process, and they did participate in elections. Laws limiting the citizenship status of many ethnic minority groups (see “Stateless Persons” above) also limited their rights to participate in political life. Women and members of historically marginalized and minority groups were underrepresented in government prior to the coup. Some policies (as opposed to laws and regulations) limited women’s participation in practice.

In the 2020 general elections, 194 women were elected to parliament.

Burundi

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, but the government did not respect that right.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In May 2020 the country held legislative, communal, and presidential elections without international observers. The CNDD-FDD candidate, Evariste Ndayishimiye, won the election with 68 percent of the vote. The government also held Senate elections in July 2020. The CNDD-FDD won absolute majorities in the National Assembly and Senate.

The elections were deeply flawed with irregularities that undermined the credibility of the process, including blocking independent international observers. The government opened the political space slightly, allowing participation of opposition parties and permitting them to carry out campaign activities across the country. According to the 2020 COI report, opposition parties cited irregularities during the vote tabulation process, including the expulsion of accredited party-affiliated monitors from voting stations. The international community and independent domestic organizations widely condemned the process as flawed, although domestic and international actors generally accepted the election outcomes. Several progovernment CSOs observed and validated the elections. The CNL rejected the results of the election and filed an appeal, which the Constitutional Court dismissed.

The COI noted the presidential election was largely free of mass violence. There were reports of incidents of violence during the election period, namely clashes between members of the ruling party and opposition party, which resulted in injuries and deaths in some cases. The COI stated that opposition political parties and their members, mainly the CNL, suffered serious human rights abuses in the run-up to elections. There were reports of targeted killings, kidnappings, gender-based violence, torture, and arbitrary arrests. Media remained under strict control, and journalists were unable to carry out their duties freely. The CNIDH declared that incidents of human rights abuses were too insignificant to affect the credibility of results, as announced.

The National Independent Elections Commission imposed restrictive conditions, such as limiting movement of locally-based foreign observers and rejecting AU and UN observers.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The constitution outlines a multiparty system and provides rights for parties and their candidates including assurance for authorities’ noninterference in political parties’ affairs. According to the law, to qualify for public campaign funding and compete in the parliamentary and presidential elections, parties needed to be “nationally based,” (i.e., ethnically and regionally diverse) and prove in writing they were organized and had membership in all provinces. The Ministry of the Interior recognized 36 political parties. In 2019 the Ministry of the Interior registered the previously unapproved National Forces of Liberation-Rwasa under the new name, the CNL. The Union for National Progress, led by Evariste Ngayimpenda, remained unrecognized, except for a small faction that broke off and pledged its allegiance to the ruling party. All registered political parties regularly met through the National Forum of Political Parties, the minister of interior’s institution for political dialogue. In addition, President Ndayishimiye met regularly with leaders of political parties to discuss topics of importance to the country and sought their input. Government officials praised the discussion’s framework for promoting political unity, while critics argued it served mainly for publicity and did not touch on sensitive political topics.

Political parties allied with the CNDD-FDD were largely able to operate freely. The COI reported political violence subsided and that hate speech against opponents was replaced by official calls for political tolerance. Media and human rights organizations, however, reported abuses including arbitrary arrests, torture and enforced disappearance against political opponents, mainly CNL members, by the Imbonerakure and unidentified armed men in retaliation for political engagement and alleged involvement in armed groups responsible for security incidents in the country. The COI reported that some CNL members were victims of enforced disappearance in the months following the 2020 elections and were seen for the last time being taken away by state agents or members of the Imbonerakure. In some rural communities, CNL offices were ransacked or destroyed.

The constitution includes restrictions on independent candidates, including a measure that prevents individuals from running as independents if they had claimed membership in a political party within the previous year or if they had occupied a leadership position in a political party within the previous two years. The constitution also provides that independent candidates for the National Assembly must receive at least 40 percent of the vote in their district to be elected, a standard that did not apply to candidates representing political parties. The constitution’s ban on coalitions for independents further constrained the options for unrecognized parties.

Individuals often needed membership in, or perceived loyalty to, the ruling CNDD-FDD party to obtain or retain employment in the civil service and the benefits that accrued from such positions, including transportation allowances, free housing, electricity, and water, exemption from personal income taxes, and interest-free loans. The COI reported that individuals were forced to make payments – often with no legal basis – to support the CNDD-FDD on penalty of being denied access to public services and spaces or the issuance of administrative documents. In December online media reported that candidates for leadership positions of the Burundi Football Federation who were not members of the ruling CNDD-FDD party received death threats and were told to withdraw their candidacies.

There were reports opposition-aligned election observers were not allowed full access to monitor elections.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women and members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate.

The constitution reserves 30 percent of positions in the National Assembly, Senate, and Council of Ministers for women and the government respected this requirement. This was implemented under the electoral code by adding seats to meet the gender requirement and by closed-list voting, whereby voters choose a political party, and the party provides the order in which candidates are selected, taking gender into account. In the sitting government, approximately 38 percent of seats in the National Assembly and 41 percent of seats in the Senate were filled by women, and five of 15 ministers were women. Women were not well represented in political parties and held very few leadership positions. Some observers believed that tradition and cultural factors kept women from participating in politics on an equal basis with men.

The constitution provides for representation in all elected and appointed government positions for the two largest ethnic groups. The Hutu majority is entitled to no more than 60 percent of government positions and the Tutsi minority to no less than 40 percent; however, a Ligue Iteka report published in February indicated the ethnic quota was not respected in many public institutions. The law designates three seats in each chamber of parliament for the Twa ethnic group, which makes up approximately 1 percent of the population.

Cabo Verde

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: In the April 18 legislative elections, individuals and parties were free to declare their candidacies and candidates for a total of 72 seats. The ruling party, Movement for Democracy, won 38 seats in the National Assembly with 49 percent of the vote. The main opposition party, the African Party for the Independence of Cabo Verde (PAICV), won 30 seats with 38 percent, and the Union for a Democratic and Independent Cabo Verde won the remaining four seats with 8 percent of the vote.

The most recent presidential election took place in October. Jose Maria Neves won the election with the support of the PAICV and nearly 52 percent of the vote.

Election observers from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) characterized the legislative elections as free, transparent, and credible while observers from ECOWAS and the African Union assessed the presidential election as transparent, peaceful, and free of significant irregularities.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No law limits the participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. The National Elections Commission did not allow some persons with mental disabilities to vote (see section 6, Persons with Disabilities). Women remained underrepresented in positions within the central government and the Supreme Court of Justice, especially in prosecutorial positions. Women held 26 of the 72 National Assembly seats (36 percent), an increase from 17 in the previous National Assembly, and occupied five of the 18 cabinet-level positions in government ministries. Women filled two of the seven seats on the Supreme Court.

Cambodia

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

Although 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, in practice there was no such ability. By law the government may dissolve parties and ban individuals from party leadership positions and political life more broadly. The law also bars parties from using any audio, visual, or written material from a convicted criminal.

As of September, 29 of the 118 CNRP officials barred from political activity after the Supreme Court disbanded the party in 2017 had applied for political rehabilitation. Authorities restored the political rights of 26 individuals and rejected three applications. Prime Minister Hun Sen stated in August that he would not restore any politician’s political rights unless he was “pleased.” Local experts and opposition party members complained the “rehabilitation” process was arbitrary, created a false appearance of wrongdoing on the part of the banned politicians, and allowed the prime minister to choose his own political opponents. The CPP dominated all levels of government from districts and provincial councils to the National Assembly.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The most recent national election occurred in 2018. Although 20 political parties participated, the largest opposition party, the CNRP, was excluded. Of the 19 non-CPP parties that competed in the election, political rights groups claimed that 16 were CPP proxies.

Although campaign laws require news outlets to give equal coverage to each party participating in an election, there was no evidence of the law’s enforcement during the 2018 election; news outlets gave significantly greater coverage to the CPP than to other parties. In view of the decline in independent media outlets, government-controlled news outlets provided most content and coverage prior to the election. This was particularly the case in rural areas, where voters had less access to independent media.

Approximately 600,000 ballots cast in 2018 were deemed invalid, compared with an estimated 100,000 in the previous election. Observers argued this was a sign of protest; in view of the pressure to vote and the absence of the CNRP from the ballot, many voters chose to spoil their ballots intentionally rather than vote for a party. According to government figures, 83 percent of registered voters went to the polls. The ruling CPP won all 125 seats in the National Assembly. Government statistics could not be verified due to a lack of independent observers.

Most independent analysts considered the entire election process seriously flawed. Most diplomatic missions to the country declined to serve as official observers in the election. Major nonstate election observation bodies, including the Carter Center and the Asian Network for Free Elections, also decided against monitoring the election after determining the election lacked basic credibility. The National Election Committee accused the international community of bias, arguing the international community supported it only when the CNRP was on the ballot. Although nominally independent, the government installed closed-circuit television cameras in the committee offices, enabling it to observe the committee’s proceedings.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Excepting the CPP and several small progovernment parties, independent political parties suffered from a wide range of legalized discrimination, selective enforcement of the law, intimidation, and biased media coverage. These factors contributed significantly to the CPP’s effective monopolization of political power. Membership in the CPP was a prerequisite for many government positions.

In September 2020 Prime Minister Hun Sen reportedly stated that CNRP leader Kem Sokha’s case may not be resolved until 2024.

In April, Kak Sovanchhay, the teenage child of an imprisoned former opposition party official, was struck in the head by a brick thrown by two men on a motorbike, putting him in critical condition. The offenders were not located. Kak Sovanchhay was later arrested and charged with “incitement,” a misdemeanor punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment. Kak, who reportedly had autism, received no treatment or any special accommodation in detention or during his trial.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women and members of ethnic minorities in the political process, but cultural practices that relegate women to second-class status – epitomized by the Chbab Srey, a traditional code of conduct for women dating to the 14th century – limited women’s role in politics and government. Despite repeated vows by the CPP to increase female representation, only 19 women were elected to the National Assembly in the 2018 national election, down from 25 in 2013. The 2017 local elections saw participation for the first time of the Cambodia Indigenous People’s Democracy Party; the party also participated in the 2018 parliamentary elections.

Cameroon

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, however, were often marked by irregularities, although no elections were conducted during the year.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In February 2020 the country held simultaneous legislative and municipal elections. An estimated 32 political parties participated in the legislative elections and 43 participated in the municipal elections. Security concerns constrained voter participation in the Northwest and Southwest Regions. The courts annulled the legislative elections in 11 constituencies of the Northwest and Southwest Regions due to voter turnout of less than 10 percent. Legislative reruns occurred in the 11 constituencies in March 2020. The ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM) won 152 of the 180 National Assembly seats and 316 of 360 local councils. Opposing political parties lost significant numbers of seats when compared with previous elections. Overall, eight opposition political parties won seats in the National Assembly, and nine won control of local councils. Additionally, irregularities including lack of equal access to media and campaign space, restrictions on the ability of opposition candidates to register for the election, ballot stuffing, lack of ballot secrecy, voter intimidation, inconsistent use of identification cards, and lack of expertise among local polling officials prompted the Constitutional Council and regional administrative courts to annul some legislative elections.

Estimates of voter turnout showed an unprecedented low rate of participation of 43 percent for the legislative and municipal elections in 2020. The lower turnout could partially be attributed to the call for a boycott of the elections by the MRC and other opposition parties. In December 2020 the first-ever election of regional councilors was held, 24 years after provisions for regional elections in the 1996 constitution. Due to the gains achieved in the municipal councils that made up the electoral college in the February 2020 elections, the ruling CPDM won in nine of the 10 regions. The government cited the regional elections as a sign of progress on decentralization, although political opposition and civil society groups criticized the elections for failing to meaningfully decentralize power.

In 2018 Paul Biya was re-elected president in an election marred by irregularities and against the backdrop of protracted sociopolitical unrest in the Northwest and Southwest Regions.

Political Parties and Political Participation: As of the end of December, the country had approximately 330 registered political parties. During the year the government accredited 11 new political parties “to enrich the political debate and encourage the expression of freedoms.” The CPDM remained dominant at every level of government due to restrictions on opposition political parties, gerrymandering, unbalanced media coverage, the use of state funds to promote party campaigns, interference with the right of opposition parties to register as candidates and to organize during electoral campaigns, and undue influence of traditional rulers, who were largely coopted by the CPDM. Traditional rulers, who received salaries from the government, openly declared their support for President Biya prior to the 2018 presidential election, and some reportedly compelled residents of their constituencies to prove they did not vote for an opposition candidate by presenting unused ballots. Traditional rulers who refused to associate with the government were either removed or threatened with destitution. Membership in the ruling political party conferred significant advantages, including in the allocation of key jobs in state-owned entities and the civil service. Conversely, membership in some opposition political parties, especially the MRC, was often associated with threats and intimidation from the government.

Human rights organizations and opposition political actors considered the drawing of voter districts and distribution of parliamentary or municipal councilors’ seats unfair. They complained that smaller districts considered CPDM strongholds were allocated a disproportionate number of seats compared with more populous districts where the opposition was expected to poll strongly. Managers of state-owned companies and other high-level government officials used corporate resources to campaign for candidates sponsored by the ruling party.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minorities, or persons with disabilities in the political process and they did participate, although women remained underrepresented at all levels of government. There were no official laws limiting the participation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons; however, observers noted social stigma and criminalization of same-sex conduct may have deterred LGBTQI+ persons from openly participating in the political process. In parliament women occupied 87 of 280 seats, 61 in the National Assembly and 26 in the Senate. Women held 11 of 66 cabinet positions. Similar disparities existed in other senior-level offices, including territorial command and security and defense positions. The minority Baka, a nomadic indigenous group, were not represented in the Senate, National Assembly, or higher offices of government, although there were no laws limiting their participation.

Canada

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: Following a free and fair federal election on September 20, the Liberal Party won a plurality of seats in the federal parliament and secured a mandate to form a minority national government.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. In the September federal election, 44 percent of 338 House of Commons candidates were women, up from a previous record high of 42 percent of female candidates in the 2019 election. Women won 30 percent of the seats in the House of Commons. The government of New Brunswick provided financial incentives to political parties to field female candidates in provincial elections.

Central African Republic

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. Refugees who returned to the country after voter registration was closed and the estimated 200,000 potential voters still outside the country were denied the right to participate in the December 2020 presidential and legislative elections.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In many areas of the country, before and during late December 2020 presidential and legislative elections, armed groups interfered with voter registration and the distribution of election materials. On election day threats and violence by armed groups prevented citizens from voting in 26 of 68 voting districts and interrupted voting in six others. It was unclear precisely how many registered voters were prevented from voting because of armed group interference with electoral processes. Most of the violence committed around the elections was committed by CPC-affiliated armed groups. There were no reports of government security actors attempting to interfere with the election or prevent individuals from voting. The government did not attempt to restrict eligible voters from registering, but armed groups interfered with registration.

International and NGO observers reported high voter turnout in Bangui. Some media reported that threats of violence suppressed turnout in many other areas. NGO observers reported some irregularities in polling places that were able to open, particularly a lack of indelible ink and legislative ballots at certain sites. They also reported that some voters who did not have voter identification cards were allowed to vote with a certificate from the National Elections Authority. Some candidates and opposition leaders, including Anicet Georges Dologuele, Martin Ziguele, and Mahamat Kamoun, alleged there were cases of election fraud. A local elections NGO, the National Observatory of Elections, concluded that observed irregularities did not undermine the overall credibility of the elections. The African Union observation mission reported that voting in Bangui conformed to the country’s electoral code and international standards. Election results were announced in early January.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. UN Women, however, assessed traditional attitudes and cultural practices limited women’s ability to participate in political life on an equal basis with men. Societal and legal discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons prevented them from effectively advocating for their interests in the political sphere (see section 6, Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity). The law requires that in all public and private institutions, 35 percent of seats should be reserved for women. This provision was not observed. Seven of 32 ministers in President Touadera’s cabinet were women, a 5 percent increase over his previous cabinet, but still short of the law’s requirements. Political parties likewise did not reach 35 percent gender parity in their slates of candidates during the 2020 parliamentary elections. There were 17 women among the 133 members of the National Assembly, a 5 percent increase over the previous legislature. The law prohibits gender discrimination and provides for an independent National Observatory for Male/Female Equality to monitor compliance. As of year’s end the National Observatory had not been established.

Chad

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution and law provide citizens with the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage, but the government limited this right. The executive branch dominated the other branches of government.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The March 11-April 9 presidential election campaign culminated in elections on April 11. The political opposition had a highly limited space to operate in both before and during the election. Amnesty International reported pretrial detentions, systematic bans on gatherings, and attempts to prevent the free exchange of information leading up to the election.

In the leadup to the election, the government disallowed the candidacies of two major opposition figures, Yaya Dillo, citing an improper birth certificate, and Succes Masra, for his not having met the required minimum candidate age of 40 and the lack of government recognition of his political party. Other candidates, citing unfair government behavior in favor of President Deby, voluntarily announced their withdrawal from the electoral process prior to the March 9 deadline for the publication of the final presidential candidate list by the Supreme Court. These voluntary withdrawals included Brice Mbaimon Guedmabye, Ngarledjy Yorongar, Mahamat Yosko, and Saleh Kebzabo. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court retained three of these candidates on the election day ballot, which some perceived as an effort to disperse the accumulation of votes behind any single opposition candidate.

Analysts viewed many of the remaining candidates as tacit supporters of Deby. Election observers reported low voter turnout and an overwhelming presence of ruling MPS party observers on election day. Election observers reported multiple irregularities, including improperly secured ballot boxes, polling sites in private spaces in violation of the law, voting authorities improperly accompanying some voters, poor staffing coverage by the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI), campaigning within or near polling stations, police and military giving voters instructions on voting, missing voter registration lists, duplicate voting, underage voting, and improper transport of ballot boxes.

On April 19, the CENI announced Idriss Deby won the election with 79 percent of the vote. The sitting transitional government Prime Minister Albert Pahimi Padacke finished second with 10 percent of the vote. The CENI announced high turnout of 65 percent, although opposition figure Saleh Kebzabo took credit in media reports for his part in suppressing turnout by encouraging a boycott.

On the next day, President Idriss Deby died on the battlefield while commanding an army unit against Libya-based rebels advancing toward N’Djamena. Shortly after Deby’s death, a 15-member CMT established itself, dissolved the country’s constitution, and issued a transitional charter that outlined an 18-month mandate and transition back to a democratically elected civilian-led government.

Under the 2020 constitution, the Senate president stood to take charge of the country, with the Senate vice president standing next in line. The Senate, however, had not yet been constituted when Deby died. In this scenario, the constitution provided that the powers of the Senate should have devolved to the National Assembly. The CMT offered the presidency to the president of the National Assembly, who declined. The first vice president also declined. The CMT thus named Deby’s son, army general Mahamat Idriss Deby as CMT president and the de facto leader of the country.

On April 26, CMT President Deby appointed a civilian transitional government led by Prime Minister Albert Pahimi Padacke and a cabinet of ministers, but the transitional charter grants the CMT president the authority to dissolve the transitional government, which exists to “guide and execute the nation’s policy defined by the CMT.”

The transitional charter as of year’s end guided the country’s transition toward elections of a civilian leader in late 2022. In September, CMT President Deby appointed by presidential decree a transitional parliament, the National Transitional Council, composed of a majority loyal to the powerful MPS, to replace the National Assembly. The government began planning for a national dialogue, new constitution, and elections in 2022.

The most recent legislative elections took place in 2011, during which the ruling MPS won 118 of the National Assembly’s 188 seats. Subsequent legislative elections were repeatedly postponed for lack of financing or planning.

Political Parties and Political Participation: There were 138 registered political parties, of which more than 100 were associated with the dominant MPS party. Changes to the law in 2018 complicated and increased the cost of party registration, outreach, and participation procedures. Opposition leaders attributed the changes to the government’s attempt to limit dissent. The government severely restricted opposition protests and suspended all political programming on public and private networks until the April elections (see sections 2.a. and 2.b.).

Numerous laws disadvantage full political participation by citizens holding political views or allegiances out of alignment with the dominant MPS party. For example, opposition parties are legally barred from ownership of media outlets. The government enacted age limits on leadership of political parties, which many viewed as an effort to disqualify certain key opposition leaders. The dominant MPS party owned and enjoyed state-funded political programming on state-owned television and radio stations, which many saw as granting it an unfair political advantage in a country where television and radio comprised the most effective public outreach tools. Others criticized the MPS party as leading the unfair drawing of voter districts in ways that directly benefitted the MPS. Officials affiliated with the MPS often used official vehicles for political campaigning, and there were reports that government employees were pressured to close their offices during campaign season to support MPS campaigning. Active membership in the MPS often conferred advantages for those wishing to hold high-level government positions. In addition, the MPS-led central government faced accusations of having appointed local and traditional chiefs in a way that rewarded allegiance to the MPS rather than respecting the traditional transmission of power via birth.

After previously refusing registration on administrative grounds, on June 8, the Minister of Territorial Administration and Decentralization signed the decree granting the opposition party Les Transformateurs the permission to operate.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: Political disenfranchisement in the country is typically de facto, rather than de jure.

The law mandates that leadership of all political parties must be at least 30 percent women. Women’s political participation, however, was limited by many factors, including lack of access to economic resources and cultural norms that discourage their participation in public and professional life. The law also requires a minimum of 30 percent women in government institutions and elective offices. In April, Beassemda Lydie was the first woman to run for president, placing third. Women also received appointments to the transitional parliament and the National Transitional Council, although observers noted that many were relatives of powerful men, casting doubt on their autonomy. While women comprised 33 percent of the council, there were no female members, despite several high-ranking potential women candidates in security institutions.

Government authorities often awarded political positions and formed alliances based largely on tribal and ethnic affiliations. Political parties and groups generally had readily identifiable regional or ethnic bases. Northerners, particularly members of the CMT president’s Zaghawa ethnic group, were overrepresented in key institutions, including the military officer corps, elite military units, and presidential staff.

Widespread social discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) individuals resulted in all but a tiny percentage choosing to live closeted for personal safety and to enjoy fuller social and political rights. Those choosing to live openly, at great personal risk, were often denied the opportunity to register to vote, which observers noted appeared to contravene the constitution, which affirms that suffrage is universal.

Persons with disabilities, while generally able to vote, faced major hurdles in achieving full political participation. Likewise, some laws prohibited persons with disabilities from serving in elected office. Observers noted these laws appeared in contravention of the constitutional right of all persons to work. In addition, the constitution mandates “good physical and mental health” for presidential candidacy, a provision many observers believed disallowed persons with disabilities from serving as president.

Chile

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 country held concurrent presidential and legislative elections on November 21, which observers considered free and fair. On December 19, in free and fair elections, voters chose Gabriel Boric, who was to take office on March 11, 2022.

On May 15-16, voters elected 155 members of the constitutional convention and voted for regional governors, mayors, and municipal councilors. The country held runoff elections for governors on June 13 and official presidential primaries on July 18. Observers considered the elections free and fair.

The constitutional convention began on July 4 and was scheduled to conclude by July 2022. Delegates elected Mapuche indigenous rights activist Elisa Loncon as president. On October 7, the convention approved four main statutes covering general regulations, ethics, indigenous participation and consultation, and citizen participation. Convention rules prohibit denial of crimes against humanity committed during the Pinochet regime and alleged human rights abuses during the 2019 civil unrest. Rules also established nonbinding indigenous consultations requiring the country “to recognize, specify, respect, promote, protect, and guarantee all its obligations with the different preexisting indigenous peoples and nations, all of which emanate from subscribed international obligations.”

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. The rules for the election in May of members for the constitutional convention stipulated gender parity and, from a total of 155 seats, included 17 seats reserved for representatives of indigenous groups. The Mapuche minority group, which represents approximately 13 percent of the population, has historically been underrepresented in government.

China (Includes Hong Kong, Macau, and Tibet)

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution states, “all power in the People’s Republic of China belongs to the people” and the organs through which citizens exercise state power are the NPC and the people’s congresses at provincial, district, and local levels. In practice the CCP dictated the legislative agenda to the NPC. While the law provides for elections of people’s congress delegates at the county level and below, citizens could not freely choose the officials who governed them. The CCP controlled all elections and continued to control appointments to positions of political power. The CCP used various intimidation tactics, including house arrest, to block independent candidates from running in local elections.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In 2018 the NPC’s 2,980 delegates elected the president and vice president, the premier and vice premiers, and the chairman of the Central Military Commission. The NPC Standing Committee, which consists of 175 members, oversaw the elections and determined the agenda and procedures for the NPC. The selection of NPC members takes place every five years, and the process is controlled by the CCP.

The NPC Standing Committee remained under the direct authority of the CCP. All important legislative decisions required the concurrence of the CCP’s seven-member Politburo Standing Committee. Despite its broad authority under the state constitution, the NPC did not set policy independently or remove political leaders without the CCP’s approval.

According to Ministry of Civil Affairs 2019 statistics, almost all the country’s more than 600,000 villages had implemented direct elections by ordinary citizens for members of local subgovernmental organizations known as village committees. The direct election of officials remained narrow in scope and was strictly confined to the lowest rungs of local governance. Corruption, vote buying, and interference by township-level and CCP officials continued to be problems. The law permits each voter to cast proxy votes for up to three other voters.

Election law governs legislative bodies at all levels, although compliance and enforcement varied across the country. Under the law citizens have the opportunity every five years to vote for local people’s congress representatives at the county level and below, although in most cases higher-level government officials or CCP cadres controlled the nomination of candidates. At higher levels, legislators selected people’s congress delegates from among their own ranks. For example, provincial-level people’s congresses selected delegates to the NPC. Local CCP secretaries generally served concurrently within the leadership team of the local people’s congress, thus strengthening CCP control over legislatures.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Official statements asserted “the political party system [that] China has adopted is multiparty cooperation and political consultation” under CCP leadership. The CCP, however, retained a monopoly on political power, and the government forbade the creation of new political parties. The government officially recognized nine parties founded prior to 1949, and parties other than the CCP held 30 percent of the seats in the NPC. These non-CCP members did not function as a political opposition. They exercised very little influence on legislation or policymaking and were only allowed to operate under the direction of the CCP United Front Work Department.

No laws or regulations specifically govern the formation of political parties. The China Democracy Party remained banned, and the government continued to monitor, detain, and imprison its current and former members. China Democracy Party founder Qin Yongmin, detained with his wife Zhao Suli in 2015, has been in Hubei’s Qianjiang Prison since 2018 for “subversion of state power.”

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: Women and members of minority groups held few positions of significant influence in the government or CCP structure. Among the 2,987 appointed delegates to the 13th NPC in 2018, 742 (25 percent) were women. Following the 19th Party Congress in 2017, one member of the CCP Central Committee’s 25-member Politburo was a woman. There were no women in the Politburo Standing Committee.

Election law provides a general mandate for quotas for female and ethnic minority representatives, but achieving these quotas often required election authorities to violate the election law.

A total of 438 delegates from 55 ethnic minorities were members of the 13th NPC, accounting for 16 percent of the total number of delegates. All of the country’s officially recognized minority groups were represented. The 19th Party Congress elected 15 members of ethnic minority groups as members of the 202-person Central Committee. There was no ethnic minority member of the Politburo, and only one ethnic minority member was serving as a party secretary of a provincial-level jurisdiction, although a handful of ethnic minority members were serving as leaders in provincial governments. An ethnic Mongolian woman, Wang Lixia, served as chair of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, equivalent to a provincial governor. An ethnic Hui woman, Xian Hui, served as chair of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. An ethnic Bai woman, Shen Yiqin, served as party secretary of Guizhou Province.

Colombia

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 nearly universal suffrage. Active-duty members of the armed forces and police may neither vote nor participate in the political process. Civilian public employees are eligible to vote, although they may participate in partisan politics only during the four months immediately preceding a national election.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Legislative and presidential elections were held in March and May 2018, respectively. Because no presidential candidate won more than 50 percent of the vote in the election, as required for a victory in the first round, in June a second election was held, in which voters elected Ivan Duque Marquez president. Observers considered the elections free and fair and the most peaceful in decades. There were no reports of election-related violence during the June 2018 presidential runoff, in which the candidate of the Democratic Center party, Ivan Duque Marquez, defeated the candidate of Humane Colombia, Gustavo Francisco Petro Urrego. The then minister of defense, Luis Carlos Villegas Echeverri, described it as the most peaceful election in decades. The leading domestic elections NGO, Electoral Observation Mission, deployed more than 3,500 nonpartisan volunteers to monitor the elections. International observers included an electoral observation mission of the Organization of American States. The first local and regional elections since the signing of the 2016 peace accord took place in October 2019 and were largely peaceful and the most inclusive in the country’s history. Observers reported some indications of electoral fraud, including vote buying.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Organized-crime gangs, FARC dissidents, and the ELN threatened and killed government officials (see section 1.g.). As of June 30, the NPU, under the Ministry of Interior, was providing protection to 255 mayors, 16 governors, and 435 other persons, including members of departmental assemblies, council members, judges, municipal human rights officers, and other officials related to national human rights policies. By decree the CNP’s protection program and the NPU assume shared responsibility for protecting municipal and district mayors.

As part of the 2016 peace accord, the FARC registered a political party in 2017 under the name People’s Alternative Revolutionary Force, maintaining the same acronym. The accord guaranteed the FARC political party, now known as the Commons party, 10 seats in Congress – five each in the Senate and in the House of Representatives – in the 2018 and 2022 elections.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate.

Comoros

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. Citizens exercised that ability, although electoral irregularities marred the 2019 presidential election.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In 2019 the country held presidential and gubernatorial elections, and the Supreme Court declared Azali Assoumani the winner of the presidential election with 59 percent of the vote. These elections were not free and fair, and international and domestic observers noted the election was marked by significant irregularities.

During the afternoon of election day, the opposition protested ballot stuffing and the lack of observers in polling stations. Refusing to recognize the legitimacy of the vote, the opposition destroyed ballot boxes on Anjouan and, to a lesser extent, on Grande Comore. Responding to these developments, the government failed to uphold election rules and regulations in the collection and counting of ballots. The government ordered security forces to collect ballots in multiple jurisdictions before polls were scheduled to close, and ballot counting occurred without public oversight.

In 2019 presidential candidate Soilihi Mohamed, along with the other opposition candidates, established a National Transition Council and called on the population to engage in civil disobedience if the government did not invalidate the election. Police arrested Mohamed for undermining the security of the state. Following a gunfight in which three individuals died, Mohamed’s supporters freed him, but security forces subsequently recaptured him. After 12 days in prison, the government released him, and Mohamed recognized Azali as president and resigned his position as president of the National Transition Council.

In January 2020 election authorities conducted legislative elections. International observers considered them to be generally free and fair. The opposition boycotted the elections and stated they did not recognize either the 2019 presidential or the January 2020 legislative results. The government did not allow opposition groups to hold meetings during the legislative elections.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women, persons with disabilities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons or members of minority groups in the political process and they did participate. Some observers believed traditional and cultural factors prevented women from participating in political life on an equal basis with men. The 2019 gubernatorial election resulted in the election of the first female governor, Sitti Farouata Mhoudine, who represented Grande Comore. In the National Assembly, there were four women out of 24 elected members, compared with one woman among elected members in the previous National Assembly.

Costa Rica

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 2018 voters elected Citizen’s Action Party’s (PAC) Carlos Alvarado president during a second round of elections, after no candidate achieved 40 percent of the first-round vote. Presidential and legislative elections are simultaneous. In 2018 legislative elections, the National Liberation Party (PLN) gained the most seats, but it did not achieve a majority in the National Assembly. In internal legislative elections in May, the PLN won the presidency of the National Assembly for one year in an alliance that included the Social Christian Unity Party and evangelical Christian parties.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of historically marginalized groups in the political process, and they did participate.

Women; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons; and persons of African descent were represented in government, but persons with disabilities and indigenous persons were not. In national elections political parties must guarantee gender parity across their electoral slates and confirm that gender parity extends vertically. The electoral code requires that a minimum of 50 percent of candidates for elective office be women, with their names placed alternately with men on the ballots by party slate.

Cote d’Ivoire

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 adult suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: On March 6, the country held elections for the 255 seats in the National Assembly, the more powerful of the parliament’s two legislative bodies. All major political parties and some independents participated in the elections; two major opposition parties ran in a coalition. The elections resulted in a 54/46 percent split between the ruling coalition and the opposition, with the ruling party winning 137 of the 255 seats.

The period before the elections was marked by generally peaceful campaigning with both ruling party and opposition leaders enthusiastically calling on their supporters to vote. Civil society organizations and media noted sporadic minor incidents during the campaign, including vandalism of candidate campaign posters and the alleged assault of an opposition candidate by ruling party supporters.

Election day itself also unfolded in a generally peaceful manner but with minor election-related irregularities, including sporadic incidents of voter material destruction, acts of violence and intimidation against voting officials or voters, biometric tablet failures, voting officials’ refusing to admit accredited observers to polling sites, and confrontations between supporters of opposing candidates. After the vote ended, several opposition leaders suggested the possibility of fraud, but they ultimately followed the legal process for challenging contested election results. On March 9, the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) announced provisional results, which the Constitutional Council validated on March 25 in all but four races. In the four races (whose results could not have altered the balance of power), the Constitutional Council annulled the results and ordered a revote.

International and local observers considered the elections generally free, fair, and transparent. In a preliminary statement issued two days after the elections, the International Election Observation Mission of the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa and The Carter Center deemed the elections “an inclusive election in a generally peaceful atmosphere.” Indigo, a local NGO that deployed 500 observers across the country, described the elections as “peaceful” despite minor incidents.

The country held a presidential election in October 2020. In contrast to the March legislative elections, the period before the presidential election was marked by intense political maneuvering by the regime and opposition, acrimonious and divisive rhetoric, protests, and largely civilian-on-civilian violence.

The opposition vociferously contested President Ouattara’s decision to seek a third term following the July 2020 death of the ruling coalition’s candidate. Although the opposition argued that President Ouattara was precluded from running due to a term limit, the Constitutional Council, which the constitution empowers to validate presidential candidacies, validated Ouattara’s candidacy in September 2020 on the grounds that it would be his first term under the 2016 Constitution. The Council also validated the candidacies of three prominent opposition figures but rejected those of 40 other contenders, specifying in each case which eligibility criteria the contender failed to meet. Before and after the election, opposition leaders repeatedly alleged the Council was inherently biased toward the ruling coalition. UN, ECOWAS, and African Union officials visited the country several times during the electoral period to encourage a tension-calming dialogue between the government and the opposition but did not recommend a revision of the Council’s decision on candidacies.

Among those barred from competition were prominent opposition figures Guillaume Soro and former president Laurent Gbagbo, both rejected due to domestic criminal convictions. Following the Constitutional Council’s announcement, the ACHPR issued two separate rulings in September 2020 ordering the government to permit Soro and Gbagbo to run for election. The government did not respond directly to either ruling but indicated in public statements that it did not consider the ACHPR’s rulings binding in view of its April 2020 announcement that it was withdrawing from the optional protocol that allowed nonstate actors to petition the court.

Election-related protests and violence escalated immediately before the election, particularly in mid-October 2020 after the opposition launched a campaign of “civil disobedience” and an “active boycott” designed to prevent the election from occurring unless the government conceded to opposition demands. In addition to violent clashes between civilians, many criminal acts occurred during the campaign. Media reported multiple incidents of vandalism, including the burning of CEI field offices, theft and destruction of voter cards, and construction of crude roadblocks by opposition-aligned youth to obstruct major roads.

Scattered, disruptive, and occasionally deadly unrest continued on election day in several locations in the central and southern parts of the country. Reported incidents included theft and destruction of electoral materials, civilian-on-civilian clashes, ransacked polling stations, and roadblocks around polling stations, which suppressed voter participation. The CEI confirmed that 21 percent of polling stations were not operational on election day, October 31, due to disruptions. International election observers reported the same but also noted that, in some cases, polling sites did not open because election officials failed to deploy necessary voter equipment and materials. At polling sites that did open, voting generally took place without incident although observers noted scattered minor irregularities, such as sites opening late or closing early and election officials struggling, without apparent malicious intent, to tabulate results accurately. The government reported that between August and November 2020, 85 persons had been killed and 484 injured, including several members of the security forces, in election-related violence.

International election observers differed in their overall assessments of the election. The African Union stated the election “was held in an overall satisfactory manner.” The International Election Observation Mission of the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa and The Carter Center found that officials “generally adhered to voting procedures in the majority of the polling stations visited,” but criticized the political climate in which the election took place as “not allowing for a genuinely competitive election.” The Constitutional Council certified that President Ouattara had won re-election with 94.27 percent of the vote, a percentage due in part to the opposition’s boycott, and President Ouattara was sworn in for a third term in December 2020.

Earlier in November the opposition asserted that President Ouattara was no longer president and announced the establishment of a National Transitional Council. Via social media from France, Guillaume Soro claimed in his capacity as a member of the transitional council that President Ouattara no longer had the constitutional power to command the armed forces and called for them to overthrow him. The government subsequently announced charges of sedition and terrorism against 20 senior opposition figures involved in the Council’s professed creation. In mid-November 2020, the government issued an international arrest warrant for Soro and three of his aides, requesting their extradition from France.

Although the law requires the national voter registry to be updated annually, it was last revised in June and July 2020. During the 2020 registration, CEI staff generally appeared well prepared to execute that process, although some opposition parties reported their members’ difficulty obtaining documents required to prove their eligibility to vote. The government extended the registration period twice and, midway through the registration process, extended the validity of existing national identity cards so that holders could register and vote in the presidential election without having to obtain new biometric identity cards.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Although the law prohibits the formation of political parties along ethnic or religious lines, there have historically been links between ethnic groups and specific political parties.

Some opposition parties reported denials of their requests to hold political meetings and alleged inconsistent standards for granting public assembly permits.

Opposition parties frequently criticized the legality and impartiality of the CEI. In September 2020 the Ivorian Popular Front, the only party previously represented in the CEI that the broader opposition accepted as an authentic opposition party, suspended its participation due to its overall objection to the electoral process. In December 2020 the government led a round of political dialogue that led the opposition to reverse its stance and decide to compete in the legislative elections. Accordingly, in January the Democratic Party of Cote d’Ivoire, the country’s largest unified opposition party, officially took the seat that had been reserved for it on the CEI, which it had previously refused to do without reforms at the CEI.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women and members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Of 255 National Assembly members, 32 were women after the March elections, up from 29 previously. Of 99 Senate members, 19 were women, including 11 of 33 appointed by President Ouattara in 2019 and eight of 66 elected in 2018. The law requires women constitute at least 30 percent of each political party’s candidates nationwide for legislative elections, however, there are no penalties if the quota is not met. In the March national legislative elections, female candidates accounted for an average of 15 percent of candidate slates.

Members of the transgender community reported difficulty obtaining identity and voting documents. Election observers reported assistance to voters with disabilities (see section 6, Persons with Disabilities).

Crimea

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

Recent Elections: Russian occupation authorities prevented residents from voting in Ukrainian national and local elections since Crimea’s occupation began in 2014. Nonetheless, Russian occupation authorities conducted voting in Crimea for the September 19 Russia State Duma elections. Occupation authorities claimed a voter turnout rate of 49.75 percent. Independent observers and elections experts alleged massive electoral fraud, including coerced voting by state employees and ballot stuffing, among other irregularities. Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned Russia’s elections in Crimea as illegal and stated it would hold responsible those who organized and conducted the illegal voting there.

Croatia

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: Parliamentary elections were held in July 2020, presidential elections in January 2020, and European Parliament elections in 2019. According to observers, all elections took place in a pluralistic environment and were administered in a professional and transparent manner.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women, members of minority groups, persons with disabilities, or lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons in the political processes, and they did participate. By law minority groups are guaranteed eight seats in the 151-seat parliament. Representation of women in major political parties remained low. The law requires that the “less represented gender” make up at least 40 percent of candidates on a party’s candidate list, with violations punishable by a fine. This quota was not respected on 315 local election lists out of a total of 2,462 (13 percent), a slight decrease from the last local elections in 2017 when 14 percent of lists were in violation. One candidate list had less than 40 percent male representation. The percentage of women elected to parliament in 2020 was 23 percent (35 of a total of 151 parliamentarians), the highest percentage since parliament’s constitution in 1990. Four ministers in the 16-member cabinet were women.

Cuba

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

Article 5 of the constitution enshrines one-party rule by the PCC, disallowing political expression outside of that structure. The government suppressed attempts to form other parties. Candidates for office must be nominated by a PCC “mass organization” and approved by local party officials. These PCC-approved candidates win the vast majority of votes, since electors are limited to PCC representatives. Elections are neither free nor fair. Citizens do not have the ability to form political parties or run as candidates from political parties other than the PCC. The government forcefully and consistently retaliated against those who sought peaceful political change. The government orchestrated mass political mobilization on its behalf and favored citizens who actively participated.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The government selected candidates for the October 2019 election for president of the republic, president of the National Assembly, and membership in the Council of State. Only members of the National Assembly – all of whom were PCC members – were allowed to vote, and candidates ran for office uncontested. For the first time since 1959, on January 18, citizens “elected” provincial governors; however, only one candidate (chosen in theory by the president but in reality by the PCC) stood for each post, and the only persons allowed to vote were loyal party members chosen as delegates of the municipal assemblies in each province. The chosen candidates were not known to the public before the election, and each one received 93 percent or more of the ballots cast, with most receiving 99 percent of the votes.

Political Parties and Political Participation: As in previous national elections, government-run commissions nominated all candidates for office for the January election. No non-PCC candidates were allowed on the ballot. The government routinely used propaganda campaigns in the state-owned media to criticize its opponents. Numerous opposition candidates were physically prevented from presenting their candidacies or were otherwise intimidated from participating in the electoral process.

The 2019 constitution includes many sections that restrict citizens’ ability to participate fully in political processes by deeming the PCC as the state’s only legal political party and the “superior driving force of the society and the state.” For example, Article 4 states, “Citizens have the right to combat through any means, including armed combat when other means are not available, anyone who intends to overthrow the political, social, and economic order established by this constitution.” The article effectively empowers ordinary persons to violently attack those who publicly disagree with the party.

Citizens who live abroad without a registered place of abode in Cuba lose their right to vote.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No law limits participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Women and minority representatives in the Central Committee and Politburo declined re-election in the Eighth Party Congress. Women held no senior leadership positions in the military or security services.

Cyprus

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The law and constitution 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. In national elections, Turkish Cypriots who resided in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots were ineligible to vote and run for office in the government-controlled area, although Greek Cypriots living in the north faced no such restrictions. In elections for the European Parliament, Cypriot citizens, resident EU citizens, and Turkish Cypriots who live in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots have the right to vote and run for office.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: On May 30 the country held free and fair elections for the 56 seats assigned to Greek Cypriots in the 80-seat House of Representatives. The 24 seats assigned to Turkish Cypriots remained vacant. In 2018 voters re-elected President Nicos Anastasiades in free and fair elections.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Nevertheless, women remained underrepresented in senior political positions. Only 27 percent of ministers and 14.3 percent of the members of the House of Representatives were women.

In 2019 more than 5,600 Turkish Cypriots voted in the European Parliament elections at 50 polling stations near buffer-zone crossing points, compared with 1,869 who voted in 2014. Voters elected a Turkish Cypriot to one of the country’s six seats in the European Parliament for the first time. According to press reports, between 1,100 and 1,500 Turkish Cypriots were unable to vote because their names did not appear on the electoral list. The law provides for the registration of adult Turkish Cypriot holders of a Republic of Cyprus identity card who resided in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots in the electoral roll for the European Parliament elections. Turkish Cypriots not residing in that area needed to apply for registration in the electoral roll, as did all other citizens residing there. The government did not automatically register an unspecified number of Turkish Cypriots residing in the north because they were incorrectly listed in the official civil registry as residents of the government-controlled area. This problem persisted but to a lesser extent than previous years, as the number of registered Turkish Cypriot voters increased from approximately 56,000 in 2014 to 81,000 in 2019. Media outlets attributed much of the increase to the successful campaign of the first Turkish Cypriot elected to the European Parliament.

Czech Republic

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: Voter elected representatives to the Chamber of Deputies on October 8 and 9. In 2018 voters re-elected Milos Zeman to a five-year term as president in the country’s second direct presidential election. Elections for one-third of the seats in the Senate were held in two rounds in October 2020. Observers considered all elections free and fair, and there were no reports of significant irregularities.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws or practices limit the participation of women or members of historically marginalized groups in the political process, and they did participate. Participation by women and minority groups in elected bodies remained low in comparison to their estimated percentage of the population. Four out of 15 government ministries were headed by women. For the first time, more than 30 percent of candidates running in the parliamentary elections were women. As a result of the October elections, 51 of the 200 members of the Chamber of Deputies were women, representing an increase from 23 percent in the previous session to 25 percent.

Romani participation in politics and governance remained minimal in comparison to their estimated percentage of the population. There were no Romani members of parliament, cabinet ministers, or Supreme Court judges. There were some Romani appointees to national and regional advisory councils dealing with Romani affairs. Roma were elected to 13 seats (out of 62,000) in local governments in the 2018 elections. Roma received one seat (out of 675) in regional government elections in 2020

There were only six Romani candidates and one Czech-Vietnamese candidate in the October parliamentary elections out of total of 5,260 candidates.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

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: Presidential, legislative, and provincial elections were held in December 2018 and drew criticism grounded in procedural transparency concerns. CENI cancelled elections in Beni and Butembo in North Kivu Province, reportedly due to health concerns generated by the Ebola crisis, and in Yumbi in Mai Ndombe Province due to insecurity. Although CENI organized legislative and provincial contests in those areas in March 2019, more than one million voters were disenfranchised from the 2018 presidential contest.

In January 2019 CENI announced opposition candidate Tshisekedi won the presidential election, and in accordance with electoral law, the Constitutional Court confirmed CENI’s results later that month. The Council of Bishops criticized the outcome, noting “the results of the presidential election as published by CENI do not correspond to the data collected by our observation mission.”

Many international actors expressed concern regarding CENI’s decision to deny accreditation to several international election observers and media representatives. Some persons questioned the final election results due to press reports of unverified data leaked from unnamed sources indicating opposition candidate Martin Fayulu received the most votes. The election aftermath was calm, with most citizens accepting the outcome. In January 2019 Tshisekedi was sworn in as president, marking the first peaceful transfer of power since the country’s independence in 1960.

Tshisekedi’s Union for Democracy and Social Progress political party won 32 seats in the National Assembly, whereas the Common Front for Congo coalition won 335 seats of 500 seats total. Senatorial elections were held in March 2019 through an indirect vote by provincial assemblies.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The law recognizes opposition parties and provides them with “sacred” rights and obligations. Government authorities and the SSF, however, prevented opposition parties from holding public meetings, assemblies, and peaceful protests. The government and the SSF also limited opposition leaders’ freedom of movement. The SSF used force to prevent or disrupt opposition-organized events.

State-run media, including television and radio stations, remained the largest sources of information for the public and government (see section 2.a.). There were reports of government intimidation of political opponents, such as denying opposition groups the right to assemble peacefully (see section 2.b.) and exercising political influence in the distribution of media content.

The national electoral law prohibits certain groups of citizens from voting in elections, in particular members of the armed forces and the national police.

In several districts, known as chefferies, traditional chiefs perform the role of a local government administrator. Unelected, they are selected based on local tribal customs (generally based on family inheritance) and if approved are paid by the government.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No law limits participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate, although some ethnic groups in the East claimed discrimination. Women held only 12 percent of the seats in parliament. The new government formed in April included several women as ministers or deputies, such as the minister of state of portfolio, the minister of relations with parliament, and the minister of mines. Approximately 27 percent of the 57 vice prime ministers, ministers, ministers of state, vice ministers, and minister delegates were women, an increase in the total number from the previous government. Of 108 senators, 23 were women. Changes to the electoral law in 2017 included the introduction of a minimum “threshold of representation,” but it disadvantaged women, partly because it favored the major parties, in which women faced challenges gaining prominent positions.

Women faced obstacles to full participation in politics and leadership positions generally. Women in leadership positions were often given portfolios focused on so-called women’s issues, such as those related to gender-based violence, cultural norms, and discrimination against women. Women generally had less access to financial resources needed to participate in politics. Furthermore, insecurity, particularly in the eastern provinces, presented a major obstacle for women who wished to run for office and campaign, because the risk of rape and other sexual violence forced them to limit activities and public exposure.

Some groups, including indigenous persons, claimed they had no representation in the Senate, National Assembly, or provincial assemblies. Discrimination against indigenous groups continued in some areas, such as Equateur, Kasai-Oriental, and Haut-Katanga Provinces, and such discrimination contributed to the lack of indigenous group political participation (see section 6).

Denmark

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution and laws provide citizens, including residents of Greenland and the Faroe Islands, the ability to choose their governments in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Free and fair parliamentary elections in 2019 led to the formation of a single-party minority government headed by Social Democratic Party leader Mette Frederiksen.

Free and fair parliamentary elections in Greenland in April led to the formation of a two-party majority government headed by left-green party Inuit Ataqatigiit and pro-independence party Naleraq.

The Faroe Islands also held free and fair municipal elections in November 2020.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women and members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate.

Djibouti

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. The government, however, deprived many citizens of this ability by suppressing the opposition and refusing to allow several opposition groups to form legally recognized political parties. The formal structures of representative government and electoral processes had little relevance to the real distribution and exercise of power.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: On April 9, President Ismail Omar Guelleh was re-elected for a fifth term in the first round of voting with 97.3 percent of the vote. Independent candidate Zakaria Ismail Farah received the remaining 2.7 percent of the vote. Farah claimed that unequal treatment and lack of provision of security hampered his campaign. Opposition political groups boycotted the election, stating the process was fraudulent. After the election opposition members noted irregularities, including alleging authorities stuffed ballot boxes. Most opposition leaders called the election results illegitimate.

International election observers from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the African Union (AU), and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) declared the elections free and fair, noted the peaceful conduct of the elections, and commented that polling stations were organized satisfactorily. Limited space for credible political opposition called into question the fairness of the election but the outcome was not disputed. Observers recommended that additional measures be taken to educate the public and electoral commission members on their respective rights and responsibilities, as well as to encourage civil society participation and increase the secrecy of the ballot.

International observers from the AU, IGAD, Arab League, and OIC characterized the 2018 legislative elections as “free, just, and fair.” The mission from the AU, however, noted several worrisome observations, including lower voter registration due to restrictive laws, inadequate implementation of biometric identification processes during the elections, voter intimidation, inadequate security of submitted ballots, premature closures of voting centers, and the lack of opposition observers during ballot counting.

Political Parties and Political Participation: As in previous years, the Ministry of Interior refused to recognize opposition political parties Movement for Democracy and Liberty (MoDeL) and RADDE, although they continued to operate. Members of those political parties and other opposition members were routinely arrested and detained (see section 1.d.). Senior government officials alleged MoDeL was affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood organization. While membership in a political party was not required for government jobs, civil servants who publicly criticized the government faced reprisals at work, including suspension, dismissal, and nonpayment of salaries.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women and members of minority or other disadvantaged groups in the political process. While women did participate, they did not account for 25 percent of political candidates and election administration officials as required by law (see section 7.d.).

Dominica

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: In the 2019 general election, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit’s Dominica Labour Party prevailed over the opposition United Workers Party by a margin of 18 seats to three. The Caribbean Community, Organization of American States, and UN election observers assessed the election as generally free, fair, and transparent.

In February more than 35 organizations were invited to make written submissions as part of an electoral reform process promised by the government. From April 26 to June 9, the public was invited to participate in a nationwide electoral reform survey, and in June the Dominica Business Forum provided recommendations from the private sector and civil society on electoral reform in the country. The opposition political party was consulted during the process. By year’s end a final report with electoral reform recommendations remained pending.

On March 9, the Caribbean Court of Justice dismissed an appeal filed by the government on behalf of ruling Dominica Labour Party (DLP) candidates who were successful in the 2014 elections and reinstated complaints filed against them for the charge of treating (providing free food and beverages) and bribery. In May, 12 elected DLP members pleaded not guilty to providing free concerts in the period preceding the 2014 election. On July 9, a magistrate dismissed the case after the director of public prosecution notified the court of her decision to discontinue the matter.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate.

Dominican Republic

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 nearly universal, direct, and equal suffrage. Active-duty police and military personnel are prohibited from voting or participating in partisan political activities.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Municipal elections were scheduled for February 2020. On the day of the election, however, the JCE suspended the election due to the failure of the electronic voting system. According to subsequent reports by the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Inter-American Union of Electoral Organizations, the failure was due to the JCE’s poor management of the electronic system, including the failure to audit and gradually implement it. The OAS report led to the dismissal of the JCE’s national computing director. In March 2020 voters participated in rescheduled municipal elections. International and domestic observers described the rescheduled elections as largely free and fair.

Presidential and congressional elections were originally scheduled for May 15, 2020, but the JCE postponed these elections to July 5, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic national state of emergency. In the July 2020 election, Luis Abinader of the Modern Revolutionary Party was elected as president for a four-year term. This was the first time since 2000 that a member of the opposition party won a presidential election. The JCE did not announce final, official results for the presidential election until two days after the election. Results for the congressional races were announced 12 days after the election. Some congressional and municipal races remained contested for weeks, leading to sporadic protests and violence, mainly in the National District, regarding seats in the lower chamber of congress. Overall, however, civil society and international observers praised the citizens and electoral authorities for a voting process that was orderly and largely peaceful, despite COVID-19 challenges.

During both the municipal and presidential elections, the OAS and domestic observers noted widespread illegal political campaigning immediately outside of voting stations, indications of vote buying, lack of financial transparency by political parties and candidates, and illegal use of public funds during the campaign. Most electoral crimes were not prosecuted.

Political Parties and Political Participation: A 2018 law regulates political parties and formalizes party primaries, party financing, and the establishment of new political parties. The electoral institutions and courts interpreted and implemented the 2018 law during the 2019-20 national electoral cycle, and the Constitutional Court struck down several parts. Civil society representatives commented that the law aided the organization of the 2020 electoral process. Principal political actors, however, largely ignored important sections of the law, particularly those related to campaign financing.

By law major parties, defined as those that received 5 percent of the vote or more in the previous election, receive 80 percent of public campaign finances, while minor parties share the remaining 20 percent. The OAS, domestic NGOs, and minor parties criticized this allocation of funding as unequal and unfair. Civil society groups criticized the government and the then ruling Dominican Liberation Party for using public funds to pay for advertising shortly before the elections despite the legal prohibition on the use of public funds for campaigns. According to civil society groups, revenue from government advertising influenced media owners to censor voices that disagreed with the Dominican Liberation Party.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. The law stipulates that at least 40 percent, and no more than 60 percent, of a political party’s nominees should be of a particular gender, but in practice women were underrepresented. Despite the gender balance provision in the law, the July 2020 elections resulted in approximately the same number of elected women as in 2016.

Even with the high profile of women during the July 2020 political contest, including female vice-presidential candidates on every party ticket, more than half of elected women were selected for secondary or substitute positions (such as vice presidency and vice mayor). Men won two-thirds of the direct leadership positions (such as presidency, mayor, and senator). For example, in the municipal elections, 724 of the candidates for mayoral positions were men while only 122 were women. Those numbers were effectively reversed for vice-mayoral positions, where 674 candidates were women and 122 were men.

Ecuador

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 nationwide elections held on February 7, citizens voted the president and vice president, 137 National Assembly members, and five representatives to the Andean Parliament. Creating Opportunities Movement candidate Guillermo Lasso Mendoza defeated UNES opponent Andres Arauz Galarza in an April 11 presidential runoff election. Official results indicated that almost 83 percent of more than 13.1 million registered voters participated in the runoff election. International observers from the Organization of American States, Inter-American Union of Electoral Organisms, and accredited diplomatic missions concluded the electoral process was orderly and peaceful, and they did not note any significant incidents.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. The February 2020 electoral reforms require that women lead no fewer than 15 percent of party candidate lists at all levels in 2021, at least 30 percent in scheduled 2023 local elections, and 50 percent in 2025. The law mandates that all presidential/vice presidential tickets include at least one woman starting in the 2025 national election.

In May the local NGO Participacion Ciudadana reported that despite the 2020 reforms, the percentage of female legislators elected decreased compared with 2017 (39 to 37 percent), with the proportion of female legislators progressively decreasing in every national election since the 2013 high (when 42 percent of all elected legislators were women). Further the report found most parties failed to fully abide by the reform requirement that women lead certain percentages of party candidate lists. The UNES coalition was an exception, as it exceeded the requirement in nearly all instances.

Social media harassment against female politicians and candidates continued, although the harassment generally declined compared with 2020. Participacion Ciudadana found 8,839 derogatory tweets against 28 sampled women in politics and government in a study of tweets posted between December 2019 and August 31. The study indicated violent messages against female politicians peaked in April 2020, as COVID-19 national quarantine measures took hold and women headed prominent ministries and served as government spokespersons most relevant to the lockdown. According to the study, 79 percent of derogatory tweets contained messaging dealing with the objectification of women and perceived roles of women in society.

Egypt

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. Constraints on freedom of expression, association, and assembly, however, limited citizens’ ability to do so.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: There were two rounds of elections in 2020 for the 200 elected seats in the re-established 300-seat upper house, called the Senate, and for the 568 elected seats of the House of Representatives. A progovernment coalition won an overwhelming majority of the Senate’s 200 elected seats; the president appointed the remaining 100 seats. Election observers documented visible judicial supervision, a tight security presence, and COVID-19 precautions in place. Local media noted higher than expected participation by women and youth voters. One political coalition alleged instances of vote rigging and bribery that advantaged an opponent political party during the House of Representatives’ elections. Some opposition parties questioned the youth turnout, especially in poorer areas, and claimed young persons were “bussed in” to vote. No significant acts of violence or disturbances to the election processes were observed.

Domestic and international organizations expressed concern that government limitations on freedoms of speech, association, and assembly severely constrained broad participation in the political process. On July 12, the Public Prosecution referred Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights executive director Hossam Bahgat to court on charges of insulting the National Elections Authority, spreading false rumors alleging electoral fraud, and using social media accounts to commit crimes, based on a tweet Bahgat posted in December 2020 criticizing the 2020 parliamentary elections as marred with widespread abuses. Bahgat was not detained in the case. In November the court found Bahgat guilty of insulting the National Elections Authority and fined him. Bahgat’s lawyers announced they planned to appeal.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The constitution grants citizens the ability to form, register, and operate political parties. The law requires new parties to have a minimum of 5,000 members from each of at least 10 governorates. The constitution also states: “No political activity may be practiced and no political parties may be formed based on religion or discrimination based on gender, origin, or sectarian basis or geographic location. No activity that is hostile to democratic principles, secretive, or of military or quasi-military nature may be practiced. Political parties may not be dissolved except by virtue of a court judgment.”

On November 18, the Court of Cassation rejected the appeals of former presidential candidate and Strong Egypt Party leader Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, Strong Egypt Party deputy Mohamed el-Kassas, lawyer Mohamed Elbakr, activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, and others challenging their placement on the terrorism list for five years. Aboul Fotouh was placed on the terrorism list. On August 31, the State Security Prosecution referred Aboul Fotouh, el-Kassas, and others to criminal trial on charges of leading a terrorist group, financing a terrorist group, possessing weapons and ammunition, promoting the ideas of a terrorist group, and deliberately broadcasting false news, statements, and rumors at home and abroad. Aboul Fotouh and el-Kassas had reportedly been held in solitary confinement in pretrial detention since their 2018 arrests.

The Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of the banned Muslim Brotherhood, and the Islamist Building and Development Party, remained banned. Authorities did not ban other Islamist parties, including the Strong Egypt Party.

On June 19, local media reported that the Supreme Administrative Court refused to hear two lawsuits demanding the cessation of all activities of the Bread and Freedom Party and the Strong Egypt Party on the grounds that the leaders were members of banned groups.

The government does not broadcast or publish parliamentary sessions in the House of Representatives or Senate. On May 26, a local human rights organization filed a lawsuit challenging this as violating the constitution’s provisions on holding parliamentary sessions in public.

In September 2020 the National Election Authority disqualified Mohamed Anwar Sadat, head of the Reform and Development Party, from running in the 2020 House of Representatives elections, citing Sadat’s failure, as a military school graduate, to obtain approval from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to run in the election as required by law for active or retired military personnel before running in presidential, parliamentary, or local council elections. In October 2020 the Administrative Court rejected Sadat’s lawsuit to challenge the decision.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: The law requires that women receive at least 10 percent of Senate seats and 25 percent of House seats. Women held 40 seats in the 300-seat Senate (13 percent) and 148 seats in the 568-seat House of Representatives (26 percent).

No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Social and cultural barriers, however, limited women’s political participation and leadership in most political parties and some government institutions.

Eight women led cabinet ministries, including one Christian woman, and two women served as deputy ministers. There were two Christians (in Ismailia and Damietta Governorates) among the appointed governors of the 27 governorates. In 2018 authorities appointed Manal Awad Michael, a Christian woman, governor of Damietta. On June 2, President Sisi announced that for the first time, women could work at the State Council and the Public Prosecution starting on October 1. On June 14, the Administrative Prosecution Authority appointed two female chief administrative prosecutors (in Menoufia and Qena Governorates), which it stated brought to 24 the number of female chief administrative prosecutors appointed since June 2020. In December 2020 a female academic was appointed as deputy to the president of the Supreme Constitutional Court. In September 2020 the General Assembly of the Cairo Economic Court appointed for the first time a female judge as the head of civil division circuit of an appellate court. In 2018 the Supreme Judiciary Council promoted 16 female judges to higher courts, including the Qena Appeals Court. Legal experts stated there were approximately 66 female judges serving in family, criminal, economic, appeals, and misdemeanor courts; that total was less than 1 percent of judges. Several senior judges were Christian.

El Salvador

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 most recent legislative and municipal elections occurred in February. Nuevas Ideas, the party affiliated with President Bukele, won 56 of 84 seats in the Legislative Assembly and 152 of 262 mayorships. The election reports published by the Organization of American States (OAS) and the EU electoral mission noted the election generally met international standards.

Observers noted that political and economic conditions prior to the elections may have been instrumental in swaying public support towards the Nuevas Ideas party, thus creating an unfair advantage for Nuevas Ideas candidates. Beginning in June 2020, the government withheld funding to the municipalities through the Social Development Fund, citing lack of funds due to the pandemic. Municipalities were not able to pay their employees and their bills and provided only limited services to residents. The lack of funding may have created the impression among voters that the sitting municipal leaders, who all belonged to oppositional political parties, were ineffective. Nuevas Ideas candidates then campaigned to bring about improvements to the political and economic situation within municipalities.

Before the February elections, the government failed to provide campaign finances to all political candidates as required by law, severely limiting the ability of the opposition parties to advertise their candidates. Candidates from the Nuevas Ideas party were not limited by the lack of government campaign financing because they had received campaign funds through private sources. As a result the election advertisements were predominantly from Nuevas Ideas candidates.

Political Parties and Political Participation: While the law prohibits public officials from campaigning in elections, the provision was not consistently enforced.

On May 5, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice ordered the Legislative Assembly to make the necessary regulatory adjustments to provide suffrage to Salvadorans living abroad and allow all citizens to register and run as candidates for the legislative and municipal elections in 2024.

On September 3, the Constitutional Chamber approved a ruling to allow for the immediate re-election of the president despite the express prohibition on re-election by the constitution. The Constitutional Chamber determined that historical interpretations of the constitutional limits on re-election were erroneous and that sitting presidents may run for re-election if they resign the office six months prior to the end of the presidential term. Critics decried the ruling as an attack on democracy and pointed out that the Constitutional Chamber issuing the ruling was composed of five magistrates appointed by the Legislative Assembly on May 1 in a maneuver that was itself controversial.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. The law requires all registered political parties to have at least 30 percent of their candidates for the Legislative Assembly be women. On May 1, El Diario de Hoy reported a low rate of women’s participation in politics, stating that women held 24 of the 84 seats in the Legislative Assembly, two seats fewer than in the previous Legislative Assembly. Women held 30 of the 262 mayoralty offices.

According to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, 328,215 persons with disabilities registered to vote in the February 28 elections. The tribunal launched a campaign to encourage the political participation of persons with disabilities and added accommodations such as braille ballots.

The February 28 election was the first time in the country’s history to include a transgender candidate and an openly gay candidate. Alejandra Menjivar, a transgender woman, ran as a candidate for the Central American Parliament from the FMLN party. Erick Ivan Ortiz, an openly gay man, ran as a candidate for the Legislative Assembly from the Nuestro Tiempo party. Neither candidate won their respective election.

Equatorial Guinea

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 elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage, but the government severely limited this right.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent elections: In 2017 legislative and municipal elections, the PDGE and 14 coalition parties claimed 92 percent of the vote in the country’s closed-list party system. The PDGE and its coalition partners took all 75 Senate seats and 99 of 100 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. CI was the only opposition party to win a seat in the legislature, although the single opposition legislator was imprisoned for several months during 2018 and was never allowed to take his seat. At the local level, the PDGE coalition won all but one of the municipal council seats and all but one mayoral race.

There were irregularities and no transparency in the electoral process. The voter census and registration process took place without independent domestic or international monitoring. The government blocked access to social media, opposition websites, and international channels during the electoral campaigns. Authorities closely monitored and tightly controlled public gatherings. Political parties required government authorization to hold rallies; the PDGE received preferential treatment.

Only government-selected observers participated in the election. They could not communicate for more than a week before the elections because of a shutdown of the internet. The government created an atmosphere of intimidation by deploying military personnel at polling stations.

In 2016 President Obiang claimed 93.7 percent of the vote in presidential elections that were marred by reports of capricious application of election laws, nontransparent political funding, polling station irregularities, voter fraud, intimidation, and violence. Military personnel and PDGE representatives were present at all polling stations. There were instances in which procedures to protect ballot secrecy were not enforced. Photographs of the president remained on public buildings used as polling stations. Electoral officials, led by the head of the electoral commission (the minister of interior, who was also a member of the ruling party), denied some opposition candidates the opportunity to register and applied requirements irregularly.

Contrary to the constitution, which requires that presidential elections be held no more than 45 days before or 60 days after the end of the prior presidential term, the election was held 136 days before the end of the president’s term.

In the months leading up to the presidential election, security forces violently dispersed opposition rallies and arrested demonstrators and opposition leaders. Some opposition political parties chose to boycott the elections in protest.

The government and the PDGE had a near-absolute monopoly of national media, leaving opposition political parties with almost no means to disseminate their message. Despite a “pact” regulating access to media and political financing and supposedly providing free weekly national radio and television spots for opposition parties, the PDGE received hourly radio and television coverage before and during the campaign period while opposition parties received almost none. The PDGE was also able to cover cities throughout the country in campaign posters and gave away smart phones, promotional clothing, and even cars at campaign events.

The National Electoral Commission (NEC) was not independent of the PDGE or government influence. By law the NEC consists of six judges appointed by the head of the Supreme Court, six government representatives and a secretary appointed by the president, and one representative from each registered political party. The president appointed the minister of interior, a PDGE leader, to head the NEC. Election laws regarding the NEC were not enforced.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The PDGE ruled through a complex network of family, clan, and ethnic relationships. Public-sector employees were pressured to join the PDGE and to agree to garnishment of their salaries to fund PDGE activities. The party’s near monopoly on power, funding, and access to national media hampered independent opposition parties Convergence for Social Democracy and CI. Most parties joined the PDGE coalition as part of the “aligned opposition.”

Political parties could receive both private and public funding but were not required to disclose the amount of private funding. In advance of the 2016 presidential elections, only the PDGE received public funding, and the amount was not disclosed.

The government subjected opposition members to arbitrary arrest and harassment before and after the legislative and presidential elections.

Opposition members reported discrimination in hiring, job retention, and obtaining scholarships and business licenses. They also claimed the government pressured foreign companies not to hire opposition members. Businesses that employed citizens with ties to families, individuals, parties, or groups out of favor with the government reportedly were selectively forced to dismiss those employees or face reprisals.

Registered opposition parties faced restrictions on freedom of speech, association, and assembly. For example, supporters who attended opposition political party campaign rallies were singled out for police interrogation and harassment. Some political parties that existed before the law establishing procedures to register political parties remained banned for allegedly “supporting terrorism.” The government formally abolished permit requirements for political party meetings within party buildings but required prior permission for public events, such as meetings in other venues or marches, and frequently denied the permit requests.

Despite laws that authorities stated were designed to facilitate the registration of political parties, the government prevented the registration of opposition parties. The government deregistered the CI in 2018, and it remained suspended, despite the 2018 general political amnesty and the 2018 presidential pardon of its members for sedition and other offenses. Authorities did not allow elected CI officials to take their positions in local and national offices. Attempts by CI officials to reregister or create a new party met with bureaucratic delays that appeared intended to prevent registration. High-level government officials claimed in February the party could reregister if Gabriel Nze Obiang resigned as the party leader.

Authorities removed civil servants for political reasons and without due process. Party affiliation remained a key factor in obtaining government employment.

The president exercised strong powers as head of state, commander of the armed forces, head of the judiciary, and founder and head of the ruling party. The government generally restricted leadership positions in government to select PDGE members or members of a coalition of loyal parties that campaigned and voted with the PDGE.

In October the PDGE concluded a “gira,” or tour of the country, in advance of the 2022 legislative elections. No opposition party conducted a gira, due to a curfew imposed at the end of the PDGE gira and to a lack of funding.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women and members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Patriarchal cultural influences, however, limited women’s political participation, especially in rural areas.

The president, vice president, prime minister, deputy prime minister, all three vice prime ministers, and the president of the chamber of deputies were men; the president of the Senate was a woman. After the 2017 elections, women occupied 21 of 72 Senate seats and 11 of 100 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. In the reshuffled August 2020 cabinet, three of the 25 cabinet ministers were women, and two of the 24 deputy and vice-ministers were women. There was one woman among the eight justices of the Supreme Court.

The government did not overtly limit minority participation in politics, but members of the Fang ethnic group occupied most of the top ranks. Estimated to constitute 80 percent of the population, the Fang group exercised dominant political and economic power. The law prohibits parties that are not national, eliminating opportunities for minority or regionally focused parties, although minorities were represented in most major parties, including the PDGE.

Eritrea

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, but they were not able to exercise this ability.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The government came to power in a 1993 popular referendum, in which voters chose to have an independent country managed by a transitional government. The transitional government did not permit the formation of a democratic system. The government twice scheduled elections but canceled them without explanation. An official declaration in 2003 asserted, “In accordance with the prevailing wish of the people, it is not the time to establish political parties, and discussion of the establishment has been postponed.” In November local communities in the Central and Southern Red Sea regions elected neighborhood and village administrators. Unlike 2019 regional elections, these were conducted by secret ballot and all residents older than 18 could vote.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The country is a one-party state. Political power rests with the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice and its institutions; the government does not allow the formation of any other political parties. Membership in the People’s Front was not mandatory, but authorities pressured some categories of individuals, particularly those occupying government positions, to join the party. Authorities reportedly visited citizens in their homes after they completed national service and compelled them to join the party and pay the required fees. Authorities occasionally convoked citizens to attend political indoctrination meetings as part of mandatory participation in the militia irrespective of People’s Front membership. Authorities denied benefits such as ration coupons to those who did not attend. Some citizens in the diaspora claimed such meetings also occurred at embassies abroad, with the names of those who did not attend reported to government officials, sometimes resulting in denial of benefits such as passport services.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women or members of historically marginalized or minority ethnic groups in the political process. Openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons risk imprisonment (see section 6), and thus do not openly participate in the political process.

Estonia

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: Parliamentary elections in 2019 were considered free and fair and led to the formation of a three-party coalition government comprising the Center Party, the Estonian Conservative People’s Party, and the Pro Patria party. The coalition led by Prime Minister Juri Ratas (Center Party) collapsed due to a corruption scandal involving Center Party members’ misuse of state loans intended for coronavirus pandemic relief. On January 26, Kaja Kallas’s Reform Party took office in coalition with the Center Party.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. The law allows only citizens to organize or join political parties.

Noncitizens who are long-term residents may vote in local elections but cannot vote in national elections or hold public office.

Eswatini

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

Political rights were restricted, although citizens could choose 59 of the 69 members of the House of Assembly in procedurally credible, periodic elections held by secret ballot.

Legislation passed by parliament requires the king’s consent to become law. Under the constitution the king selects the prime minister, the cabinet, two-thirds of the Senate, 10 of 69 members of the House of Assembly, the chief justice and other justices of the superior courts, members of commissions established by the constitution, and the heads of government offices. On the advice of the prime minister, the king appoints the cabinet from among members of parliament.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: International observers described the 2018 parliamentary elections as credible, peaceful, and well managed. The country organized nominations for members of parliament by local constituencies, or tinkhundla. Traditional chiefs convened nominating meetings for candidates to parliament and other offices and in a few cases confirmed whether nominees were members of the chiefdom. Candidates for each chiefdom were then chosen in a primary election conducted by secret ballot. Although some chiefs may have exercised influence through lobbying, there was little evidence their influence was widespread or decisive in the formation of electoral lists.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The constitution provides for freedom of association but does not address how political parties may operate, and there was no legal mechanism for them to contest elections or appear on a ballot. The constitution also requires that candidates for public office compete on their individual merit, which courts have interpreted as blocking competition based on political party affiliation.

Participation in the traditional sphere of governance and politics takes place predominantly through chiefdoms. Chiefs are custodians of traditional law and custom, report directly to the king, and are responsible for the day-to-day running of their chiefdoms and maintenance of law and order. Although local custom mandates that chieftaincy is hereditary, the constitution, while recognizing that chieftaincy is “usually hereditary and is regulated by Swati law and custom,” also allows the king to “appoint any person to be chief over any area.” As a result, many chieftaincies were nonhereditary appointments, a fact that provoked land disputes, especially at the time of the death and burial of chiefs.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women and members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. The constitution provides for five of the king’s 10 appointed seats in the House of Assembly to be held by women and for the appointed members to represent “interests, including marginalized groups not already adequately represented in the House.” The king appointed only three women to the House of Assembly following the 2018 elections, in which only two women were elected. If, after an election, women constitute less than 30 percent of the total membership of parliament, the constitution and law require the House to elect four additional women, one from each region. The House complied with this requirement.

The king appoints 20 members of the 30-seat Senate, and the House of Assembly elects the other 10. The constitution requires that eight of the 20 members appointed by the king be women and that five of the 10 members elected by the House be women. The House of Assembly complied by electing five women to the Senate, but the king appointed only seven women.

Widows in mourning (for periods that may extend up to two years) were prevented from appearing in certain public places or being in proximity to the king or a chief’s official residence. Widows were sometimes excluded from running for office or taking active public roles in their communities during those periods.

There were very few ethnic minorities in the country, and they were represented in government at a commensurate ratio.

Ethiopia

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 country’s sixth general election took place on June 21, despite pressure from the international community to postpone the election because of continuing insecurity and withdrawal of international observers. In May the EU withdrew its Electoral Observation Mission citing a “lack of agreement on key parameters.” The EU accused authorities of not giving assurances on the independence of the mission and refusing to let them import communication systems for their security. The National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) responded by saying they were trying to hold the elections in accordance with domestic laws and international standards.

Domestic and international nonpartisan observers generally agreed that the June 21 elections were peaceful. While observers considered the elections a positive step in the country’s democratic trajectory, they also cited challenges, including security problems and large turnouts that overwhelmed polling stations across the country. Observers also noted that the elections took place against a backdrop of grave instability, including interethnic and intercommunal violence, and an electoral process that was not free or fair for all citizens. While some major opposition parties boycotted the elections, observers assessed the result generally reflected the will of most citizens. According to NEBE, 30 of the 47 parties that participated in the elections filed complaints regarding the election, covering 160 constituencies.

On July 10, NEBE announced the results for 423 of the 547 (77 percent) of the House of Peoples’ Representatives (HOPR) constituencies. On September 30, the board held a second round of elections for an additional 47 constituencies (constituting 9 percent of the electorate) in Somali, Harari, and the Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples’ Regions. Of these, NEBE held reruns of 11 constituencies where elections were held on June 21, but neither the board nor the courts identified irregularities requiring a rerun. Authorities postponed elections in an additional 74 constituencies (approximately 14 percent), which require elections in the future, including 35 constituencies spread across several regions and the 38 constituencies in the Tigray Region, which represent 7 percent of the HOPR seats.

Prime Minister Abiy’s Prosperity Party dominated, winning 96 percent of the seats. On October 4, the country began the process of forming a government during joint sessions of the HOPR and the House of Federation – the lower and upper chambers of parliament, respectively. The HOPR accepted the nomination by the majority Prosperity Party of Abiy Ahmed to serve as prime minister.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Registered political parties must receive permission from regional governments to open and occupy local offices. The law requires parties to report “public meetings” and obtain permission for public rallies.

In March the government issued Proclamation 1235/2021, A Proclamation to Amend the Political Parties Registration and Electoral Code of Conduct. This law reduced the 5,000 signatures private candidates were required to collect to 2,500. The signature requirement for candidates with disabilities was also reduced from 3,000 to 1,500. Collection of signatures was not required during the year as part of the government’s efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

The government allowed opposition parties to participate in debates, hold rallies, and campaign actively, although there were serious allegations of government abuses. In June prior to the election date, several political parties issued a joint statement concerning the electoral process. The political parties alleged government abuses against their candidates, including killings, attempted killings, beatings, arbitrary detention, and harassment. Some government organizations reportedly forced candidates to accept leave without pay on a mandatory basis. Opposition parties complained that measures the government took against their candidates negatively affected their preparations for the election.

In March two major political parties in Oromia boycotted the election. The Oromo Liberation Front – one of the country’s oldest parties with a major following in Oromia – pulled out, citing the jailing of some of its leaders and the alleged closure of its offices by the government, including its headquarters in the capital. In the same month, the Oromo Federalist Congress announced that it was forced to pull out of the election on similar grounds.

More opposition parties withdrew from the second round of the elections scheduled for September 30. On September 17, the Executive Committee of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) – the major opposition group in Somali Region – announced its decision to “withdraw from the 2021 election.” ONLF’s statement on the election accused NEBE of failing to ensure conditions for a free and fair election despite the party’s “repeated appeals” on the ruling party’s fraud in voter and candidate registration. On September 21, the Freedom and Equality Party and the Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice (EZEMA) also announced their withdrawal from the elections.

Although some reports characterized the election process as not conducive for opposition parties, opposition parties won 11 seats in the HOPR. The National Movement of Amhara (NAMA) won five seats in Amhara, while EZEMA and the Gedeo People’s Democratic Organization won four and two seats, respectively, in Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region. In Oromia two independent candidates with no clear ties to the government won seats. The other two winning independent candidates – one in Oromia and one in Addis Ababa – were known advisors to the prime minister. While opposition parties garnered more seats than before, they did not win the 21 seats needed to introduce legislation or amendments or to raise topics for discussion within the HOPR.

The government invited opposition parties to work together and participate in the government. In October the government appointed EZEMA Executive Committee member Girma Seifu as head of the Investment Commission and the deputy chairman of NAMA as head of the Addis Ababa Public Property Administration Authority, although they were not elected. During its first extraordinary session on October 6, the HOPR approved the appointment of a 22-member cabinet including three opposition leaders: EZEMA Leader Berhanu Nega as minister of education, NAMA Chair Belete Molla as minister of innovation and technology, and Oromo Liberation Front deputy chair Qajela Merdassa as minister of culture and sports.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws prevent women or members of minority groups from voting or participating in political life, although patriarchal customs, religious factors, and family commitments limited female participation in political life in some cases. Since same-sex activity is illegal, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons did not identify themselves in political activity, and it was thus difficult to determine their participation. During election periods women experienced more psychological abuse and violence than physical violence in comparison to men. Women were also more likely to experience sexual harassment within political party structures or when running for office. Although many women went to the polls, the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association (EWLA) reported that the environment at polling stations was not conducive for women. EWLA criticized NEBE for not taking a more gender-sensitive approach to election day administration. EWLA stated that the extension of voting time until 9:00 p.m. had a disproportionately negative impact on women voters, observers, and officials because women faced a higher risk of sexual harassment and gender-based violence at night. EWLA also explained that the long lines left women voters at higher risk of experiencing sexual harassment and recommended separate lines for men and women. In June the Federation of Ethiopia Associations of Persons with Disabilities (FEAPD) deployed its representatives to observe the election. In its preliminary report, FEAPD noted accessibility for persons with disabilities was hindered, and that persons with disabilities required additional assistance to access 22 percent of the polling stations visited by observers. FEAPD also noted that of the approximately 200 polling stations they observed, only one government official in one polling station was a person with a disability. In 11 percent of polling stations, political parties fielded persons with disabilities as partisan observers. Local human rights organizations also reported that millions of IDPs could not participate in the election because NEBE did not establish polling places in displacement camps.

Although there were increases in women’s representation, women remained significantly underrepresented across both elected and appointed positions. On October 6, the HOPR appointed only seven women ministers to the 22-member cabinet – a decrease from approximately 42 percent of the ministers previously to 30 percent.

The government’s policy of ethnic federalism led to the creation of individual constituencies to provide representation for all major ethnic groups in the House of the Federation (the upper chamber of parliament). The government recognized more than 80 ethnicities, and the constitution states that at least one member represent each “Nation, Nationality, and People” in the House of the Federation.

Fiji

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

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

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In 2018 voters elected 51 members of parliament. The governing Fiji First party won 27 seats, and Josaia Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama was sworn in as prime minister for a second four-year term. In presenting its conclusions, the Australian- and Indonesian-led Multinational Observer Group stated: “Conditions supported Fijians exercising their right to vote freely. The 2018 process was transparent and credible overall, and the outcome broadly represented the will of Fijian voters.”

Political Parties and Political Participation: The constitution provides for the right to form and join political parties, to campaign for political parties or a cause, to register as a voter, to vote by secret ballot in elections or referendums, to run for public office, and to hold that office. The government may prescribe eligibility requirements for voters, candidates, political party officials, and holders of public office. Civil service members and trade union officials are required to resign their offices if they seek to run for political office. The law allows deregistration of political parties for any election offense.

The POA requires permits for political meetings in both public and private venues, and these were granted in an open, nonpartisan way.

The electoral law restricts any person, entity, or organization involved in an election campaign from receiving funding from foreign governments, government-recognized intergovernmental organizations, or NGOs, and it forbids multilateral agencies such as the World Bank from conducting or participating in any campaign, including meetings, debates, panel discussions, interviews, publication of materials, or any public forum discussing the elections. Maximum penalties for violations of the law include 10 years’ imprisonment, a substantial fine, or both. The law allows universities to hold panel discussions and organize inclusive public forums.

On June 7, Parliament approved three amendments to reform electoral laws. The amendments grant wider discretionary powers over the electoral process to the supervisor of elections to monitor and order the removal of campaign content published by political parties that is deemed to be false, misleading, or designed to diminish public confidence in the office of the supervisor and the Electoral Commission. The office of the supervisor may direct a political party or person (including an internet service provider) to remove or correct any statement or information published during the elections, under penalty of a substantial fine, imprisonment of up to five years, or both.

Any appeals against a decision of the Registrar of Political Parties (whose role was consolidated with that of the Office of the Supervisor of Elections) are routed to the Electoral Commission instead of the high court. Critics maintained that the high court should remain the only judicial mechanism for redress, as is the case for every other constitutional independent institution in the country. Public officials previously prohibited from participating in political campaigns (such as permanent secretaries or senior military officers) can make political statements and, according to the amended law, can “conduct campaign activities” by providing information or security services. Critics alleged that the change was designed to permit use of state apparatus and resources to campaign on behalf of the ruling Fiji First Party, while other public officers, including trade unionists, remained barred from membership in a political party.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No law limits participation of women specifically or of members of historically marginalized or minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Legislation passed in late September may, however, affect the voter registration status of thousands of married women and some other persons. The new legislation, designed to address an anomaly in the previous law, requires all persons registering to vote (or seeking other official identification documents) to use their birth certificate name. While some political leaders claimed the law applies only to new registrants, others argued it would require married women to reregister and that the process could prevent them from voting in the next elections.

Cultural attitudes about gender roles restricted political participation by most indigenous women. Despite holding six of 13 cabinet minister positions and six of 10 assistant minister positions, Indo-Fijians, who accounted for 36 percent of the population, were generally underrepresented in government and the military.

Finland

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 country’s national parliamentary election in 2019 and the presidential election in 2018 were considered free and fair. After an inspection revealed that procedures at a drive-in polling station had deviated from guidelines to ensure election secrecy, the parliamentary ombudsman asked the city of Espoo for a statement on ensuring election secrecy in exceptional voting arrangements.

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

France

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: Observers considered the 2017 presidential and separate parliamentary (National Assembly) elections to have been free and fair.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No law limits participation of women or minority groups in the political process, and they did participate.

Gabon

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; however, international monitors of the 2016 presidential election observed anomalies. The governing party has dominated all levels of government for five decades.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In early 2018 the Constitutional Court dissolved the National Assembly. The Senate assumed National Assembly responsibilities, and a caretaker government was installed. In late 2018 legislative elections were held. Both rounds of legislative elections were calm, with a voter turnout of 43 percent in the first round. The PDG won 100 of 143 National Assembly seats. Opposition leaders alleged irregularities such as ballot stuffing, vote buying, polling stations opening without the presence of opposition representatives, and unfair treatment of the opposition by the Gabonese Elections Center. Domestic and international organizations were not authorized to observe the elections. A limited African Union observer mission did not comment on whether the elections were free and fair but noted some irregularities. President Ali Bongo Ondimba was declared the winner of the 2016 presidential election. Observers noted numerous irregularities. These included a questionable vote count, several days after other provinces announced their results, in Bongo Ondimba’s home province, where participation was allegedly more than 99 percent, even though nationwide participation was 54 percent.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The PDG has dominated the government since creation of the party by former president Omar Bongo in 1968. PDG membership conferred advantages in obtaining government positions. Opposition party members complained of unfair drawing of voter districts, alleging the president’s home province received disproportionately more parliamentary seats than other provinces. They also stated the PDG had greater access to government resources for campaign purposes than did other parties.

Unlike in prior years, there were no reports of restrictions on the formation of political parties.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women and members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate. Women were in several prominent positions in the government, including the prime minister and the presidents of the Senate and the Constitutional Court. As of December women held 11 of 34 ministerial positions, but women held only 23 of 143 National Assembly seats and 19 of 102 Senate seats. Cultural and traditional factors, as well as social stigma, prevented women and historically marginalized groups such as persons with disabilities and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons from participating equally in political life. In July the Ministry of Social Affairs and Women’s Rights initiated a mentoring program to encourage women to enter politics as part of the “strategy for promoting women’s rights and reducing gender equalities in Gabon.”

Although members of all major ethnic groups occupied prominent government civilian and security force positions, members of indigenous populations rarely participated in the political process (see section 6, Indigenous Peoples).

Gambia

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: President Adama Barrow won reelection in December with 53 percent of the vote. International and domestic observers agreed the process was peaceful, free, fair, and conducted without intimidation, although with widespread but minor administrative problems. Some voters waited up to four hours at busier polling stations; 89 percent of registered voters participated.

Before the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) released the final results on December 5, Ousainou Darboe, Independent candidate Essa Faal, National Unity Party candidate Abdoulie Jammeh, and Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC) candidate Mama Kandeh released a joint statement calling in question the results, citing a delay in announcing the results. Following the IEC’s announcement Barrow had won, Fall and Jammeh conceded. Kandeh, who had aligned himself with former president Yahya Jammeh, and Darboe did not concede.

On December 14, the UDP filed a complaint in the Supreme Court seeking nullification of the election, arguing that election officials improperly registered noncitizens, that voters presented falsified registration cards, and that President Barrow improperly influenced voters by promising compensation to village chiefs and by launching infrastructure projects in the weeks prior to the election. The Supreme Court dismissed the case on procedural grounds.

The country held legislative elections in 2017 that were described by domestic and international observers as mostly free and fair. GDC leader Mama Kandeh rejected the results, claiming to have evidence that would expose the unfairness of the entire process. Kandeh, however, did not provide any evidence to substantiate his claim.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Data showed more women than men registered to vote in the presidential election. While there were more voting age women than men, there was also a strong spirit of electoral participation among women. Despite this, cultural constraints limited women’s participation in the political process. Men greatly outnumbered women in the cabinet. Only five women held seats in the 58-member National Assembly.

Georgia

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. In 2018 a new constitution went into effect that eliminated direct election of the president and established a fully proportional electoral system for the 2024 parliamentary elections, among other provisions.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The country held parliamentary elections in October 2020 and second-round runoff elections in 17 of 30 electoral districts in November 2020. The OSCE deployed a limited number of observers for the October elections due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In its March 5 final report, the OSCE’s Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) assessed the October 2020 elections were competitive and, overall, fundamental freedoms were respected, but it stated “pervasive allegations of pressure on voters and blurring of the line between the ruling party and the state” reduced public confidence in some aspects of the process. ODIHR particularly highlighted concerns regarding ruling-party dominance in election commissions. Other problems included widespread reports of intimidation of party supporters and public-sector employees. ODIHR also reported continuing shortcomings in the complaints and appeals process, concluding that “the systemic rejection of the majority of complaints on formalistic grounds, significantly limited the opportunity to seek effective legal remedy.”

Domestic civil society organizations deployed approximately 3,000 election observers across the country. They alleged misuse of administrative resources by the ruling party, voter intimidation, vote buying, violations of ballot secrecy, obstruction of journalists and domestic election observers, and inaccurate and altered vote tabulation at the precinct and district level. Domestic organizations submitted hundreds of electoral complaints and were highly critical of the Central Election Commission’s management of the elections. In November 2020, 26 domestic NGOs issued a statement describing the conduct of the October 31 elections as the worst held under Georgian Dream. In addition, opposition parties alleged the number of missing ballots in certain precincts indicated there was widespread “carousel voting.” Leading domestic nonpartisan election monitors reported most postelection complaints were rejected by the election administration and courts, undermining public confidence in the electoral process and the outcome of the election.

As a result of the alleged violations leading up to and on election day, opposition parties boycotted the runoff elections on November 21 and refused to take their seats in parliament. In December 2020 the new parliament was sworn in, but only the ruling Georgian Dream members of parliament took their seats (Georgian Dream won 90 of 150 seats). The OSCE did not observe the November 2020 runoff elections, and most domestic observer groups significantly scaled back their observation efforts or did not observe because of the boycott. Nevertheless, domestic election monitoring organizations raised concerns regarding electoral violations on election day.

The country held local government elections on October 2, 2021, and second-round runoff elections in five cities, including Tbilisi and 15 municipalities, and for 42 majoritarian seats in 24 local councils on October 30. The OSCE deployed an international election observation mission for both election rounds.

In its preliminary statement on the first-round of local elections, the OSCE mission stated, “Contestants were able to campaign freely in a competitive environment that was, however, marred by widespread and consistent allegations of intimidation, vote-buying, pressure on candidates and voters, and an unlevel playing field.” The OSCE preliminary statement also expressed concern regarding “cases of intimidation and violence against journalists” (see section 2.a.) and noted that “significant imbalance in resources, insufficient oversight of campaign finances and an undue advantage of incumbency further benefited the ruling party…The pervasive misuse of citizen observers as party representatives, at times interfering with the process, and groups of individuals potentially influencing voters outside some polling stations were of concern.”

Domestic civil society organizations deployed more than 1,000 election observers across the country for the first-round of local elections. The organizations identified violations of the secrecy of the ballot, tracking of voters by unauthorized persons, voting with improper voter identification documents, persons attempting to vote multiple times, and voters who were permitted to cast a ballot without checking for indelible ink. In its report on the October 2 elections, the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) noted that “the environment outside of some polling stations was problematic, where cases of voter mobilization, tracking/noting of voters and alleged vote buying were observed.” In a report issued prior to election day, Transparency International/Georgia highlighted significant campaign finance imbalances, noting that the ruling Georgian Dream party accounted for 70 percent of all electoral subjects’ revenues and expenditures during the pre-election period.

The OSCE preliminary report on the October 30 second-round elections found that “candidates were generally able to campaign freely, but allegations of intimidation and pressure on voters persisted. Sharp imbalances in resources, and an undue advantage of incumbency further benefited the ruling party and tilted the playing field. The transparency and accountability of campaign finance were reduced by insufficient oversight.” The law continued to lack “clear and objective criteria” for granting and conducting recounts and voting annulments. This lack of clarity provided district election commissions and courts “broad discretionary powers” in responding to such requests. At the same time, concerns persisted regarding the impartiality of lower-level election commissions. The tone toward the ruling party by the country’s public broadcaster became more positive as election day approached (see section 2.a.). ISFED’s report on the October 30 second-round elections suggested that “the instances of gatherings of persons outside of polling stations, alleged vote buying, voter mobilization and tracking of voters, negatively reflected on the expression of the free will of voters; in municipalities where the difference was minimal, this could have had an influence on the election results.” Likewise, Transparency International/Georgia found that because “the elections in many precincts were concluded with a rather narrow margin, the violations and problematic tendencies, encountered both in the pre-election period and on election day, might have had a serious impact on the ability of voters to exercise their free choice, as well as on the final results of the elections. Therefore, the public could have legitimate questions with regards to the overall fairness of the elections.”

Political Parties and Political Participation: Credible reports of political violence continued. Intimidation, pressure against voters and candidates, and abuse of administrative resources, further blurring the lines between the government and ruling party, persisted throughout the first and second rounds of the October municipal elections. Many interlocutors continued to report intimidation and pressure on voters, including threats of dismissals and of promises of employment and payments. This was particularly aimed at those reliant on the state for wages or social support, allegedly using the extensive system of ruling-party coordinators and involving law enforcement bodies. On September 21, opposition mayoral candidate Giorgi Tatuashvili was stabbed in the face at a political rally in Dmanisi. The assailants were reportedly the son and father, respectively, of two Georgian Dream candidates for city council. On September 25, the empty vehicle of a For Georgia party mayoral candidate in Tsageri was hit by gunshots the day after a public meeting between the candidate and the For Georgia party chairman, former prime minister Giorgi Gakharia.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women and members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. The law provides for a gender quota for candidates for seats in parliament and on city councils. The law aims to increase the number of women in the electoral process by 2024 and requires that every third candidate on a party list be a woman by 2028. In June parliament voted to soften the gender quota for the October municipal elections, which reduced the number of female candidates required for inclusion on proportional candidate lists. In its preliminary statement following its observation of the October 2 local government elections, the OSCE stated that “the underrepresentation of women in the campaign demonstrates a need for greater commitment to ensure adequate representation in politics.” Although awareness of inclusion issues was growing, the acceptance of women and minority communities including youth, persons with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQI+ community and ethnic minority groups remained incomplete within political parties. The ability of the LGBTQI+ community to exercise an active voice during the elections was suppressed by the July 5 attacks (see section 2.b., Freedom of Assembly). Political parties rarely engaged with ethnic minorities except during election cycles, and few political parties made their party programs available online in minority languages.

De facto authorities in Abkhazia stripped ethnic Georgians of their Abkhaz “citizenship” in 2014, preventing them from participating in de facto elections. Ethnic Georgians willing to apply for de facto Abkhaz passports generally did not receive them in time to participate in de facto elections due to extensive delays. Ethnic Georgians in South Ossetia were also required to accept a South Ossetian “passport” and “citizenship” to participate in political life. International actors, including the OSCE Group of Friends of Georgia, did not recognize the legitimacy of the de facto elections.

Germany

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 Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and 45 parliamentarians from 25 countries observed the country’s federal elections September 26 and considered them well run, free, and fair.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Political parties generally operated without restriction or outside interference unless authorities deemed them a threat to the federal constitution. When federal authorities perceive such a threat, they may petition the Federal Constitutional Court to ban the party.

Under the law each political party receives federal public funding commensurate with the party’s election results in state, national, and European elections. Under the constitution, however, extremist parties who seek to undermine the constitution are not eligible for public funding. In 2019 the Bundesrat, Bundestag, and federal government filed a joint claim with the Federal Constitutional Court to exclude the right-wing extremist NPD from receiving state party financing, arguing that the NPD seeks to undermine the democratic order in the country. The case was pending as of December.

In NRW threats against local politicians increased dramatically. In 2020, 160 criminal offenses against local politicians were recorded in NRW, compared with 25 in 2019 and 43 and 44 in 2018 and 2017, respectively. According to the NRW Interior Ministry, these incidents were predominantly insults or defamation, but not physical assaults.

On May 3, in the widely reported “NSU 2.0” case, Hesse State Criminal Police arrested the local national Alexander M., age 53, on suspicion of sending dozens of threatening letters to prominent parliamentarians, women, and members of minority groups campaigning against extremism. According to prosecutors, the suspect had a criminal record, including “right-wing motivated offenses.” It remained unclear how Alexander M. obtained confidential personal information from police and government records used in the letters. Investigations by Frankfurt prosecutors continued as of October.

In July 2020 the Bavarian Ministries of Justice and the Interior joined forces to establish a comprehensive plan to protect local communal politicians from hate speech, appointing the country’s first Hate Speech Commissioner and contact persons in all 22 Bavarian prosecutors’ offices. In February the Bavarian Minister of Justice announced that, as a result, 1,648 investigations had been launched in 2020, with 102 convictions. During the year many investigations remained ongoing.

On July 30, the Munich Higher Regional Court convicted and sentenced Susanne G., a right-wing extremist alternative healer, to six years in prison for making threats, planning violent attacks, and other offenses. The extremist had components for a bomb in her possession when she was arrested in September 2020 and had targeted a mayor, a county official, a Turkish-Islamic community association, and a refugee aid organization.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women and members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Transgender persons complained that the time-consuming and costly nature of the country’s laws on gender changes limited their ability to participate in the political system (see section 6, Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity). They also pointed out that this requirement limited the ability of transgender persons to be elected to public office, because only legal names may be used in official election records and on ballots. Persons with disabilities also faced some restrictions, although these were being reduced (see section 6, Persons with Disabilities). Within the Federal Cabinet, eight of 15 ministers are women, including the ministers of foreign affairs, defense, and interior. In the parliament approximately 35 percent of the members are women.

On February 16, unknown suspects defaced an election poster of SPD candidate Aisha Fahir with a swastika in Karlsbad, Baden-Wuerttemberg. The police political crime unit took over the investigation, but the case remained unsolved.

In March, Tareq Alaows, the Greens candidate for the Bundestag in Dinslaken, NRW, ended his campaign, blaming online threats and racism. Alaows came to the country from Syria as a refugee.

Ghana

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: Domestic and international observers assessed the December 2020 presidential and parliamentary elections to be transparent, inclusive, credible, and reflecting the will of the people. Some observers noted concerns regarding the misuse of incumbency, the lack of enforcement of regulations on campaign financing, and unequal access to state-owned media during the campaign. Authorities, media, and observers reported at least two killings by security forces, at least two deaths from civilian violence, as many as eight deaths in total, and several injuries in the Greater Accra, Bono East, and Northern Regions (see section 1.a.).

In separate lawsuits in August, six residents of the Techiman South constituency who suffered injuries, and a father whose son died, sued the Inspector General of Police and the Attorney General, demanding $2.5 million dollars as compensation for security force violence during the 2020 elections. The six residents claimed they suffered physical injuries including gunshot wounds while they monitored the vote tabulation at the Techiman collation center. The suits also demanded an official investigation into security force killings and support for affected families. In March, two members of parliament from the NDC petitioned the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) to investigate election-related deaths caused by members of the NESTF, police, and the Ghana Armed Forces teams that provided security for the elections.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate, although not in the same numbers as men. Three women ran for president, and there was one female vice-presidential candidate from one of the two largest parties, the NDC. Women held fewer leadership positions than men, and women in political campaigns and in elected office faced sexism, harassment, and threats of violence. Cultural and traditional factors limited women’s participation in political life. Research organizations found that insults, concerns regarding physical safety, and overall negative societal attitudes toward female politicians hindered women from entering politics. Of the 275 members of the legislature, 40 were women, 20 each from the NDC and the ruling New Patriotic Party.

Greece

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: In 2019 the country held parliamentary elections that observers considered free and fair. As a result of the elections, the New Democracy Party gained a majority of the parliamentary seats and party leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis became the country’s prime minister, succeeding a coalition of SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) and ANEL (independent Greeks) parties, headed by then prime minister Alexis Tsipras.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No law limits participation of women or members of historically marginalized or minority groups from participating in political life on the same basis as men or nonminority citizens, and they did participate. In the government cabinet, 10 of 57 (approximately 18 percent) ministers and deputy ministers were women. Legislation passed in 2019 requires a minimum of 40 percent distribution of male and female candidates in local, regional, national, and European Parliament elections. During the year women held 22 percent of elected seats in the national legislature.

Grenada

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 the most recent general elections, held in 2018, the New National Party won all 15 seats in the House of Representatives, defeating the largest opposing party, the National Democratic Congress. The Organization of American States observer mission deemed the elections generally free and fair. There were no reports of abuses or irregularities.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No law limits participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate.

Guatemala

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 nearly universal and equal suffrage for those ages 18 and older. Members of the armed forces, police, and incarcerated individuals are not eligible to vote.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The Organization of American States and other international observers found some irregularities in the electoral process for the last national elections in 2019, but none was significant enough to discredit the legitimacy and validity of the elections. President Alejandro Giammattei and the elected congressional deputies took office in January 2020 without disturbance. The Public Ministry continued to investigate allegations of illicit campaign financing in the 2015 elections, including a case against Sandra Torres and the National Unity of Hope Party. A substitute judge in High-Risk Court A granted Sandra Torres house arrest during her pretrial detention; on August 30, a three-judge appellate panel granted her permission to participate in political activities with her party while under house arrest.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did, to an extent, participate. Traditional and cultural practices, discrimination, institutional bias, and difficulty traveling to polling places in rural areas, however, limited participation of women and members of indigenous groups. There were two women serving in the 13-member cabinet, 31 in the 160-member congress, and nine among the 340 municipal mayors. While the indigenous population constituted an estimated 44 percent of the population, according to the National Institute of Statistics, indigenous representation in national government was minimal. There was one indigenous member on the Constitutional Court and one on the Supreme Court. There were approximately 16 indigenous members of congress, of whom four were women. Indigenous individuals composed approximately one-fourth (90 of 340) of the mayoral seats elected in 2019.

Guinea

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

Prior to September 5, the constitution and law provided citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage, but both the Conde government and CNRD transition authorities abridged this right. The Transitional Charter calls for free and fair local and national elections after the creation of the National Transition Council to determine the elections timeline and draft the constitution. As of December the council had not been formed. On September 5, Colonel Mamadi Doumbouya and military special forces arrested President Alpha Conde and seized power through a coup d’etat.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Following the October 2020 presidential election, and an unsuccessful legal challenge from opposition presidential candidate Cellou Dalein Diallo, in November 2020 the Constitutional Court certified that President Conde won re-election with 59.5 percent of the vote. Diallo claimed victory and called on his supporters to protest the election results. Government security forces violently dispersed protesters and surrounded Diallo’s home.

Although election day proceeded relatively smoothly, international and domestic observers raised concerns regarding unresolved voter roll problems, widespread pre- and postelection violence, restrictions on freedom of assembly, the lack of transparency in vote tabulation, insecure ballot transportation, and inconsistencies between the announced results and tally sheet results from polling stations.

The number of persons injured and killed during the pre- and postelection violence was widely disputed between the government and opposition groups. Government officials claimed at least 50 persons were killed, while the opposition published a list of 46 killed and estimated at least 200 persons were injured during the violence. Amnesty International reported 400 arbitrary arrests targeting opponents and members of civil society after the presidential election.

Political Parties and Political Participation: There were no official restrictions on political party formation beyond registration requirements. Parties may not represent a single region or ethnicity. The Conde government in some cases delayed opposition party registration. As of September 5, the government continued to deny accreditation to Bloc for Change in Guinea, despite a ruling by the ECOWAS Court of Justice, and to the Liberal Democratic Movement, despite an injunction by the Supreme Court in January to accredit the party. The government was accused of conditioning both parties’ accreditation on their commitment not to oppose the government or join the political opposition.

In October 2020 the government closed the Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea’s main political party office in Conakry on the grounds of COVID-19 public health measures and national security, preventing the party from using the space for meetings and assemblies. The party appealed to the courts to reopen their office, but their appeals were rejected. The CNRD reopened the premises on September 6.

Guinea-Bissau

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 first round of the presidential election took place in November 2019. The top two finishers from the first round, Domingos Simoes Pereira and Umaro Sissoco Embalo, met in a runoff election in December 2019. The National Election Commission declared Sissoco the winner. International observers characterized the election as free, fair, and transparent. The opposition African Party for the Independence of Guinea Cape Verde appealed, disputing the fairness and accuracy of the results. An institutional stalemate ensued, as the Supreme Court of Justice did not ratify the electoral results despite the National Election Commission declaring Sissoco the winner. Sissoco assumed the presidency in February 2020 after an unofficial inauguration and transfer of power from the previous president, Jose Mario Vaz. In support of Sissoco, the military temporarily occupied several government institutions, the Supreme Court of Justice, and the national broadcast media. In April 2020, ECOWAS recognized Sissoco as the winner of the 2019 presidential elections. In September 2020 the Supreme Court of Justice dismissed the opposition’s appeal disputing the election results. The dismissal ended an eight-month judicial process in which the opposition party’s legal challenges bounced between the Supreme Court of Justice and the National Elections Committee.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Some observers believed views about traditional gender roles in some parts of the country, particularly in rural areas, may have limited the political participation of women compared with men.

During 2019 legislative elections, no political party complied with the 2018 gender-parity law, which requires 36 percent of candidates be women. There were 14 women in the 102-member National Assembly, just as there were in the prior legislature. As of December the country’s 32-member cabinet included seven women, including three ministers and four state secretaries.

Guyana

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 also take place within indigenous communities, where members elect indigenous leaders every 33 to 36 months.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: National and regional elections were held on March 2, 2020, triggered by a no-confidence vote in December 2018 against the ruling A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) coalition government and following several rounds of litigation initiated by both APNU+AFC and the then opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C). Claims of electoral fraud and the APNU+AFC coalition’s refusal to accept its loss of the elections led to a national recount and litigation in the Caribbean Court of Justice, the country’s court of final instance. The PPP/C won by a margin of 15,000 votes, and Mohamed Irfaan Ali of the PPP/C was installed as president on August 2, 2020. The general elections resulted in the return of the PPP/C to government after a five-year hiatus from a previous 23-year administration. International observers concluded the March 2020 national and regional elections were free and fair.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. The law requires that one-third of each list of candidates be women; parties standing for the 2020 elections adhered to the law and the Guyana Elections Commission enforced this requirement.

Haiti

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. Due to a long-running political impasse, however, national elections scheduled for 2019 and 2021 were delayed. Parliament was unable to function, with the upper house containing only 10 senators – too few to constitute a quorum – and the lower house left empty. A new president was originally scheduled to take office in February 2022; however, as of December it was unclear when this would occur. Ariel Henry, whom President Moise designated as prime minister three days before the president’s assassination, served as head of government.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Legislative, municipal, and presidential elections were last held in 2016. While there were isolated allegations of voter fraud, the elections were generally regarded as credible by international and domestic observers. Although voter turnout was low, citizens generally accepted the elections, and public demonstrations against the election results were muted compared with previous years. Presidential, legislative, and local elections scheduled for the year did not take place due to problems in logistics and in reaching a political accord. In October Prime Minister Henry dissolved the provisional electoral council installed by President Moise in 2020, a body viewed as lacking credibility by civil society and political actors, thus increasing the likelihood of an eventual consensus political accord. The council is the country’s electoral commission and has the responsibility of organizing presidential and parliamentary elections.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, but social norms and the threat of electoral violence discouraged women from voting and, to a much greater extent, from running for office. During the 2016 national elections, four of 58 approved presidential candidates were women, 23 of 209 senatorial candidates were women, and 129 of 1,621 candidates for deputy were women. The constitution requires that at least 30 percent of elected officials be women, but the most recent legislative session had only four female deputies and one senator, a decrease of one female deputy from the prior legislative session. Mayoral elections are organized around panels of three that are required by law to include at least one woman. While they were rarely the principal local leaders, women made up 30 percent of local officials.

Honduras

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The law provides citizens the right to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on nearly universal and equal suffrage. The law does not permit active members of the military or civilian security forces to vote. The constitution prohibits practicing clergy from running for office or participating in political campaigns.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In November Xiomara Castro of the LIBRE Party won a four-year presidential term in elections that were generally considered free, fair, and transparent. Some NGOs reported irregularities, including late delivery of technology needed to transmit results, late opening of the polls, poll workers with varying degrees of preparation and knowledge of the electoral law and processes, and lack of transparency in campaign financing. International observers acknowledged some of these irregularities but reported they were not systematic and not widespread enough to affect the outcome of the presidential election. Observers noted several significant improvements in transparency procedures, including electoral reforms, an updated voter registry and new national identification cards, and new technology that included a biometric verification system and a preliminary results transmission system.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate.

Hong Kong

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The Basic Law limits the ability of residents to change their government. The National People’s Congress Standing Committee March decision to overhaul the SAR’s electoral system further limited this ability, in contradiction to provisions in the Basic Law that describe the election of the chief executive and Legislative Council via universal suffrage as the “ultimate aim.”

Voters do not enjoy universal suffrage in elections for the chief executive or equal suffrage in Legislative Council elections. PRC central authorities made broad changes to the electoral system, thereby ensuring that only candidates vetted and approved by Beijing would be allowed to hold office at any level.

September 19 elections for seats in the Chief Executive Election Committee (CEEC), the first after the PRC’s overhaul of the SAR’s political system in March, by design produced a near unanimous sweep for pro-Beijing “patriots.” More than 1,100 of the 1,500 seats in the expanded CEEC were predetermined and not up for election. For the few competitive seats, regulations limited the franchise and moved the SAR farther from the one-person, one-vote principle. Only one nominally independent candidate was elected to any of those seats. Although the CEEC was historically considered a “closed circle election,” the September contest limited the number of voters eligible to cast ballots to fewer than 5,000 individuals, 97 percent smaller than the previous CEEC election in 2016. Following Beijing-imposed changes to the electoral system, all candidates for the Legislative Council are required to pass through a labyrinthine application process for vetting their “patriotic” bona fides. Per the new law, voters directly elect 20 of the expanded Legislative Council’s 90 seats, or 22 percent; in contrast, in the 2016 Legislative Council election, voters directly elected 40 of the 70 seats (57 percent). Forty seats are selected by the CEEC directly, while 30 are selected as representatives of “functional constituencies” for various economic and social sectors. In the December 19 Legislative Council elections, pro-Beijing candidates won 89 of the 90 seats, including all 20 of the directly elected seats. None of the major prodemocracy parties fielded any candidates.

Under the Basic Law, only the SAR government, not members of the legislature, may introduce bills that affect public expenditure, the political structure, or government policy.

The SAR sends 36 deputies to the National People’s Congress and has approximately 200 delegates in the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference – bodies that operate under the direction of the Chinese Communist Party and do not exercise legislative independence. The approval of the chief executive, two-thirds of the Legislative Council, and two-thirds of the SAR’s delegates to the legislature are required to place an amendment to the Basic Law on the legislative agenda, which has the sole power to amend the Basic Law.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: On December 19, the SAR held elections for the expanded Legislative Council. Pro-Beijing candidates won 89 of the 90 seats, including all 20 of the directly elected seats in the geographical constituencies. Only one nonestablishment moderate won a seat in the social welfare constituency. The SAR government had earlier postponed the election originally scheduled for September 2020 citing COVID-19 concerns, a decision seen by the prodemocracy opposition as an attempt to thwart its electoral momentum and avoid the defeat of pro-Beijing candidates. Several activists also called on voters to boycott the election, arguing it was a sham election. About 1.3 million voters cast ballots in the election, a record low turnout rate of 30.2 percent. Approximately 2 percent of ballots cast were blank or otherwise invalid, a record high. In contrast the 2016 election had a turnout rate of 58.3 percent. In 2017 the 1,194-member CEEC, dominated by proestablishment electors, selected Carrie Lam to be the SAR’s chief executive.

In September the SAR held elections for the CEEC, which elected 40 members of the Legislative Council in December and is scheduled to elect the chief executive in March 2022. Approximately 75 percent of the CEEC seats were filled by ex officio holders of various government positions, through nominations by Beijing-controlled bodies, or by uncontested candidates. Only one candidate not explicitly aligned with either the pro-Beijing or proestablishment camp won a seat. A total of 4,380 ballots were cast compared with more than 250,000 ballots in the 2016 election.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Since the imposition of the NSL, numerous leaders of prodemocracy political parties, protest organizing groups, and civil society organizations have been arrested for their involvement in nonviolent political activities. For example, in January, 55 prodemocracy politicians and activists, including former members of the Legislative Council and elected local District Council members, were arrested under the NSL for their involvement in the July 2020 unofficial pan-democratic primary election. No political party was subjected to an outright ban, but many prodemocracy political parties and organizations disbanded because of pressure from SAR authorities or concern they or their members would be subjected to political repression.

In May SAR authorities passed legislation requiring all elected members of local District Councils to swear loyalty oaths to Beijing. Many activists argued the move was designed to break the opposition pan-democratic camp’s hold over the District Councils, the SAR’s only representative bodies elected solely through universal suffrage, after pan-democratic politicians won 388 of 479 seats in the councils in 2019 local elections and won overall control over 17 of the 18 councils. After passage of the legislation, anonymous SAR officials were cited in local media as saying that District Council members who took the loyalty oath and were subsequently disqualified might be required to reimburse the SAR for up to hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong dollars in salary and expenses. More than 260 District Council members resigned in response. Subsequently, SAR authorities administered loyalty oaths to the remaining District Council members in September and October, then disqualified 49 pan-democratic District Council members without the possibility of appeal. The disqualified members are ineligible to run for election for five years.

In August, the chief secretary ruled that Cheng Chung-tai, one of two remaining Legislative Council members who did not caucus with the pro-Beijing or proestablishment camp, was ineligible to serve on the CEEC. Cheng was subsequently disqualified from his legislative seat as well, although the PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs had praised him in 2020 for remaining in the legislature after the disqualifications and resignations of nearly all other pan-democratic representatives. In September Cheng announced the dissolution of his political party, Civic Passion.

Since the National People’s Congress Standing Committee decision in March created a labyrinthine nomination and vetting process for all candidates for political office designed to ensure “loyalty” to Beijing, and after the resignation and disqualification of hundreds of opposition District Council members, many opposition politicians and groups announced that they would not field candidates in the December Legislative Council elections. For example, the Democratic Party, the SAR’s largest opposition party, announced in October that none of its members had received sufficient nominations from within the party to run.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No law limits participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Following December Legislative Council elections, there were 17 women Legislative Council members (approximately 19 percent). In 2017 Carrie Lam was selected to be the SAR’s first female chief executive.

There is no legal restriction against members of historically marginalized or ethnic minority groups running for electoral office or serving as electoral monitors. There were, however, no members of ethnic minority groups in the Legislative Council, and members of such groups reported they considered themselves unrepresented.

Hungary

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

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

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: National elections were held in 2018 under a single-round national system to elect 199 members of parliament. The elections resulted in the ruling parties gaining a third consecutive two-thirds supermajority in parliament, receiving 49 percent of party-list votes while winning 91 of the country’s 106 single-member districts, decided by a first-past-the-post system.

Nationwide municipal elections were held in 2019 under a single-round national system to elect local council representatives, mayors, and ethnic minority self-government members. With 48.6 percent turnout, the elections resulted in governing Fidesz-Christian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP) candidates retaining most mayoral positions in smaller towns and villages, and the opposition capturing the mayoral seats of Budapest, 14 of the capital’s 23 districts, and 11 of the country’s 23 county seats. Observers suggested the relative success of the opposition resulted from the nomination of a single opposition candidate running against Fidesz-KDNP in most key races. Domestic observers noted the lack of changes to the electoral and media environment and referenced the findings of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) mission deployed to the country in 2018 (see below).

A mission representing the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) observed the 2018 national elections. In its final report on the elections, the mission characterized the election as “at odds with OSCE commitments” and concluded that a “pervasive overlap between state and ruling-party resources” undermined contestants’ ability “to compete on an equal basis.”

The ODIHR election observation mission report highlighted that despite the “large number of contestants, most did not actively campaign, ostensibly registering to benefit from public campaign-finance entitlements or to dilute the vote in tightly contested races.” The report called attention to the lack of a “periodic review of constituency boundaries in a transparent, impartial, and inclusive manner by an independent body.” No such review was performed during the year.

In October 2020 by-elections for a parliamentary seat vacated by the death of a Fidesz-KDNP member were held. The winner of the by-election, Zsofia Koncz (Fidesz-KDNP and the daughter of the member who passed away), was criticized by watchdogs and media outlets for spending more on social media alone (5.6 million forints) during her campaign than permitted by law for both online and offline campaign activity (five million forints, total). A subsequent investigation by the SAO found no campaign spending violations. In response to a media inquiry, the SAO noted, however, that advertisements on social media do not count as political advertisements. The SAO stated that despite calls from the body, no political party has been willing to address this standing concern.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The ODIHR report on the 2018 elections noted several problems with media influence that “undermined the level playing field for campaigning and raised questions with regard to the abuse of administrative resources and the blurring of the line between state governing and party campaigning, which is at odds with OSCE commitments.” The report also noted campaign finance laws limited the transparency and accountability of political parties.

Citizens living abroad but having permanent residency in the country were required to appear in person at embassies or consulates to vote, while citizens residing abroad could vote by mail, but only for party lists. ODIHR election observers noted that the practice of applying different procedures to register and vote depending on whether a person had a permanent address in the country “challenged the principle of equal suffrage.”

In December 2020 parliament modified the electoral law, stipulating that any party wishing to put forward a national party list must nominate candidates in at least 71 (up from the previous 27) of the 106 individual parliamentary constituencies. The government claimed the change was necessary to prevent parties from running in an election solely to benefit from state-provided campaign funding. Independent observers criticized the change, claiming it raised additional obstacles in the cooperation of opposition parties seeking to challenge the ruling coalition in the 2022 parliamentary election.

Observers noted that many of the decrees and legislation enacted during the state of emergency following the outbreak of COVID-19, including imposing prison time for “scaremongering” under a special legal order and measures critics stated were unrelated to the pandemic, remained on the books after the state of emergency was lifted. On February 22, the ruling Fidesz-KDNP majority, with no opposition votes, passed in parliament an additional 90-day extension of the emergency government decrees issued under the state of emergency. Parliament passed three other bills on May 18, September 27, and December 14, extending the government’s state of emergency powers until October, January 2022, and June 2022 respectively, also with no opposition support. Justifying their votes against the extension, opposition members claimed that the government misused the previous emergency authorization parliament granted in November 2020 with opposition support. The repeated extensions resulted in the government having uninterrupted state of emergency powers from November 2020.

Opposition activists accused the government of selectively imposing economically damaging measures on opposition-led cities and districts. Following similar measures enacted in 2020, in June the central government issued a decree establishing a “special economic zone” for industrial parks located adjacent to the city of Dunaujvaros. The measure effectively deprived the opposition-led local government of approximately 684 million forints ($1.7 million) in tax revenue the first year alone.

A February 28 government resolution distributed approximately $4 million in development and operational subsidies among 12 independent or Fidesz-led local governments across the country. No opposition-led local council was included. One of the highest allotments, 225 million forints ($750,000), went to Budapest’s district 12, run by prominent Fidesz mayor Zoltan Pokorni, for supporting local council development work. Budapest’s downtown district, also Fidesz-run, was granted 91 million forints ($303,000) for a communications program targeting the elderly.

According to a report by independent media published in March, the government disproportionately distributed EU financial subsidies intended to aid poorer regions to wealthier Fidesz-run municipalities. Following the 2019 local elections in which opposition parties won control of several municipalities, those led by Fidesz (often some of the wealthiest) received 45,000 forints ($150) per capita in EU funding compared with $60 per capita allocated to seven opposition-led municipalities representing a similar population size. The poorest, Salgotarjan, led by the opposition, received only 20 million forints ($65,000) in subsidies, in contrast with the richest, Fidesz-run Szekesfehervar, which received more than 12 billion forints ($39 million). The six local municipalities that received the highest support (36.3 billion forints or $118 million combined) were all controlled by Fidesz, while the seven opposition-run jurisdictions received 13.6 billion forints ($44 million). Observers claimed the figures demonstrated how the government used EU development funds to reward its allies, despite EU safeguards to prevent political bias.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women and members of marginalized groups including persons with disabilities, LGBTQI+, and Romani persons in the political process. While no data were collected on individuals’ sexual orientation or ethnicity, representation of women in public life was very low. The ODIHR report on the 2018 elections noted, “Women are underrepresented in political life and there are no legal requirements to promote gender equality in elections.” Following the elections, women constituted 12.5 percent of members of parliament. As of August the 15-member cabinet included three women, and 13 percent of subcabinet-level government state secretaries were women, a figure that has remained relatively constant across Fidesz-KDNP administrations since 2010. As of August women constituted approximately 20 percent of the more than 270 candidates registered in the opposition primaries.

The electoral system provides 13 recognized national minorities the possibility of registering for a separate minority voting process in parliamentary elections, by which they vote on the minority candidate list instead of the party list. While all 13 national minorities registered candidate lists in the 2018 elections, only one – the German minority – obtained enough votes to win a minority seat in parliament. National minorities that did not win a seat were represented in parliament by nonvoting spokespersons whose competence was limited to discussing minority matters. Regarding the 2018 election campaign, the ODIHR stated it was informed of several instances where pressure was put on Romani voters not to register as minority voters and instead to vote for national lists. Due to privacy laws regarding ethnicity, no official statistics were available on the number of members of a minority who were in parliament or the cabinet.

Iceland

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 September 25 parliamentary elections were considered free and fair, but procedural issues in one constituency led to a recount and change of election outcome. In June 2020 voters re-elected Gudni Thorlacius Johannesson president in a free and fair election.

The Icelandic electoral system is designed so that 54 out of the 63 seats are constituency seats, while another nine are supplementary seats. Parties must exceed the 5 percent threshold nationally to be eligible for a supplemental seat. The number of supplementary mandates in each of the six constituencies is dictated by law. The supplementary seats are distributed to candidates who received the most votes but failed to win a constituency mandate.

Due to a difference of only 10 votes between two parties, both of which were eligible to receive the supplemental seat in the Northwest constituency, the regional electoral commission announced a recount on its own initiative. Party representatives raised concerns about the legality of the commission initiating a recount and the safekeeping of the ballots. The ballot boxes had not been sealed but were locked in the room where counting took place. The updated results following the recount did not affect the overall number of seats won by each party, but they shifted which supplemental seats each party won. There were no credible reports of political interference or corruption, but the legal process through the Parliamentary Credentials Committee remained pending. The regional electoral commission in the Southern constituency, at the request of several government and opposition parties, initiated a recount, but it found no discrepancies and did not impact the outcome.

The current parliament includes 33 men and 30 women.

Voters re-elected the incumbent president in elections in 2020 that were considered free and fair. Considering the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Justice authorized candidates to collect candidacy petitions electronically.

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

India

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 Election Commission is an independent constitutional body responsible for administering all elections at the central and state level throughout the country. In May 2019 voters re-elected the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in the country’s general elections, which involved more than 600 million eligible voters. During the year state assembly elections took place in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Puducherry, West Bengal, and Assam. Observers considered these elections free and fair.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The constitution provides for universal voting rights for all citizens 18 and older. There are no restrictions placed on the formation of political parties or on individuals of any community from participating in the election process. The election law bans the use of government resources for political campaigning, and the Election Commission effectively enforced the law. The commission’s guidelines ban opinion polls 48 hours prior to an election and exit poll results may not be released until completion of the last phase (in a multiphase election).

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they freely participated. The law reserves one-third of the seats in local councils for women. Religious, cultural, and traditional practices prevented women from proportional participation in political office. Nonetheless, women held many high-level political offices, including two positions as cabinet ministers. This represented a decline from the first Modi government when nine women served in the cabinet. The 2019 general election resulted in 78 women elected to the lower house of parliament, compared with 66 in the 2014 general election. The sole female chief minister leads West Bengal.

The constitution stipulates that, to protect historically marginalized groups and provide for representation in the lower house of parliament, each state must reserve seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in proportion to their population in the state. Only candidates belonging to these groups may contest elections in reserved constituencies. Members of minority populations had previously served or currently served as prime minister, president, vice president, cabinet ministers, Supreme Court justices, members of parliament, and state chief ministers.

Indonesia

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: In April 2019 Joko Widodo (popularly known as Jokowi) won a second five-year term as president. Voters also elected new members of the House of Representatives and the Regional Representative Council, as well as provincial and local legislatures. Domestic and international observers deemed the elections free and fair.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No law limits participation of women and members of historically marginalized or minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. The law on political parties mandates that women comprise a minimum of 30 percent of the founding membership of a new political party.

Iran

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution provides citizens the ability to choose the president, as well as members of the Assembly of Experts and parliament, provided all have been vetted and approved by the Guardian Council. Elections are based on universal suffrage. Candidate vetting conducted by unelected bodies, however, abridged this right in all instances. Reported government constraints on freedom of expression and media; peaceful assembly; association; and the ability freely to seek, receive, and impart information and campaign also limited citizens’ right to choose freely their representatives in elections.

The Assembly of Experts, which is composed of 86 popularly elected clerics who serve eight-year terms, elects the supreme leader, who acts as the de facto head of state and may be removed only by a vote of the assembly. The Guardian Council vets and qualifies candidates for all Assembly of Experts, presidential, and parliamentary elections, based on criteria that include candidates’ allegiance to the state and adherence to Shia Islam. The council consists of six clerics appointed by the supreme leader and six jurists nominated by the head of the judiciary (who is appointed by the supreme leader) and approved by parliament.

Observers noted that the supreme leader’s public commentary on state policy exerted significant influence over the actions of elected officials.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Presidential elections held on June 18 fell short of international standards for free and fair elections, primarily because of the Guardian Council’s controlling role in the political process, including determining which individuals could run for office and, in certain instances, arbitrarily removing winning candidates. Overwhelmingly positive media coverage of a single candidate and the reformist political leaders’ unwillingness to coalesce behind a challenger also contributed to the election outcome. The election turnout of 48.8 percent was the lowest in the history of the Islamic Republic, breaking the 1993 election record low of 50.66 percent. Former judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi, widely asserted to be the supreme leader’s choice for his eventual successor, won the election and took office on August 3. According to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Guardian Council disqualified 7,296 candidates in the period preceding the election. The council barred all reformist candidates from running, as well as the conservative former parliament speaker Ali Larijani, who was widely considered the strongest challenger to hardliner Ebrahim Raisi, and former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Domestic and foreign media reports and social media users noted mostly unspecified or ambiguous violations on election day. One incident acknowledged by officials occurred when some electronic voting machines in Tehran went offline for brief periods of time, but those officials stated backup analog vote counting procedures prevented significant voting disruptions.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The constitution provides for the formation of political parties, but the Interior Ministry granted licenses only to parties deemed to adhere to the “governance of the jurist” system of government embodied in the constitution. Registered political organizations that adhered to the system generally operated without restriction, but most were small, focused around an individual, and without nationwide membership. Members of political parties and persons with any political affiliation that the regime deemed unacceptable faced harassment and sometimes violence and imprisonment. The government maintained bans on several opposition organizations and political parties.  Security officials continued to harass, intimidate, and arrest members of the political opposition and some reformists (see section 1.e.).

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: Women faced significant legal, religious, and cultural barriers to political participation. According to the Guardian Council’s interpretation, the constitution bars women, as well as persons of foreign origin, from serving as supreme leader or president; as members of the Assembly of Experts, Guardian Council, or Expediency Council; and as certain types of judges.

In an October 2020 press conference, former guardian council spokesperson Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei claimed there was no prohibition on women running for president in the 2021 election. Nonetheless, the Guardian Council disqualified all 40 women who registered as candidates for the 2021 presidential election.

All cabinet-level ministers were men. A limited number of women held senior government positions, including that of vice president for women and family affairs. Women made up approximately 6 percent of parliament.

In December 2020 Fars News, an agency managed by the IRGC, reported that Branch 15 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court sentenced former vice president for women and family affairs Shahindokht Molaverdi to 30 months in prison. Fars stated the sentence included two years on charges of divulging “classified information and documents with the intent of disrupting national security” and six months for “propaganda against the sacred regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” Observers noted Molaverdi had over the years defended the right of women to attend sporting events in stadiums, criticized the marriage of girls younger than age 15, and been involved in other high-profile issues. Fars reported Branch 2 of Tehran’s Criminal Court also sentenced Molaverdi for encouraging “corruption, prostitution, and sexual deviance.” Similar charges were brought in the past against individuals flouting mandatory hijab laws or encouraging others to do so. Molaverdi responded that she would appeal the verdicts; there was no update of her case by year’s end.

In early September President Raisi appointed Ansieh Khazali as the vice president for women and family affairs. Unlike Molaverdi, Khazali was against UNESCO’s 2030 initiative that includes eliminating gender discrimination from education and said she supported child marriage.

Practitioners of a religion other than Shia Islam are barred from serving as supreme leader or president, as well as from being a member in the Assembly of Experts, Guardian Council, or Expediency Council. There are two seats reserved in parliament for Armenian Christians, one for Assyrian and Chaldean Christians together, one for Jews, and one for Zoroastrians. There were no non-Muslims in the cabinet or on the Supreme Court. The law allows constitutionally recognized religious minorities to run in local elections.

Iraq

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. Despite violence and other irregularities in the conduct of previously held elections, citizens were generally able to exercise this right.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: During the year the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) conducted elections for the Iraqi COR – the national parliament. The ISF, IDPs, and detainees voted at special polling stations October 8, and general voting took place October 10. Voter turnout based on the number of registered voters was 43 percent. Official IHEC statistics using a similar methodology showed 44 percent turnout in 2018; however, the elections during the year excluded out-of-country voters and restricted IDP voting to those IDPs with biometric voter IDs. The elections were observed by the EU and by domestic civil society organizations and monitored by UNAMI.

Domestic and international elections observers cited procedural and transparency improvements over the 2018 elections. IHEC experienced minor glitches with its new voting technologies, first introduced in 2018, but was able to overcome many of these challenges due to the robust presence of international advisers provided largely by UNAMI. Domestic and international elections observers cited that violence against activists and voter intimidation by paramilitary militia groups in the months ahead of the elections likely affected voters’ choice and voter turnout. International observers also cited that unregulated campaign spending and “rampant disinformation online, including by political stakeholders and groups affiliated with foreign countries” that spread false narratives and attacked and threatened candidates – especially women, journalists, and human rights activists – also negatively affected candidate participation. Credible allegations of vote buying were common.

The COR ratified a new election law in November 2020 which divided the country into 83 smaller electoral districts and effectively changed the country’s elections from a proportional representation system based on party lists to a single, nontransferable vote system. This system yielded more competitive and unexpected results than in prior elections, prompting some parties to allege the results were manipulated. Most observers dismissed these allegations, citing an independent audit of IHEC’s electronic results management system completed ahead of the elections.

Militia-affiliated parties staged paid demonstrations outside of Baghdad’s international zone that resulted in clashes with the ISF and the deaths of two militia members on November 5. Similar groups were also suspected of staging a rocket attack on government facilities in Baghdad on October 31 and an attack on Prime Minister al-Kadhimi’s residence on November 7 using explosive-laden drones. Separately, winning independent candidate Nadhim al-Shibly was attacked with an explosive device at his home in al-Qadisiyah Province on November 6. IHEC announced the final interim election results on November 30 following the Electoral Judicial Panel’s review of election appeals, which resulted in the change of the winners of five seats.

On December 27, the Federal Supreme Court (FSC) certified the results of the October 10 election, a few hours after rejecting a case brought by Fatah Alliance leader Hadi al-Amiri to invalidate the election results. The FSC ruled that Amiri must repay court-proceeding expenses and that the new COR could amend the election law to mandate manual results tabulation, in part to mitigate future controversies regarding alleged electronic tampering and appease election rejectionists.

The parliamentary election saw the first implementation of new biometric identification voter ID (BVID) requirements for special voting categories to include security forces, IDPs, and detainees. Due in part to these requirements, the number of eligible IDP voters dropped to 120,126 from 293,943 in 2018. IDP returns and government closures of IDP camps also affected IDPs’ ability to vote. IHEC made attempts to register IDPs for BVIDs using mobile outreach teams and by working with IDP camp administrators. Most detainees also did not have the documents required to obtain the BVID due to the government’s civil identity directorate COVID-19-limited hours. Access to prison populations was also restricted due to COVID-19 resulting in reduced electoral participation by these individuals.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Political parties and coalition blocs tended to organize along either religious or ethnic lines, although some parties crossed sectarian lines. Membership in some political parties conferred special privileges and advantages in employment and education. IHEC confirmed the registration of 38 coalitions and 256 parties to participate in parliamentary elections, although some did not run candidates.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women, persons with disabilities (see section 6), or members of minority groups in the political process, and these groups did participate. The constitution mandates that women constitute at least 25 percent of parliamentary and provincial council membership. Female candidates comprised 29 percent of overall candidates, and women won a record 97 seats in parliament, including 54 that did not rely on the quota process. Nonetheless, political discussions often reportedly marginalized female members of parliament.

Of the 329 seats in parliament, the law reserves nine seats for members of minority groups: five for Christians from Baghdad, Ninewa, Kirkuk, Erbil, and Duhok Provinces; one for Yezidis; one for Sabean-Mandaeans; one for Shabak; and, following a parliamentary decision in 2019, one for Faili Kurds in Wasit Province. Members of minority groups won additional seats in parliament over their quota allotment, including three Yezidis and, for the first time, two Kaka’i.

The KRG reserves 30 percent of parliamentary and provincial council membership for women. Three women held cabinet-level positions as of October, and women constituted 86 of the IKR’s 435 judges and held an additional 383 positions in the judicial sector. Of 111 seats in the IKP, the law reserves 11 seats for members of minority groups along ethnic, rather than religious lines: five for (predominantly Christian) Chaldo-Assyrian candidates, five for Turkmen candidates, and one for Armenian candidates. No seats are reserved for self-described groups whom the KRG considers ethnically Kurdish or Arab, such as Yezidis, Shabak, Sabean-Mandaeans, Kaka’i, and Faili Kurds.

Major political parties partnered with, or in some cases created, affiliated minority group political parties in both the central government and IKR elections and encouraged other nonminority citizens to vote for their allied minority candidates for quota seats in the COR and IKP. Minority religious leaders and minority community activists complained this process disenfranchised them, and they advocated for electoral reform to limit voting for minority quota seats to voters of the relevant minority, as well as for additional quota seats in the COR and IKP.

Ireland

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: Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe reported that the presidential elections in 2018 and the 2020 parliamentary elections were free and fair.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. The law reduces government funding to political parties unless 30 percent of their candidates during general elections are women. Former taoiseach (prime minister) and current tanaiste (deputy prime minister) Leo Varadkar was the only self-identified ethnic minority member of the Dail (Irish Parliament), and Senator Eileen Flynn is the first member of the Travelling community in the Seanad Eireann (Irish Senate). According to an investigation by the Irish Independent newspaper in November 2020, politicians identifying as ethnic or sexual minorities received a disproportionate amount of online abuse.

Israel, West Bank and Gaza

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. Palestinian residents of Jerusalem and Druze of the Golan Heights who have permanent residency status may vote in municipal elections and seek some municipal offices except that of mayor and are denied the right to vote in general elections or serve in the Knesset.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Observers considered the March 23 parliamentary elections free and fair. More than 67 percent of eligible voters cast ballots. During the March elections, observers noted minimal irregularities that had no impact on the outcome.

After the Ministry of Interior retroactively canceled the citizenship of 2,624 Bedouin citizens, many of them were unable to participate in national elections until their status was resolved (see section 2.g.).

Political Parties and Political Participation: The Basic Laws prohibit the candidacy of any party or individual that denies the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people or the democratic character of the state or that incites racism. A political party may not be registered if its goals include support of an armed struggle, enemy state, or terror organization against Israel. Otherwise, political parties operated without restriction or interference.

On February 17, the Central Elections Committee disqualified Labor Arab candidate Ibtisam Mara’ana by a 16-15 vote on the grounds of her denial of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and due to her support for the armed struggle of a terrorist organization against the State of Israel. On February 28, the Supreme Court overruled the disqualification and reinstated Mara’ana’s candidacy. On February 17, the Central Elections Committee (CEC) rejected two motions submitted by the ultranationalist Jewish Power Party and Religious Zionist Party to disqualify the Joint List and the United Arab List, known in Hebrew as Ra’am.

The Northern Islamic Movement, banned in 2015, continued its practice of boycotting national elections.

The law restricts the funding of individuals and groups that engage in “election activity” during the period of a national election, which is typically three months. The law’s sponsors described it as an effort to prevent organizations and wealthy individuals from bypassing election-funding laws, but some civil society organizations expressed concern the law would stifle political participation.

The law allows dismissal of a member of the Knesset if 90 of 120 Knesset members vote for expulsion, following a request of 70 members, including at least 10 from the opposition. The party of an expelled member may replace the member with the next individual on its party list, and the expelled member may run in the next election. Joint List member of the Knesset Yousef Jabareen and several NGOs asserted that the government intended the law to target Arab legislators and that the law harmed democratic principles such as electoral representation and freedom of expression.

In the period preceding the March elections, the NGO Adalah demanded that the CEC and the Ministry of Interior set up polling stations for Arab Bedouin citizens in the unrecognized villages in the Negev or provide the voters with transportation to their assigned polling stations. Authorities denied the request.

On June 22, the Supreme Court rejected a petition filed by former Knesset member Yousef Jabareen and Adalah against a Knesset decision to block members from overseas trips funded by organizations that endorse BDS against Israel.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. The law provides an additional 15 percent in campaign funding to municipal party lists composed of at least one-third women. Women and minorities participated widely in politics, although their representation in the Knesset remained low. Of the 120-member Knesset, there were 35 women members and 14 members from ethnic or religious minorities (nine Muslims, three Druze, one Ethiopian-Israeli, and one Christian). As of December, the government’s 35-member cabinet included nine women, one of whom was Ethiopian-Israeli. There were two Arabs. Four members of the 15-member Supreme Court were women, and one was Arab. Of the 257 mayors and local council heads, 14 were women.

Eligible voters among the approximately 100,000 Arab Bedouin citizens that live in unrecognized villages in southern Israel, registered as tribal residents and are not entitled to vote in municipal elections.

Italy

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: National and international observers considered the 2018 parliamentary elections free and fair.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate.

Jamaica

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 national elections in September 2020, the Jamaica Labour Party won 48 of the 63 seats in the House of Representatives. Observers judged the elections to be transparent, free, fair, and generally peaceful.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. In national elections in September 2020, 18 women (29 percent of total seats) were elected to the House of Representatives out of 30 female candidates, a 50 percent increase from the 12 women elected during the 2016 general election.

Japan

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: An election for the Lower House of the Diet in October was free and fair according to international observers. Upper House elections in 2019 were also considered free and fair.

On November 1, lawyers filed lawsuits in 14 high courts and their branches around the country seeking to nullify the results of the Lower House election in all electoral districts. The lawyers stated that the disparity in the weight of a single vote between the most and least populated electoral districts was unconstitutionally wide. In a similar lawsuit, the Supreme Court ruled in 2020 that the 2019 Upper House elections were constitutional while expressing concern that the Diet made little progress to rectify the vote weight disparity.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women and members of historically marginalized or minority groups in the political process if they are citizens, and they did participate. Women voted at rates equal to or higher than men. Women, however, have not been elected to any level of office at rates reflecting this.

The number of the elected women in both the national parliament and local assemblies remained low. At a national level, female Lower House members accounted for 9.7 percent of the total following the October Lower House election. In the Upper House, the percentage of elected female members was 22.6 percent. The percentages of women’s representation in both houses dropped from the previous elections, down from 10.1 percent in the Lower House and 23.1 percent in the Upper House. In local assemblies, the average percentage of the elected women in 2020 was 14.5 percent, according to the Cabinet Offices’ Gender Equality Bureau.

The number of female candidates was low as well. Women made up 17 percent of the candidates for the October Lower House elections, down from 17.8 percent from the previous election. A law calls on political parties to make their best efforts to have equal numbers of male and female candidates on the ballot in national and local elections. Separately, a government plan encourages political parties to make their best efforts to raise the number of female candidates to 35 percent of all candidates in national and local elections by 2025. Neither the law or the government plan imposes mandatory quotas for the female candidates, nor do they punish failure to meet these goals.

In an April by-election, a female candidate reported numerous instances of gender discrimination during her campaign, including when the ruling LDP accused her of being too arrogant by assuming she could run for a Diet seat as an untested, “ignorant” female candidate. There were also reports of voters inappropriately touching and sexually harassing female candidates while they were campaigning.

Very few individuals with disabilities ran as candidates.

Some ethnic minority group members of mixed heritage served in the Diet, but their numbers were difficult to ascertain because they did not always self-identify.

Jordan

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The law does not provide citizens the ability to choose their executive branch of government. The king appoints and dismisses the prime minister, cabinet, and upper house of parliament; can dissolve parliament; and directs major public policy initiatives. Citizens have the ability to choose the lower house of parliament in generally credible periodic elections based on universal and equal suffrage and conducted by secret ballot. Citizens also elect 97 of the 100 mayors, some members of governorate councils, and all members of municipal councils. While voting processes were well run, official obstacles to political party activity and campaigning limited participation.

The Royal Committee to Modernize the Political System released a draft elections law, draft political parties law, and recommendations to amend the constitution and other laws on October 4, spurring national debate. If enacted, these proposals would use a party-based proportional representation electoral system to select 30 percent of the next lower house of parliament, while preserving geographic electoral districts for other members of parliament. The proposals would expand the party-based proportional representation electoral system to 50 percent and then 65 percent of the seats in the lower house in subsequent elections. Additionally, the committee proposed legal changes that would transfer responsibility for regulating political parties from the Ministry of Political and Parliamentary Affairs to the Independent Election Commission and incentivize participation of women and youth in political parties.

Parliament approved a new Municipalities and Decentralization Law on September 14. The law restores the direct election of mayors and municipal council members, with the exception of Amman, Wadi Musa (Petra), and Aqaba. The law allows the cabinet to appoint 40 percent of the governorate councils’ members (from 15 percent in the 2015 law).

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The government held parliamentary elections in November 2020. Local monitors reported the election was technically well administered.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The law prohibits parties formed on the basis of religion, sect, race, gender, or origin, as well as membership in unlicensed parties. The law also prohibits members of non-Jordanian political organizations, judges, and security service personnel from joining parties. There were 49 registered political parties, but most had few members and only two ran party-based lists in the 2020 election. International organizations continued to have concerns regarding the gerrymandering of electoral districts. Many politicians believed the GID would harass them if they attempted to form or join a political party with a policy platform, despite political parties being legal since 1992. Local civil society organizations were able to monitor and comment on the election process in 2020.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process. The electoral law limits parliamentary representation of certain ethnic or religious minorities to designated quota seats. Human rights activists cited cultural bias against women as an impediment to women participating in political life on the same scale as men. Women elected competitively or appointed through quota systems held a small minority of positions in national and local legislative bodies and executive-branch leadership roles.

The 29-member cabinet included two female ministers as of November: the minister of culture and the minister of state for legal affairs. Sixteen women served as members of parliament, 15 selected by quota and one through open competition. The new Municipalities and Decentralization Law raises the quota for women on governorate councils from 10 percent to 25 percent of elected members and provides for a 20 percent female quota on municipal councils. No women won mayorships in the 2017 election.

Citizens of Palestinian origin were underrepresented at all levels of government and the military. The law reserves nine seats in the lower house of parliament for Christians and three seats for the Circassian and Chechen ethnic minorities combined, constituting an overrepresentation of these minorities. The law stipulates that Muslims must hold all parliamentary seats not specifically reserved for Christians. There are no reserved seats for the relatively small Druze population, but its members may hold office under their government classification as Muslims. Christians served as cabinet ministers, senators, and ambassadors. There was one Druze cabinet member.

Kazakhstan

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, but the government severely limited exercise of this right.

The constitution concentrates power in the presidency itself. The president appoints and dismisses most high-level government officials, including the prime minister, cabinet, prosecutor general, KNB chief, Supreme Court and lower-level judges, and regional governors. The law requires most of these appointments to be made in consultation with the chairman of the Security Council, a position that was granted in 2018 to then president Nazarbayev for his lifetime. The law also grants Nazarbayev lifetime membership on the Constitutional Council, allows him “to address the people of Kazakhstan at any time,” and stipulates that all “initiatives on the country’s development” must be coordinated through him.

The Mazhilis must confirm the president’s choice of prime minister, and the Senate must confirm the president’s choices of prosecutor general, KNB chief, Supreme Court judges, and National Bank head. The Mazhilis and the Senate always confirmed presidential nominations. Modifying or amending the constitution effectively requires the president’s consent.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: On January 10, the country held national elections for the Mazhilis. Five of the country’s six officially registered political parties participated in the elections. The ruling Nur Otan Party won a reported 71 percent of the vote and received 76 seats in the Mazhilis, the Ak Zhol Party won 10.95 percent and received 12 seats, and the People’s Party won 9.1 percent and received 10 seats. Political parties Auyl, with 5 percent of votes, and Adal, with 3.57 percent, did not surpass the 7-percent threshold for proportional representation in the Mazhilis and so received no seats. Independent observers criticized the elections for numerous irregularities and restrictions. According to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) observer mission’s report, the parliamentary elections lacked competition and transparency, and voters had limited opportunity to make an informed choice.

In August 2020 the country held Senate elections, following the legal requirement that 17 of 49 senators rotate every three years. Senators were selected by members of maslikhats (local representative bodies) acting as electors to represent each administrative region and the cities of national significance. Four incumbent senators were re-elected. Most newly elected senators were affiliated with the local representative bodies that elected them.

The government conducted presidential elections in 2019. Of seven presidential candidates, Tokayev won with 70.96 percent of the vote. According to an OSCE observer mission’s report, the election “offered an important moment for potential political reforms, but it was tarnished by clear violations of fundamental freedoms as well as pressure on critical voices.” The report cited several infractions such as ballot-box stuffing, problems with vote counting, and cases of deliberate falsification. Other problems noted in the report included a lack of transparency, such as not releasing election results by polling station, and violations of the rights of assembly, expression, and association. The report noted the widespread detention of peaceful protesters on election day in major cities. Overall, the conduct of the election showed “scant respect for democratic standards,” reported the OSCE mission.

The OSCE report further observed that the problems went beyond election day itself. According to the final report, in prior years some opposition parties were either banned or marginalized through restrictive legislation or criminal prosecution, and the ability of political parties to register was significantly restricted by the law. Moreover, the laws on candidate eligibility were highly restrictive.

Laws restrict public opinion surveys ahead of elections by requiring registration, five years of experience, and notification to the Central Election Commission (CEC). Violation of the law leads to moderate fines for individuals or organizations. The law prohibits publishing, within five days prior to elections, election forecasts and other research related to elections, or support for particular candidates or political parties.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Several groups tried to register as political parties, but all attempts were rejected by the government.

On June 25, activists from the unregistered El Tiregi political party, led by Nurzhan Altayev, and from the Union of Tajik-Afghan War Veterans protested in Nur-Sultan regarding multiple denials by authorities to register El Tiregi. According to Altayev, he unsuccessfully attempted 10 times to register El Tiregi.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No law limits participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, but traditional attitudes sometimes hindered women from holding high office or playing active roles in political life.

The law mandates a combined 30 percent quota for women and youth in the lists of candidates running for elections. Youth are defined as persons between ages 14 and 29.

Kenya

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: In August 2017 citizens voted in the second general election under the 2010 constitution, electing executive leadership and parliamentarians, county governors, and members of county assemblies. International and domestic observers, such as the Kenya Elections Observation Group, African Union Observer Mission, and Carter Center, judged the elections generally credible, although some civil society groups raised concerns regarding irregularities. In the presidential election, Jubilee Party candidate Uhuru Kenyatta won with a margin significantly above that of runner-up candidate Raila Odinga of the National Super Alliance. The National Super Alliance challenged the results in a petition to the Supreme Court. In September 2017 the court ruled in the National Super Alliance’s favor, annulling the presidential elections and citing the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) for irregularities in voter registration and technical problems with vote tallying and transmission. The court ordered a new election for president and deputy president, which was held on October 26, 2017.

On October 10, 2017, Odinga announced his withdrawal from the new election, asserting the IEBC had not taken sufficient steps to ensure a free and fair election. The October 26 vote was marred by low voter turnout in some areas and protests in some opposition strongholds. Human Rights Watch documented more than 100 persons badly injured and at least 33 killed by police using excessive force in response to protests following the August election, and the Independent Medico-Legal Unit reported another 13 deaths before, during, and after the October vote.

On October 30, 2017, the IEBC declared Kenyatta the winner of the new election. On November 20, 2017, the Supreme Court rejected petitions challenging the October 26 elections and upheld Kenyatta’s victory. Odinga refused to accept Kenyatta’s re-election and repeated his call for citizens’ assemblies across the country to discuss constitutional revisions to restructure the government and the elections process. On January 30, 2018, elements of the opposition publicly swore Odinga in as “the People’s President,” and the government shut down major public media houses for several days to prevent them from covering the event.

Kenyatta and Odinga publicly reconciled in March 2018 and pledged to work together towards national unity. In May 2018 the president established the Building Bridges to Unity Advisory Taskforce as part of this pledge. The task force issued a report with proposed constitutional, legislative, and policy reforms, which led to passage of the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2020. Civil society organizations challenged the bill and the so-called Building Bridges Initiative’s constitutionality in court. In August the Court of Appeal ruled the bill and overall initiative were unconstitutional, in part because the court found the president lacks authority to initiate a popular initiative to amend the constitution.

Political Parties and Political Participation: To reduce voter fraud, the government used a biometric voter registration system, first employed in 2013. Possession of a national identity card or passport was a prerequisite for voter registration. In June some voters found their names on the membership lists of parties for which they had not registered, sparking concerns about voters’ data privacy. In October the IEBC reduced a three-month-long voter registration drive to one month, reportedly due to a lack of funding. The IEBC aimed to register more than six million new voters, but at the conclusion of the drive on November 2 had registered approximately 1.4 million new voters.

The country’s five largest ethnic groups, the Kikuyu, Kalenjin, Luhya, Luo, and Kamba, continued to hold most political positions. Civil society groups raised concerns regarding the underrepresentation of minority ethnic groups, including indigenous communities and women.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No law limits participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Voting rates and measures of other types of participation in the political process by women and members of minority groups remained lower than those of nonminority men.

The constitution provides for parliamentary representation by women, youth, persons with disabilities, ethnic minorities, and marginalized communities. The constitution specifically states no gender should encumber more than two-thirds of elective and appointed offices. Parliament had not enacted legislation to implement this provision, despite four court orders to do so (see section 1.e.). As of year’s end, men made up nearly the entire leadership of the National Assembly and the Senate, except for a female deputy speaker of the Senate. President Kenyatta appointed one additional woman to the cabinet in January, for a total of seven women in the cabinet.

Female leaders and advocacy groups continued to cite inadequate political support from their parties, particularly in the primaries; a lack of financial resources; gender-based violence, including rape and sexual harassment; gender stereotyping; and patriarchal structures across society as significant barriers to women’s participation in political processes.

The overall success rate of female candidates who ran for positions in the 2017 national elections was 16 percent, with 23 women elected and 52 women nominated to the 349-member National Assembly, and three women elected and 18 women nominated to the 67-member Senate. Women were elected to three of the 47 governorships, although there were only two female governors during the year. Compared with 2013, the number of women elected to office increased by almost 19 percent. The constitution provides for the representation in government of ethnic minorities, but civil society groups noted minorities remained underrepresented in local and national government. The constitution also calls for persons with disabilities to hold a minimum of 5 percent of seats in the Senate and National Assembly, but persons with disabilities composed only 3 percent of Senate and National Assembly members.

Kiribati

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: Observers considered the two-step legislative elections in April 2020 and the presidential election in June 2020 to be free and fair. The legislature has 46 members. Of that number, 44 are elected by universal adult suffrage; the Rabi Island Council of i-Kiribati (persons of Kiribati ancestry) in Fiji elects one; the attorney general, as an ex officio member, occupies the remaining seat. Anecdotal information from regional media reported unverified claims of foreign interference during election campaigning.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women or members of historically marginalized or minority groups in the political process. Participation by women is low, largely due to traditional perceptions of their role in society. Four women were elected to the legislature in 2020, comprising 9 percent of that body, compared with three women in the 2016 elections. In April 2020, parliament appointed its first female speaker. Several women served as permanent secretaries and deputy secretaries in the administration.

Kosovo

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 based on universal and equal suffrage.

The Serbian government continued to operate illegal parallel government structures in Kosovo Serb majority areas and in areas primarily inhabited by the Kosovo-Gorani community. The Serbian government often used these structures to influence Kosovo-Serb and Kosovo-Gorani communities and their political representatives.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The country held extraordinary parliamentary elections in February. International and independent observers as well as ethnic minority group representatives noted pressure and intimidation within ethnic minority communities to support parties aligned with Srpska List, a party closely aligned with the Serbian government. Some Kosovo Serbs also reported being pressured not to support parties other than Srpska List. According to National Democratic Institute observers, Srpska List politicians pushed for the creation of new Roma and Bosniak political parties and encouraged Kosovo Serbs to vote for these new parties in an attempt to increase their influence in the Assembly by gaining seats reserved for minority groups.

In March the Supreme Court annulled most of the votes cast for the reportedly Srpska-List-aligned Romani Initiative and Ujedinjena Zajednica-Adrijana Hodzic parties, asserting their votes did not originate from the communities the guaranteed seats were intended to represent. The Supreme Court ruling led Hodzic to lose her seat, which went to the runner-up Bosniak party, the Social Democratic Union. Romani Initiative also lost one of the two seats it initially appeared to win, with the seat going to another Romani community party.

On January 22, ahead of the February 14 elections, the Central Election Commissions voted to deny certification to any party’s candidates with a criminal conviction in the past three years, in line with the laws governing campaign eligibility. The following day, then acting president Vjosa Osmani criticized this vote in a public statement. Subsequently, on June 14, President Osmani dismissed election commissions chairperson Valdete Daka for allegedly acting in a manner that seriously affected the independence and the integrity of the commissions. Eleven civil society organizations jointly called Osmani’s decision politically motivated, and the EU Election Observation Mission’s report noted “The decision of the President of Kosovo to dismiss the former election commissions Chairperson on 14 June, four years before the expiration of her second mandate and just one day before the call for the municipal elections, could not be adequately substantiated neither by the reasoning of the decision nor by the enumerated grounds in the Law of General Elections. Notably, both decisions are viewed by the opposition parties and civil society as politically motivated.”

Political Parties and Political Participation: Political parties operated freely in most of the country, and there were no significant barriers to registration. Party affiliation often played a role in access to government services and social and employment opportunities. Prospects for opposition parties in Kosovo-Serb areas remained limited, however, due to reported pressure and intimidation tactics to influence Kosovo Serbs to support Srpska List. An EU election observer statement noted Srpska List had monopolized political life in Kosovo-Serb communities, thus limiting political competition and voters’ choice. In May, the Kosovo-Serb-led NGO New Social Initiative published a report noting the absence of political pluralism in the Kosovo-Serb community, adding that a perceived lack of freedom and pressure from political and institutional representatives inhibited pluralism.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of historically marginalized or minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. NGOs reported, however, that voter turnout among women tended to be much lower than among men. Parties representing the Romani, Ashkali, Balkan-Egyptian, Bosniak, Gorani, and Turkish communities campaigned freely in their native languages.

Vjosa Osmani, a woman, served simultaneously as parliamentary speaker and acting president until her election as president in April. One-third of all cabinet ministers in Prime Minister Kurti’s government were women. In the Assembly, 38 out of 120 members were women, two more than the constitutional quota. A 2020 Freedom House report noted many women in rural areas had been disenfranchised through the practice of family voting, in which the male head of a household casts ballots for the entire family.

Ethnic minorities’ representation in the Assembly was more than proportionate to their share of the population. Political parties representing ethnic minority groups generally reported better cooperation and partnership with the Vetevendosje-led government than with its predecessors.

Kuwait

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution stipulates the country is a hereditary emirate. The 50 elected members of the National Assembly (plus government-appointed ministers) must approve the amir’s choice of crown prince by majority vote conducted by secret ballot. According to the Succession Law, the crown prince must be a male descendant of Sheikh Mubarak al-Sabah and have attained the age of 30, possess a sound mind, and be a legitimate son of Muslim parents. The National Assembly may remove the amir from power by a two-thirds majority vote if it finds that any of these three conditions was not met.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Observers generally considered the December 2020 parliamentary election free and fair, and reported no serious procedural problems. In November 2020 the Interior Ministry announced that 34 of the 395 candidates had been disqualified without explanation, although 20 were later reinstated. One of these candidates was elected to the Parliament. Due to COVID-19 health concerns, the campaign period prior to the election was shorter than normal, and in-person events were not allowed.

Opposition MPs took 24 of the National Assembly’s 50 seats, an increase of 16 seats from the last parliament. Thirty candidates younger than age 45 were elected, while none of the 33 women candidates won seats. In May a by-election was held to fill the seat by Bader al-Dahoum’s judicial disqualification (see section 2, Freedom of Expression). In the May election, which local observers considered free and fair, 15 candidates, including one woman, ran. Opposition figure Obaid al-Wasmi won the seat.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The government did not recognize political parties or allow their formation, although no law formally bans political parties. National Assembly candidates must nominate themselves as individuals. Well organized, unofficial blocs operated as political groupings inside the National Assembly, and members of parliament formed loose alliances. Those convicted of insulting the amir and Islam are banned from running for elected office. In 2019 the Court of Cassation issued a verdict that found citizens convicted of calling for or participating in unregistered demonstrations and protest rallies or resisting security operatives could not vote or stand for public office. Voters may register to vote every February upon reaching the voting age of 21 and having citizenship for 20 years. Prosecutors and judges from the Ministry of Justice supervise election stations. Women prosecutors served as supervisors for the first time during the 2016 elections. Annually the Ministries of Interior and Justice work together to purge from voter registration lists the names of those convicted of insulting the amir; cases must reach a final verdict before names can be removed. The election law criminalizes tribal primary elections for member of parliament candidates that take place informally before the official election date. In September, one former and one current member of parliament were sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for holding illegal tribal elections.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Religious minority groups can freely participate in the political process, vote, and run for the National Assembly. LGBTQI+ individuals do not openly participate in the political process due to legal discrimination (see section 6, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity). Although women gained the right to vote in 2005, they faced cultural and social barriers to political participation. For example, some tribal leaders excluded women from running for office or choosing preliminary candidates by banning them from being considered or attending unofficial tribal primaries. Cultural norms often excluded women from attending local gatherings, called diwaniyas, which candidates attend to lobby for support from influential leaders and voters. The one appointed woman cabinet member can vote within the country’s 50-seat parliament. Although 33 female candidates ran in the December 2020 parliamentary election, no women were elected. Analysts attributed this outcome to widespread discomfort with women in leadership roles and an electoral system that minimized the likelihood of voters allocating their one vote per slate of 10 district candidates to a female candidate. In September, three women were appointed as deputy directors of prosecution for the first time in the country. In October the Ministry of Justice announced that seven female judges assumed leadership roles overseeing misdemeanor court circuits. In November the government appointed 14 new female prosecutors to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, increasing the total number of female prosecutors to 64. As of November the Ministry of Justice had appointed a total of 15 female judges. According to the Ministry of Justice, there were a total of 1,380 prosecutors and judges. As of December 19, the Ministry of Defense permitted women to enlist in the military. Within the first two days, the ministry reported 260 women signed up to join the military.

Kyrgyzstan

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. In practice, authorities and party officials responsible for administering elections engaged in some procedural irregularities.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: President Sadyr Japarov was elected on January 10. He had been serving as interim president since October 2020, following political upheaval that resulted in the annulment of parliamentary elections and the forced resignation of his predecessor. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) reported that the voting process during the January presidential elections was well organized and free, although it noted that the campaign was dominated by one candidate with disproportionate financial means and administrative resources. It also reported that an overall lack of critical media reporting, partially due to a restrictive legal media framework, limited the voter’s ability to make an informed choice.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate in recent elections. The election code requires the names of male and female parliamentary candidates be intermixed on party lists and that no more than 70 percent of candidates on a party list can be of the same gender. The law on elections requires that MPs who resign their mandate be replaced by persons of the same gender. Women held fewer than 10 percent of parliamentary seats.

By law women must be represented in all branches of government and constitute no less than 30 percent of state bodies and local authorities. The law does not specify the level of the positions at which they must be represented. The elections law does not apply the 30 percent women’s quota for MPs to the new single mandate seats (36 of the total 90 seats in parliament).

Elections were held on November 28 for the 90-seat unicameral parliament. Progovernment parties won a majority of seats. According to the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR), the elections were competitive and generally well run, although it noted significant procedural problems during the vote count and the initial stages of tabulation, and also technical problems with biometric identification equipment and electronic ballot scanners. OSCE/ODIHR reported that election day was peaceful with low voter turnout, and that there was less gender and ethnic diversity in the new parliament. Changes to the electoral law and the shift to a hybrid ballot with both party lists and single mandate district candidates contributed to some confusion among voters and a high rate of spoiled ballots.

Political Parties and Political Participation: On August 27, President Japarov signed a law that reduces the number of members of parliament from 120 to 90, in accordance with the new constitution, and designates 36 seats for single mandate geographic districts, and 54 for proportional division among political parties from the national vote. Political parties will need to obtain at least 5 percent of votes nationally in order to be eligible for parliament.

Laos

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The law denies citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections based on universal and equal suffrage, and it did not provide for the free expression of the will of the people. Although the constitution outlines a system comprising executive, legislative, and judicial branches, the constitution grants the LPRP control of governance and leadership in all branches and at all levels.

Elections and Political Participation

The National Assembly appointed election committees which approve all candidates for local and national elections. Candidates do not need to be LPRP members, but almost all were, and the party vetted all candidates.

The National Assembly chooses or removes the country’s president, vice president, and other members of the government. The National Election Committee manages elections, including approval of candidates. The activities of the National Election Committee were not transparent.

Recent Elections: The most recent elections for National Assembly members were on February 21. The government prohibited independent observers from monitoring polling stations, claiming this was due to COVID-19. Elections were not free and fair; the LPRP selected all candidates for the National Assembly elections.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The constitution designates the LPRP as the sole legal party. The formation of other political parties is illegal.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women and members of historically marginalized or minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Women’s leadership roles were limited, especially in rural areas. Of the population, 80 percent lived in rural areas where the village chief and council handled most routine matters, and fewer than 3 percent of village chiefs were women. The LPRP’s Party Congress elections in January increased the number of female members in the 71-member LPRP Central Committee from seven to 12, and from one to two in the 13-member Politburo. Of the 164 members elected to the National Assembly in February, 36 were women and 29 were members of minority ethnic groups.

Latvia

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: International observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights assessed the parliamentary elections in 2018 as free and fair.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Citizens may organize political parties without restriction. The law prohibits the country’s noncitizen residents from organizing political parties without the participation of at least an equal number of citizens. It prohibits from holding public office persons who remained active in the Communist Party or other pro-Soviet organizations after 1991 or who worked for such institutions as the Soviet KGB.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women and citizen members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Women accounted for 32 percent of national parliament candidates and occupied 23 percent of ministerial positions, 30 percent of elected seats in the national parliament, and 34 percent of elected seats in the local councils. Approximately 26 percent of the ethnic minority population were noncitizen residents who could not participate in elections and had no representation in government.

Lebanon

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

Although the law provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections conducted by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage, lack of government control over parts of the country, defects in the electoral process, previous prolonged extensions of parliament’s mandate, and corruption in public office restricted this ability.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Following the passage of a new electoral law in 2018, parliamentary elections were held that year for the first time in nine years. Observers concluded that the elections were generally free and fair. In 2020 eight members of parliament resigned following the August 4 Beirut port explosion, and three passed away. According to the constitution, parliamentary by-elections must be held within 60 days of resignation or death to fill vacant seats, but by-elections never occurred. Parliamentary elections were scheduled for May 15, 2022, and a presidential election was anticipated sometime between August and October 2022.

Political Parties and Political Participation: All major political parties and numerous smaller ones were almost exclusively based on confessional affiliation, and parliamentary seats were allotted on a sectarian basis.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No law limits participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. There were, however, significant cultural barriers to women’s participation in politics. Prior to 2004 no woman held a cabinet position, and there have only been 14 female ministers subsequently, including one sitting minister. One woman became the country’s first female deputy prime minister, minister of defense, and acting minister of foreign affairs and emigrants in 2020. Six of the 128 members of parliament were women; however, one of them resigned her seat in August. Several female members of parliament were close relatives of prominent male politicians, and female leadership of political parties was limited. Three parties introduced voluntary quotas for women. Since 2017 women have been able to run in municipal elections in their native towns instead of the municipality of their spouse.

On October 19, parliament failed to pass a law establishing a quota for women for the 2022 parliamentary elections and instead referred it back to the parliamentary committees for further discussions. There was no further action by the end of the year.

Members of minority groups participated in politics. Regardless of the number of its adherents, authorities allocated every government-recognized religious group, except Ismaili Islam and Judaism, at least one seat in parliament. Voters elected three parliamentarians representing minorities (one Syriac Orthodox Christian and two Alawites) in the 2018 elections. None of the minority parliamentarians were women.

Since refugees are not citizens, they have no political rights in the country.

Lesotho

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: In 2017 the parliament passed a motion of no confidence in the prime minister, triggering a chain of events that led to early elections. In 2017 parliamentary elections were held in which the opposition All Basotho Convention (ABC) party won 51 of 120 seats and formed a coalition government with the Alliance of Democrats, the Basotho National Party, and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho. Former prime minister Pakalitha Mosisili peacefully handed power to Motsoahae Thomas Thabane and stepped down from party leadership.

Domestic and international observers characterized the election as peaceful and conducted in a credible, transparent, and professional manner. Observers expressed concern, however, regarding Lesotho Defense Force (LDF) presence at polling places in some constituencies. There were no reports of the LDF directly interfering in the electoral process.

In April 2020 then prime minister Thabane suspended parliament. He cited the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason, but most observers viewed the measure as a means of preventing parliament from passing a constitutional amendment to curb the prime minister’s power to unilaterally dissolve parliament and call snap elections if he lost a vote of no confidence. The ABC (Thabane’s party) and coalition partner the Basotho National Party challenged the suspension in the High Court. The court ruled that Thabane had “exercised his advisory power in an arbitrary and irrational manner” and ordered the reopening of parliament. In May 2020 the coalition government collapsed. The ABC formed another coalition with the Democratic Congress Party, and former minister of finance Moeketsi Majoro became prime minister and Democratic Congress Party leader Mathibeli Mokhothu deputy prime minister.

On August 25, Basotho Patriotic Party leader Tefo Mapesela filed a motion of no confidence in the prime minister, proposing the Alliance of Democrats party leader Monyane Moleleki as his replacement. His motion was approved, but not through secret ballot as Mapesela requested. He subsequently filed an application urging the Constitutional Court to compel the speaker of the National Assembly to conduct proceedings through secret ballot. On November 16, the court heard arguments on the matter but had yet to issue a ruling by year’s end.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No law limits participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and women did participate. There were no members of racial or ethnic minority groups, persons with disabilities, or known lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex (LGBTQI+) persons, however, in the National Assembly, Senate, or cabinet. The law provides for the allocation of one third of the seats in the municipal, urban, and community councils to women. The law also states a political party registered with the Independent Electoral Commission must facilitate the full participation of women, youth, and persons with disabilities, but it does not mention LGBTQI+ persons. Party lists for the 40 proportional representation seats in the National Assembly must include equal numbers of women and men.

Liberia

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: On November 16, House of Representatives by-elections were held in Bong, Bomi, Grand Gedeh, and Nimba counties to replace incumbents who were elected to the Senate during the December 2020 midterm elections. International and domestic observers noted that the by-elections were largely peaceful, although there were some reported instances of vote tampering, intimidation, and harassment of the only female candidate in Electoral District #1, Nimba County by-election, Abigail Laikarnue Kou Freeman, and election violence during the campaign period ahead of election day.

The country last held presidential elections in October 2017. A runoff presidential election was scheduled for November 2017, but it was delayed due to a legal challenge to the October results. The Supreme Court ruled in a 4-1 decision in December 2017 that there was insufficient evidence presented by the appellant political parties (the Unity Party and the Liberty Party) to justify a rerun, which quelled rising tensions around the country. The court ordered the National Elections Commission to schedule the runoff that month in accordance with the constitution. The then Montserrado County Senator George Weah of the Congress for Democratic Change party, which formed a coalition with the National Patriotic Party and the Liberia People’s Democratic Party to become known as the Coalition for Democratic Change, won the presidential runoff on December 26, 2017, in an election that was generally considered free and fair.

Political Parties and Political Participation: There were instances of political violence against opposition leaders and candidates. After the December 2020 midterm senatorial elections, partisan clashes occurred at the headquarters of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change.

On March 29, Solicitor General Sayma Syrennius Cephus filed a petition asking the Supreme Court for a writ of prohibition against the seating of Brownie Samukai, an opposition senator-elect chosen by Lofa County in the December 2020 elections. The two main arguments of the writ were that Samukai’s earlier conviction of misappropriation of Armed Forces of Liberia pension funds could disqualify him from public service under the law, and that even though Samukai had raised his portion of the restitution ordered by the court, he could not be deemed to have been cleared until the other two defendants convicted with him also paid their portion of the restitution, since they were jointly indicted. Contacts and media reports, however, noted that neither the solicitor general nor the Supreme Court was pursuing payment from the two other defendants. The legal limbo created by the solicitor general’s writ prevented Samukai from serving for the entirety of the legislative session during the year, leading to public protests in Lofa County and claims that the solicitor general’s actions were mainly designed to prevent an opposition senator from being seated.

Following the 2017 presidential election, appointments in the government were created for members and sympathizers of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change as a reward for, or benefit of, party affiliation rather than based on qualification or experience. The appointments were made outside the standard hiring process of the Civil Service Agency. Some technicians and other persons who had tenured positions under the previous administration were initially harassed.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No law limits participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Some observers believed traditional and cultural factors, as well as financial limitations, limited women’s participation in politics, as compared with the participation of men. During the campaign period, traditional leaders in some rural areas at times deployed the “country devil” to harass them and their supporters, disrupting campaign activities. Women participated at significantly lower levels than men as party leaders and elected officials.

Ahead of the November 16 by-elections, only two female candidates competed in a field of 33. Independent candidate Abigail Laikarnue Kou Freeman lost the race for the Nimba District #1 seat, while independent candidate Finda Gborie Lansanah won the contest for Bomi County District #1 representative.

In a November 16 statement, a local elections observation group, Liberia Elections Observation Network, noted it had observed significant underrepresentation of women in the temporary staff of the National Elections Commission for the November 16 representative by-elections in Bong, Bomi, Nimba, and Grand Gedeh Counties, where there were 275 women in a polling staff of 660.

Election law requires that political parties “endeavor to ensure 30 percent” female participation. In the December 2020 senatorial midterm election, 20 of the 118 candidates were women, constituting 17 percent of the candidates, all from opposition parties and none from the ruling party. The main opposition block, the Collaborating Political Parties, met the threshold with five female candidates out of 15. The ruling Coalition for Democratic Change fielded no female candidates for any Senate seat.

Some women supporting female Gbotoe Kanneh, candidate in the senatorial midterm election in Gbarpolu County, were harassed, and in some instances beaten, by supporters of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change candidate Alfred G. Koiwood, a two-term representative in the county.

Libya

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The 2011 Constitutional Declaration 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. After a prolonged delay because of the conflict, the UN-facilitated Libyan Political Dialogue Forum agreed on the date of December 24 for national elections. On December 22, the High National Elections Commission stated it could not proceed with elections because of several unresolved matters, including disputed candidacies.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In 2014 the High National Electoral Commission successfully administered the election of members to the House of Representatives, an interim parliament that replaced the General National Congress, whose mandate expired that year. Observers mostly commended the performance of the electoral authorities, with the largest national observation umbrella group citing minor technical problems and inconsistencies. Violence affected some polling centers. A total of 11 seats remained vacant due to a boycott of candidate registration and voting by the Amazigh community.

The term of the House of Representatives expired; however, the legislative body was recognized as the nation’s legitimate parliament by the Libyan Political Agreement signed in 2015, which created the former interim Government of National Accord.

Rival factions attempted to schedule elections in 2018 and 2019, but the efforts failed when the LNA launched its offensive on Tripoli in 2019.

During UNSMIL’s Libyan Political Dialogue Forum meeting in Geneva on February 1-5, Libyan delegates successfully selected the GNU as the country’s interim executive authority and set December 24 as the date for presidential and parliamentary elections. A lack of agreement on a presidential candidate list scuttled the planned elections.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: The 2011 Constitutional Declaration allows for full participation of women and minorities in elections and the political process, but significant social and cultural barriers – in addition to security challenges – prevented their proportionate political participation.

The election law provides for representation of women in the House of Representatives; of the 200 seats in parliament, the law reserves 32 for women. There were 27 active female members in the House of Representatives. The disparity was due to resignations and deputies’ refusal to take their seats.

Women were underrepresented in public-health decision making related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The GNU’s two COVID-19 pandemic response committees – the Supreme Committee for Coronavirus Response and an advisory Scientific Committee – lacked female members.

Ethnic minorities and indigenous groups, including the Amazigh, Tebu, and Tuareg, expressed frustration with what they perceived as their deliberate marginalization from political institutions and processes.

Liechtenstein

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: On February 8, the country held parliamentary elections. There were no reports of irregularities.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. During the year women’s representation in parliament increased. Seven women held seats in the 25-member parliament, compared with three in the previous legislative period. Three of the five ministers in the cabinet were women.

As a hereditary monarchy, the country’s line of succession is restricted to male descendants of the country’s princely family. In 2020 the Women’s Network, an umbrella organization of women’s nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in the country, criticized the male line of succession as undermining the constitution’s principles.

Lithuania

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: Presidential elections, including a runoff between the two candidates receiving the most votes, as well as European Parliamentary elections, took place in 2019. National parliamentary elections took place in October 2020. Observers evaluated all these elections as generally free and fair.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The government continued to prohibit the Communist Party.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. In the October 2020 parliamentary elections, women won 38 of the 141 seats (27 percent). Women were appointed speaker of parliament, and prime minister. Six of the 14 cabinet ministers were women. On June 17, Danute Jociene was appointed the first female president of the Constitutional Court.

Luxembourg

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: In 2018 the country held parliamentary elections that observers considered free and fair.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women and members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. The law requires that 40 percent of the party candidate lists submitted for national elections be from “the underrepresented gender.” If a party fails to meet the quota, the law provides a graduated scheme of reducing its yearly financial subsidy from the government, based on the extent of failure to meet the criteria. The country’s five major parties all met the 40 percent criterion in their candidate lists for the parliamentary elections.

Madagascar

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 country held a presidential election in 2018, followed by a run-off a month later. In 2019 the High Constitutional Court validated Andry Rajoelina as the winner with 55 percent of the vote. International and local observers judged the elections peaceful and transparent. Several candidates alleged voter suppression through the selective absence of voter registration materials, vote buying, and other irregularities.

Legislative elections took place in 2019. Local election observers noted some irregularities such as failure of government officials to remain neutral during the campaign and on election day. A number of candidates and their supporters claimed fraud. International observers generally found the elections free and fair but noted gaps in laws to encourage effective neutrality of administrative officials during elections.

In December 2020 the government conducted indirect elections for a Senate reduced from 63 to 18 members (12 elected, six appointed by the president, with the voters consisting of mayors and municipal counselors). The ruling party and those closely aligned with it won all seats since the opposition boycotted the elections due to objections concerning the reduction of members, which the High Constitutional Court endorsed the reductions in the fall of 2020. Even though an election observation platform denounced the distribution of money and other items to voters, observers judged the elections to be generally free and fair.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The government restricted opposition parties and denied them the right to demonstrate spontaneously. On February 19, the prefet (chief administrative officer) of Antananarivo announced that an opposition movement would be banned for administrative irregularities and for threatening the public order. There were additional restrictions on gatherings in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic health emergency. Official permission was required for all demonstrations, and there were reports the government denied or delayed permission for demonstrations by opposition parties. After an aborted opposition rally in Antananarivo on February 20 (see section 2.b., Freedom of Peaceful Assembly), authorities repeatedly denied the opposition authorization to gather under the pretext that there were no suitable venues available. On September 11, security forces blocked the entry to the compound of Tiko Antsirabe, which belonged to former president Marc Ravalomanana and where the opposition was holding a rally, thereby limiting the number of attendees.

Authorities initiated legal actions against politicians who did not align their views with those of the sitting government. For example, municipal council member Clemence Raharinirina, who was a frequent critic of the mayor of Antananarivo, was fined multiple times by local courts and sued by the mayor on charges of disrupting the public order, fraud, forgery, and other questionable charges.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of historically marginalized groups, including persons with disabilities (see section 6, Persons with Disabilities) and LGBTQI+ persons, in the political process, and they did participate.

Women accounted for 44 of the 169 members of both houses of parliament. Of 32 members of the cabinet, 11 were women. Some observers stated cultural and traditional factors, such as the traditional concept of men as “heads of household” and of women occupying roles subservient to men, prevented women from participating in political life to the same extent as men.

Malawi

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 2019 citizens voted in simultaneous presidential, parliamentary, and local elections. International observers characterized conduct of those elections as generally competent, professional, and successful. With 39 percent of the vote, incumbent President Arthur Peter Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party was re-elected to a second five-year term. Lazarus Chakwera of the main opposition Malawi Congress Party received 35 percent of the vote, while Mutharika’s former vice president Saulos Chilima of the United Transformation Movement received 20 percent of the vote. Chakwera and Chilima challenged the election results in court and sought an annulment of the election. In February 2020 the High Court nullified the election, and in May 2020 the Supreme Court of Appeal reaffirmed the nullification. Another presidential election was conducted in June 2020 that opposition leader Chakwera won as the torchbearer of the nine-party Tonse Alliance with 58 percent of the votes. Former president Peter Mutharika garnered 39 percent of the votes.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, including persons with disabilities, 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. More women contested parliament and local councilor seats in 2019 than ever before, but a majority ran as independents as the primary system often disadvantaged women from competing as party candidates. Women reported harassment and intimidation when campaigning. There were 45 women elected to the 193-seat National Assembly and 67 women among the 462 elected local councilors. In the 31-member cabinet, there were 12 women of whom four were ministers and eight were deputy ministers. These represented gains of 7 percent in parliament, a 1 percent increase in local councilors, and an 8 percent increase in cabinet positions.

Malaysia

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. The constitution also provides for transfers of power without new legislative elections. This occurred in August for the second time since 2018, when Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin resigned after losing majority support from members of the lower house of parliament, resulting in a transfer of power to a new prime minister, Ismail Sabri. The king determined that Sabri commanded a parliamentary majority and appointed him prime minister after meeting with parliamentarians, in conformity with constitutional parameters.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The country’s most recent general election was held in 2018 amid allegations of partisanship on the part of public institutions, in particular the Election Commission and the Registrar of Societies. In the election the Pakatan Harapan coalition unseated the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, marking the first federal transition of power between coalitions since independence in 1957. Prior to the 2018 elections, opposition political parties were disadvantaged due to the Barisan Nasional government’s control over traditional media outlets and malapportionment of constituencies, among other matters.

While authorities generally recorded votes accurately, there were irregularities perpetrated by the former Barisan Nasional coalition government that affected the fairness of elections.

A consortium of NGOs released a formal report in 2018 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 these NGOs, none of which were formally accredited to observe the polls, federal and state governments spent more than five billion ringgit ($1.2 billion) on “handouts” after legislatures had been dissolved and lawmakers were ostensibly prohibited from making new financial commitments. The report also alleged that one accredited election observer actively campaigned for the former Barisan Nasional government.

Despite strong objections by opposition political parties and civil society, in 2018 the former Barisan Nasional coalition government approved redrawn parliamentary districts that critics contended unfairly advantaged Barisan Nasional through gerrymandering and malapportionment. By law the government is not allowed to redraw the electoral boundaries until 2026 unless members of parliament amend the federal constitution, a process that requires a two-thirds majority vote. Despite alleged electoral irregularities and systemic disadvantages for opposition groups, Barisan Nasional lost the election to Pakatan Harapan, the first transfer of power between coalitions since independence in 1957.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Many opposition candidates were unable to compete on equal terms with the then ruling Barisan Nasional coalition and were subject to restrictions and outside interference during the 2018 election campaign. Registering a new political party remained difficult because of government restrictions on the process.

In August the minister of home affairs rejected an appeal by the Malaysian United Democratic Alliance to register as a political party. The alliance, led by parliamentarian and former youth and sport minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, had a successful social media launch, securing more than 300,000 member registrations in one month in late 2020.

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.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation by women or members of minority groups or of historically marginalized groups in the political process, and they did participate. In parliament 33 women held 14.8 percent of the seats, an increase from 10.8 percent in the previous election cycle. Eight of 14 Federal Court judges were women, including Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat. There were four non-Muslim judges serving on the Federal Court.

The political environment was hostile towards women. Attacks on female politicians and women who were critical of the country’s politics were common, including sexist remarks in parliament against female members, threats of rape and murder via Facebook and other social media platforms, and stereotyping female political candidates. In July Speaker of the Lower House Azhar Harun repeatedly told female opposition members to “shut up” during parliamentary proceedings.

Nine cabinet positions were held by women.

Maldives

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 parliamentary elections held in April 2020 were well administered and transparent according to Transparency Maldives and international election observers. Despite an assessment the overall election was well administered, Transparency Maldives highlighted some matters of concern including unverified reports of vote buying, lack of transparency in political financing, abuse of state resources, and barriers for women’s equal participation in the electoral process.

Political Parties and Political Participation: In March the Elections Commission expressed concern regarding restrictive measures introduced in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, including restrictions on interisland travel and prohibition of public gatherings, unfairly impacted political parties in campaigning ahead of local council elections. Following negotiations with the commission, the Health Protection Agency published special campaigning guidelines lifting some of these restrictions in the weeks leading up to the elections.

The political opposition maintains that the 2019 conviction of money laundering and sentencing to five years’ imprisonment of opposition leader and former president Abdulla Yameen was politically motivated. Civil society and international observers, however, viewed the convictions as credible and appropriate.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No law limits participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Women’s rights activists and female politicians continued to highlight a lack of government and political party effort to encourage political participation of women. In January the High Court confirmed the constitutionality of a 2019 amendment to the Decentralization Act that provides for a 33 percent quota for female membership in all local councils. In April the quota was applied for the first time in the election of representatives to island, atoll, and city-level local councils.

Mali

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 in the past exercised that right, but with some difficulty. The country had a military coup d’etat in August 2020, followed by a civilian-led transition government in September 2020 that was itself overthrown by the military on May 24. A new civilian-led transition government was subsequently formed; it announced plans to hold elections by February 27, 2022.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Originally scheduled for October 2018, legislative elections were held in March 2020. In April 2020 runoff elections took place. Restricted freedom of movement, logistical challenges, allegations of voter intimidation, election tampering, and financial limitations prevented many opposition candidates from campaigning in much of the central and northern parts of the country. In the months following the legislative elections, the constitutional court vacated key election results, especially in Bamako District, in favor of the then ruling party. The court’s action led to widespread civil unrest and efforts by ECOWAS to resolve the ensuing constitutional crisis.

In August 2020 military officers overthrew the elected government in a coup d’etat. The National Assembly was dissolved by then president Keita following the coup. ECOWAS swiftly imposed sanctions on the country, initially demanding an immediate return to constitutional order and eventually agreeing to an 18-month civilian transition government. In September 2020 a former minister of defense, retired colonel major Bah N’Daw, was sworn in as president of a transition government, and coup leader Colonel Assimi Goita was sworn in as transition government vice president. Later in September 2020, N’Daw named former minister of foreign affairs Moctar Ouane as prime minister of the transition government. In December 2020, 121 persons were nominated and subsequently confirmed to the National Transition Council (CNT), which played the role of the transition legislature. Goita selected the CNT’s members, the plurality of whom hailed from the MDSF.

On May 24, N’Daw and Ouane were arrested by the military, placed in detention for three days, and then placed under house arrest. On June 7, Goita became the new transition president. On June 11, a new government cabinet was formed with Choguel Kokalla Maiga as prime minister. On August 27, the transition government released N’Daw and Ouane from house arrest.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Cultural or religious factors, however, sometimes limited women’s political participation in formal and informal roles due to a perception that it was taboo or improper to have women in such roles. The law 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. Six of the 25 ministers and delegate ministers of the transition government were women.

Compliance with the law mandating female candidate participation was nearly achieved for the March and April 2020 legislative elections, with 41 seats of the 147-member National Assembly going to women, representing 28 percent of the National Assembly. The National Assembly was dissolved following the August 2020 coup.

Malta

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 Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Cultural and traditional barriers remained an obstacle to increased participation by women. Women’s representation in the political sector remained low. Only nine of 67 members of parliament were women. On April 20, a parliamentary amendment of the constitution to “ensure de facto equality between men and women in politics” went into force.

Marshall Islands

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 12 traditional clan chiefs.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The most recent national legislative elections took place in 2019 and were generally regarded as free and fair, although a lawsuit was filed in one electoral district alleging vote buying and fraud.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process; two of 33 members of the legislature elected in 2019 were women, and one out of 33 mayors were women. Traditional attitudes of male dominance (men generally preferred to women as candidates), women’s cultural responsibilities and traditionally passive roles, and the generally early age of pregnancies created hurdles for women to obtain political qualifications or experience.

Mauritania

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: Voters elected former minister of defense Mohamed Ould Cheikh El Ghazouani as president with 52 percent of the vote in the 2019 presidential election. Prominent antislavery activist and politician Biram Dah Abeid placed second with 19 percent of the vote, while Mohamed Ould Boubacar, a former prime minister backed by the Islamist party, placed third with 17 percent. Observers from the United Nations and African Union judged the election to be relatively free and fair, with no evidence of large-scale fraud that could have materially influenced the outcome of the vote. The presidential elections represented the first transition of power from one democratically elected leader to another since the country’s independence in 1960.

In 2018 the party founded by the former president, the Union for the Republic, won 95 of 157 seats in the National Assembly in legislative elections, which the African Union judged to be relatively free and fair.

Political Parties and Political Participation: There are some restrictions on the ability of political parties to register. By decree all political parties must be able to gain at least 1 percent of votes in two consecutive elections in order to continue to operate legally and receive government funding, and this decree continued to limit the overall number of political parties that can participate. The government did not approve registration for previously denied activist parties, including the Forces of Progressive Change. The government took some steps to address the ethnic disparity in political leadership. Under the previous regime, the Beydane elite (“White Moor” Arabs) accounted for at most 30 percent of the population but occupied approximately 80 percent of government leadership positions; Haratines constituted at least 45 percent of the population but held fewer than 10 percent of the positions; and the various sub-Saharan ethnic groups (Halpulaar, Soninke, and Wolof) constituted an estimated 25 percent of the population and accounted for fewer than 10 percent of leadership positions. Of the 27 ministers in the sitting cabinet, 18 percent come from a Haratine ethnic background, and 18 percent come from a sub-Saharan ethnic background. Unlike in previous governments, the existing cabinet was largely made up of technocrats.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Traditional and cultural factors restricted women from participating in political life on an equal basis with men. Despite laws promoting women’s access to elective positions (including a quota of 20 percent of seats reserved for women on lists of candidates in legislative and local elections), the number of women in electoral politics remained low. Following the 2018 legislative elections, women held 19.6 percent of seats in the 157-member National Assembly, compared with the 2014 election results in which women held 22 percent of seats. Five women were named to the new cabinet: one from the non-Arab sub-Saharan ethnic community, none from the Haratine ethnic community, and four from the Beydane (“White Moor”) ethnic community. Traditional and cultural factors also prevented persons with disabilities and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons from participating in political life on the same basis as nonminority citizens.

Mauritius

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 2019 as free and fair. The coalition headed by the incumbent prime minister won a majority of seats. The constitution provides for filling 62 National Assembly seats by election. The constitution also allows the Electoral Supervisory Commission to allocate up to eight additional seats to unsuccessful candidates from minority communities that are underrepresented, based on the 1972 census, through a procedure known as the Best Loser System (BLS). Various political observers claimed the BLS undermined national unity and promoted discrimination.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Political parties operated without restriction or outside interference. Opposition parties, however, have long alleged that MBC TV favored whichever group was in power.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No law limits participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. In 2015 Ameenah Gurib-Fakim became the first female president of the country. She resigned in 2018 due to allegations of corruption. 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 2019 legislative elections, women constituted 20 percent of elected members of the National Assembly and 12 percent of the cabinet, an increase from 11 percent and 8 percent, respectively.

The constitution mandates that candidates for legislative elections declare their ethnicity to calculate the BLS. One political party and several independent candidates refused to declare their ethnicities before the 2019 elections on the grounds that doing so was undemocratic. The Supreme Court ruled against them, and election authorities did not include them on the ballots.

Mexico

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

Federal 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: International observers considered the midterm elections (legislative, gubernatorial, and local) to be 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. The midterm elections, the largest in the country’s history due to the record number of more than 20,000 offices up for election, had a 52 percent turnout, a record for a nonpresidential election.

In May voting in prisons occurred for the first time in the country’s modern history after the Federal Electoral Tribunal ruled prisoners in pretrial detention had the right to vote.

Political Parties and Political Participation: For the electoral process, the National Electoral Institute (INE) established the Three Out of Three Against Violence initiative, which required candidates to declare any history of domestic violence, sexual offenses, or failure to pay alimony. The INE requested information from all 32 states, reviewed a sample of 1,177 of the 6,962 federal deputy candidates, and canceled the registration of three candidates for filing false reports. In October 2020 the Electoral Tribunal granted registration to three new political parties: Solidary Encounter Party, Progressive Social Networks, and Social Force for Mexico. The same tribunal rejected registration challenges from four other parties, including former president Felipe Calderon’s Free Mexico Party, which the INE argued did not produce sufficient evidence of the origin of some funding it received. Authorities declared 10 political parties eligible to participate in the midterm elections.

During the electoral season (September 2020 to June), assailants killed 36 candidates and 64 politicians. The rate of aggression against political figures during the election cycle was on par with the 2018 election, one of the most violent political periods in recent history. The states where the most political violence occurred were Veracruz, followed by Guerrero and Guanajuato. Municipal candidates and challengers seeking to oust incumbents were the most common victims of political violence, with victims spread across the political spectrum. Security experts said government candidate protection programs, which did not cover all those eligible, had a negligible impact on curbing political violence.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. The law provides for the right of indigenous persons to elect representatives to local office according to “uses and customs” law (see section 6, Indigenous Peoples) rather than federal and state electoral law.

The law establishes a requirement to observe parity in the designation of public officials at every level (federal, state, local) in all three branches of government. The law states that the principle of gender parity should be observed in the designation of cabinet members, selection of candidates for public office by every political party, and designation of members of the judiciary. The presidential cabinet had 19 secretariats, and as of August women headed seven.

Political parties nominated more female candidates for public office in the midterm elections than ever before, including half of their candidates for governor in the 15 races up for election. The midterms marked a large increase in female candidates. There were 46 female candidates for governor; from 2012 to 2018, there cumulatively only 42. From 1979 to 2020 only eight women had become governors. Six female candidates became governors, the largest number in the history of the country. Of the 500 legislators in the Chamber of Deputies, 250 were women, 1 percent more than after the 2018 elections.

Additionally, the INE introduced quotas to promote minority representation, requiring political parties to nominate a certain number of candidates belonging to minority groups, including from indigenous, Afro-Mexican, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) communities, as well as persons with disabilities. As a result the new Chamber of Deputies had 37 indigenous deputies, six Afro-Mexican deputies, four LGBTQI+ deputies (including two transgender deputies), and eight deputies with disabilities.

Between January and April the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Electoral Crimes in the Attorney General’s Office initiated 14 investigations related to gender-based political violence against women. During the electoral process the INE received 147 complaints of gender-based political violence, a significant increase from the 47 complaints it received during the 2017-2018 electoral process. The INE sanctioned 107 persons for gender-based political violence. Penalties ranged from monetary fines to the cancellation of candidacies.

Micronesia

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: In 2019 the Congress selected the new president, David Panuelo, to serve a four-year term. The March election for 10 congressional legislators to serve two-year terms was generally free and fair, and seating of the new Congress was uneventful.

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 Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of historically marginalized or minority groups 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 women held two of nine cabinet-level positions (postmaster general and secretary of education), and two women led diplomatic missions as consul general in Guam, and as the country’s first female ambassador, serving as the permanent representative to the United Nations, respectively. There was one female associate justice on the national Supreme Court and one female associate justice on the Pohnpei State Supreme Court. There were four elected women in the Pohnpei State legislature, an increase from the previous election cycle. No women were elected in the March congressional election; however, a woman won a congressional special election in November, the first woman ever elected to the National Congress.

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

Moldova

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: Presidential elections with a runoff were held in November 2020, in which former prime minister Maia Sandu defeated the incumbent president, Igor Dodon, making her the country’s first female president. OSCE election observers noted in their final report that fundamental freedoms of assembly and expression were respected and that the campaign was competitive providing voters distinct political alternatives. While political polarization and control of media remained a concern, contestants were covered in a generally balanced manned that empowered voters to make an informed choice. Local and international election observers noted other irregularities, including allegations of illegal mass transportation and vote buying, particularly targeting voters from the Transnistria region; ineffective campaign finance oversight; and shortcomings in election dispute resolution.

Following the resignation of the prime minister and the government in December 2020 and the failure to confirm a new government, early parliamentary elections were held on July 11. OSCE election observers noted in their final report that the elections were well administered and competitive and that fundamental freedoms were largely respected. OSCE election observers also concluded that candidates had ample opportunities to campaign, although they noted problems related to Central Electoral Commission impartiality, inadequate regulation regarding electoral dispute resolution, doubts regarding the courts’ political neutrality, and insufficient oversight of campaign financing. President Sandu’s Action and Solidarity Party (PAS) won the elections with 63 seats in parliament, enough to form a single-party majority government. On August 6, a new government led by Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita received a vote of confidence in parliament and was sworn in.

ODIHR provided an election observation mission that assessed the early parliamentary elections for their compliance with OSCE commitments, other international obligations and standards for democratic elections, and local legislation. The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly, and other international organizations and foreign missions also deployed observer delegations for these elections.

In their preliminary reports, international and local observers from ODIHR and local NGO Promo-LEX noted the parliamentary elections generally respected fundamental freedoms and preliminary results reflected voters’ will. Observers noted election irregularities, such as allegations of illegal mass transportation and vote-buying, particularly in the Transnistria region. The Civic Coalition for Free and Fair Elections, composed of 36 local NGOs, assessed the parliamentary elections as partially free and fair but held in an environment marked by hate speech, biased coverage, and suspicions of political influence on electoral bodies. While noting that the gender quota for party lists increased the number of elected female members of parliament, the coalition outlined a number of problems, such as inadequate review of electoral complaints in the absence of clear provisions in the electoral code; a nontransparent and unpredictable process of establishing polling stations abroad and in Transnistria, under alleged political influence; use of hate speech during the electoral campaign by political parties and candidates; biased media coverage and insufficient information concerning the electoral process and voting methods; and discrimination against persons with special needs, who continued to face barriers to physical and information accessibility.

A pre-election report by the ENEMO found that the parliamentary election was generally competitive, administered efficiently and transparently, and fundamental rights were respected overall. Problems observed included doubts regarding the impartiality of some Central Electoral Commission decisions, including on polling stations abroad and in Transnistria; alleged misuse of administrative resources; illegal financing and vote buying; disinformation by biased and polarized media; and ineffective procedures for adjudicating complaints.

Political Parties and Political Participation: With some exceptions, opposition parties did not report incidents of intimidation and politically motivated criminal cases against their members by authorities during the year. Several criminal cases from previous years regarding high-level politicians, however, continued during the year (see section 4, Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government).

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the ability of women and members of minority groups to participate in the political process, and they did participate. The law provides that each gender must have a minimum of 40 percent of candidates on the party lists of candidates for parliamentary and local elections. The law requires that 20 percent of public subsidy allocations to parties and candidates be used to promote women candidates. The law provides for sanctions against political parties that publicly promote discriminatory messages or stereotypes, use discriminatory language in mass media, or fail to meet the required gender quotas. Civil society observers reported the law was not enforced, particularly during the electoral campaign.

In the July 11 early parliamentary elections, 40 women were elected to parliament, the highest number in the country’s history. Four political parties that competed in the elections included women at the top of their lists of candidates. More women than men were involved in the organization of the election, and more than 54 percent of District Electoral Councils were led by women.

President Sandu, head of the Constitutional Court Domnica Manole, Prime Minister Gavrilita, and many government ministers were women.

Monaco

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 in 2018 to be free and fair.

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

Mongolia

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: Presidential elections were held June 9; the most recent parliamentary elections were held in 2020. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe sent a small team of international observers to observe the presidential election. They concluded, “the candidates could campaign freely even though the pandemic largely ruled out face-to-face campaigning, but the stringent rules on candidate eligibility, campaigning and editorial freedom are out of sync with international standards, and the lack of campaign finance transparency remained a matter of concern.” Although observers acknowledged the election process was well administered and organized, they noted that an apparent inequality of resources and the involvement of public officials in the campaign increased the advantages of the ruling party.

Before the June presidential election, courts blocked the incumbent Democratic Party president, Battulga, from running for re-election in accordance with a constitutional amendment enacted in 2020 limiting presidents to one term, a limitation the president said should not apply to him as the incumbent. Battulga also unsuccessfully attempted to disband the Mongolian People’s Party through lawsuits.

Whereas citizens residing abroad were excluded from voting in the 2020 parliamentary elections, they were able to vote in the June presidential election through the country’s diplomatic missions.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of historically marginalized or minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. According to election law, at least 20 percent of candidates nominated by a political party or coalition for local and national political office must be women; political parties generally complied with this requirement. For example, in the 2020 parliamentary election, approximately 25 percent of the candidates nominated by the various political parties and coalitions were women. Women voters outnumbered men at the polls by 11 percentage points.

Montenegro

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 parliamentary elections in August 2020. The elections were competitive and took place in an environment highly polarized over topics of religion and national identity. The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) stated the elections were overall transparent and efficient but highlighted that the ruling party gained an undue advantage through misuse of office and state resources and dominant media coverage. ODIHR also found the State Election Commission did not entirely fulfill its regulatory role, leaving many aspects related to voter registration unaddressed and failing to provide clear recommendations for protecting the health of voters and for facilitating mobile voting by voters in quarantine. ODIHR further noted the elections took place amid concerns about the government’s inconsistent adherence to the constitution, including calling early elections without shortening parliament’s mandate; introducing pandemic-related restrictions on public gatherings and rallies without parliament calling a state of emergency; and initiating criminal proceedings and arrests for several members of parliament without a prior waiver of their immunity by parliament.

The European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations and ODIHR observers noted that election day was calm and peaceful but identified a few cases of minor irregularities that did not affect the electoral process. Unlike the previous parliamentary elections in 2016, all parties accepted the election results. ODIHR found that the lack of independent campaign coverage by media further undermined the quality of information available to voters. In the August 2020 election, opposition parties won a majority of the seats in parliament for the first time in 30 years.

The country held presidential elections in 2018. The ODIHR observation mission to the elections noted in its final report that although the candidate nominated by the governing party held an institutional advantage, fundamental freedoms were respected. Candidates campaigned freely, and 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 matters of concern. Election day proceeded in an orderly manner despite a few observed procedural irregularities.

On February 5, the Appellate Court accepted the appeals of 13 defendants and annulled the 2019 verdicts by the Podgorica High Court in the 2016 failed coup attempt case, ordering the Higher Court to repeat the trial.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Political parties were able to form and operate freely. The largest constituent of the ruling majority, the Democratic Front (DF), and the major opposition party, the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), chose to boycott parliament occasionally.

On January 30, police briefly detained and then expelled eight Serbian citizens for a lack of valid temporary residency and work permits. The eight individuals, four of whom were reportedly members of Serbia’s Progressive Party, were hired by Montenegro’s New Serbian Democracy (NOVA) party, a core constituent of the DF coalition, to upgrade the party’s operations and update its voter data base ahead of local Niksic elections on March 14. Some media outlets reported that the expelled individuals were supposedly close to President Aleksandar Vucic and Serbian Security Agency agents and accused them of being heavily involved in the Niksic elections. To support the assertion, they highlighted the earlier seizure of money and computers from Serbia, which were allegedly intended to support pro-Serbian parties in the elections.

On February 25, Nik Gjeloshaj, the mayor of Tuzi, a predominantly ethnic Albanian municipality, accused the government of “politically” imposing COVID-19 restrictions on the municipality based on national identity. The measures, including the closing of the catering facilities and specific only to Tuzi, banned demonstrations organized by the mayor’s party, Albanian Alternative, to protest the government. The government accused Gjeloshaj of civil disobedience and politicizing a health matter by organizing protests, while opposition and ethnic minority parties backed Tuzi leadership, blaming the national authorities for losing control over the pandemic. Meanwhile, police filed charges against Gjeloshaj and two more local communal police officials for calling for resistance to the measures.

Opposition parties condemned numerous dismissals among the state administration as politically motivated actions so that the ruling parties could install their members into the positions.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws formally limit the participation of women or minorities in the political process, and they did participate. Ethnic Bosniak and Albanian minority parties complained of inadequate representation within the government. The law requires that at least 30 percent of a political party’s candidates be female, and women held 27 percent of delegate seats (22 of 81) in the parliament, up from 22 percent (18 seats) in the previous parliament. In the new national government, women held four of the 12 ministerial seats. Out of 24 local governments, however, women were presidents of only two municipalities.

The largest minority groups in the country (i.e., Serbs, Bosniaks, and Albanians) had ethnic party representatives in parliament; Roma, Ashkali, and Balkan-Egyptians remained unrepresented. In the August 2020 parliamentary elections, the two Croatian electoral lists did not pass the election threshold needed to win seats in parliament. Although the law provides representation to minority-affiliated parties that win less than 3 percent of the vote or constitute less than 15 percent of the population, the law does not apply to the Romani community. At the end of 2019, the Democratic Roma Party became the first Romani political party established in the country. 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. There were no political representatives of Roma, Ashkali, or Balkan-Egyptians at the municipal level.

Morocco

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The country is a constitutional monarchy under which ultimate authority rests with King Mohammed VI, who presides over the Council of Ministers. The king shares executive authority with a prime minister who is the head of government. According to the constitution, the king appoints the head of government from the political party with the most seats in parliament and approves members of the government nominated by the head of government.

The law provides for, and citizens participated in, free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage for parliament’s Chamber of Representatives and municipal and regional councils. Regional and professional bodies indirectly elected members of parliament’s less powerful Chamber of Counselors.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: On September 8, the country held local, regional, and parliamentary elections for the Chamber of Representatives (the lower house of parliament). Although there were allegations of vote buying and candidate intimidation, domestic and international observers considered the elections generally free, fair, and transparent. As stipulated by the constitution, the king tasked the National Rally of Independents, which won the most seats in the newly elected chamber, to form a governing coalition and nominate new ministers.

Political Parties and Political Participation: A political party may not legally challenge Islam as the state religion, the institution of the monarchy, or the country’s territorial integrity. The law prohibits basing a party on a religious, ethnic, or regional identity. The Ministerial Council, held on February 11, approved legislation that included a number of requirements to increase women’s political representation at national and local levels.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Voters elected a record number of women in this year’s elections. In the new government, led by Head of Government Aziz Akhannouch, seven women were appointed ministers, the highest number to date. One female minister – who was simultaneously elected as mayor of Casablanca – resigned from her ministerial position one week after her appointment to focus on her mayoralty position.

Mozambique

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.

In 2019 the government and the main opposition party, the Mozambican National Resistance party (Renamo), signed cessation of hostilities and a peace agreement that the National Assembly enacted into law, formally ending four years of sporadic conflict.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In 2019 the country held national elections for president, parliament, and provincial assemblies. Domestic and international observers noted voting-day procedures were generally orderly but lacked transparency and accountability during vote tabulation. The EU, European Commonwealth, and civil society organizations reported significant irregularities. These included discrepancies between the number of voters registered and the number of eligible voters, particularly in Gaza and Zambezia Provinces; delays in observer credentialing; nonregistration of more than 3,000 independent and opposition observers; the arrest and intimidation of some opposition observers; late release of campaign funding to political parties; intentional spoiling of ballots; vote falsification; and inordinately high voter turnout in some districts that indicated ballot-box stuffing. During vote tabulation civil society and international observers noted that election authorities did not exercise systematic control of ballots, which created opportunities for tampering or altering voting results.

The two major opposition parties, Renamo and the Democratic Movement of Mozambique, did not recognize the election results as legitimate, and opposition-party members of the National Election Commission (CNE) voted unanimously to reject certification of the provisional results. The president of the CNE acknowledged irregularities occurred and stated the Constitutional Council would determine whether the elections were free, fair, and transparent. In 2019 the Constitutional Council acknowledged irregularities but stated that they did not substantially alter the election outcome. The council certified the re-election of President Nyusi with 73 percent of the vote and that Frelimo won in every district of the country, including more than two-thirds of the parliamentary seats, the vast majority of the provincial assembly seats, and all 10 provincial governorships.

The EU Election Observation Mission stated the electoral process occurred on an “uneven playing field” in favor of Frelimo because it benefitted from the advantages of incumbency and may have exercised political influence on electoral administration. Some observers and local press reported that Frelimo party operatives collected voters’ names and their voting card numbers as a means of intimidating them into voting for Frelimo.

Election-related violence occurred throughout the pre-election campaign period, including shootings, stabbings, and beatings. Opposition parties and civil society complained of increased acts of violence, intimidation, and bias by the government and Frelimo operatives.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Frelimo has dominated the political process since the country’s independence in 1975. Opposition political parties could operate, yet there were occasional restrictions on meetings, unlawful arrests, and other forms of interference and harassment by the government. Renamo and the Democratic Movement of Mozambique claimed the government banned meetings and that Frelimo militants attacked opposition party members in Inhambane Province.

In December 2020 the National Assembly elected seven civil society representatives to the CNE. In January the commission’s members, which include the civil society members and appointees from the three main political parties, assumed office.

Following the death of the party’s president and founder in February, in December the Democratic Movement of Mozambique elected a new president.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No law limits participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Women and members of many ethnic groups held key political positions. Frelimo used quotas to provide for female representation on its central committee.

Namibia

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: Presidential and parliamentary elections take place every five years. In 2019 presidential and parliamentary elections were conducted. SWAPO candidate Hage Geingob was re-elected president with 56 percent of the vote. SWAPO candidates won 63 of the 96 elected seats – there are also eight appointed nonvoting seats – in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament. Opposition parties increased their share from 19 to 33 seats. Voting proceeded in an orderly and effective manner with no reports of politically motivated violence or voter intimidation. International observers characterized the 2019 election as generally free and fair.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No law limits participation of women and members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate. Virtually all the country’s ethnic minorities had representatives in parliament. The president is from the minority Damara ethnic group. Historic, economic, and educational disadvantages often limited participation in politics by the San and OvaHimba ethnic groups.

Nauru

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: International observers considered the most recent parliamentary election, held in 2019, to be generally free and fair. There were accusations, however, of actions taken to improve the government’s electoral prospects. These accusations included late changes to the election law by the government of then president Baron Waqa allegedly to disadvantage nongovernment candidates, substantial payments by Waqa’s government to persons affected by the 2006 collapse of the Bank of Nauru, and the approval of citizenship for 118 individuals in the weeks before the election.

The resulting 19-member parliament elected Lionel Aingimea, a former human rights lawyer and second-term member of parliament, as president.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Although political parties have the legal right to operate without outside interference, there were no formal parties.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate; however, participation by women was significantly less than by men. Two of the five women who ran in the August 2019 general election were elected to the 19-member parliament.

The country has a small and almost entirely homogeneous Micronesian population. There were no members of minority groups in parliament or the cabinet.

Nepal

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 government held parliamentary, provincial, and local assembly elections over five phases throughout 2017. International observers indicated that these parliamentary and provincial assembly elections were generally well conducted, despite some violent incidents, and logistical and operational challenges, including a notable lack of transparency and adequate voter education by the Election Commission of Nepal, which hampered the electoral process. According to domestic observer groups, the elections were free, fair, and peaceful and saw high voter turnout. There were three reports, however, of individuals being killed by police and sporadic reports of interparty clashes or assaults, vandalism, and small explosive devices and hoax bombs.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws explicitly limit participation of women, members of minority groups, or members of historically marginalized groups including persons with disabilities, LGBTQI+, and indigenous persons in the political process, and they did participate in local, provincial, and national elections. The constitution mandates proportional inclusion of women in all state bodies and allocates one third of all federal and provincial legislative seats (LGBTQI+). Activists noted that this mandate excluded nonbinary candidates from running for office.

Netherlands

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution and laws in the entire kingdom 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 the March parliamentary elections for seats in the Second Chamber of the Netherlands free and fair.

Observers considered the 2020 parliamentary elections on Sint Maarten, the March 19 parliamentary elections on Curacao, and the June 25 parliamentary elections on Aruba all free and fair.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of historically marginalized groups, including persons with disabilities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons, and indigenous persons, in the political process in the kingdom, and they did participate.

New Zealand

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: In October 2020 elections seen as free and fair, the Labour Party led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern won an outright majority in parliament. The election was delayed from September by agreement of all political parties, due to a COVID-19 outbreak in Auckland.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of historically marginalized or minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Following the 2020 election, 48 percent of the members of parliament were women, up from 38 percent after the 2017 election.

Nicaragua

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

While the law 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, the government restricted freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association. Institutional fraud, among other obstacles, precluded opportunities for meaningful choice.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In November President Ortega awarded himself a fourth term in office following a deeply flawed electoral process characterized by historically low voter turnout. Ortega and his FSLN party cancelled the legal registration of all credible opposition political parties, jailed opposition presidential candidates on spurious charges, and committed blatant electoral fraud. Independent observer groups and international organizations characterized the electoral process as not credible. The government did not allow credible, independent electoral observers into the country. The 2021 elections expanded the ruling party’s supermajority in the National Assembly, which previously allowed for changes in the constitution that extended the reach of executive branch power and the elimination of restrictions on re-election for executive branch officials and mayors. On November 12, a total of 25 member states of the Organization of American States (OAS) voted in favor of a resolution declaring the elections were “not free, fair or transparent, and lack democratic legitimacy.”

The 2019 Caribbean regional and 2017 municipal elections were marred by widespread institutional fraud and heavy security force presence.

Civil society groups expressed concerns over the lack of a transparent and fair electoral process leading up to the 2021 national elections, the 2019 Caribbean regional elections, and the 2017 municipal elections. Electoral experts, business leaders, representatives of the Catholic Church, and civil society organizations reported that a lack of accredited domestic or international observation, in addition to the ruling party’s control over all aspects of the official electoral structure and all branches of government, combined to impede holding free and fair elections.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) announced on May 18 that it had cancelled the legal status of the opposition Democratic Restoration Party. On May 19, the CSE announced it cancelled the legal status the Conservative Party. On August 6, the CSE revoked the legal status of a third opposition party, Citizens for Liberty. The remaining political parties were controlled by the Ortega regime, paving the way for Ortega to run unopposed in the November elections. In 2020 the National Assembly passed a law that bars anyone from running for office whom the government designated as a “traitor,” defining the term so broadly that it could be applied to anyone who expressed opposition to the ruling party. In June the ruling party used this law to jail at least six individuals who had signaled they would run as opposition presidential candidates.

The government used state resources for political activities to enhance the FSLN’s electoral advantage in recent elections. Independent media, human rights groups, and opposition parties reported the government used public funds to provide subsidized food, housing, vaccinations, access to clinics, and other benefits directly through either FSLN-led “family cabinets” (community-based bodies that administer government social programs) or party-controlled Sandinista leadership committee (CLS) systems, which reportedly coerced citizens into FSLN membership while denying services to opposition members. The regime also made party membership mandatory for an increasing number of public-sector employees. Observers noted government employees continued to be pressured into affiliating with the FSLN and participating in party activities. During the year the government pressured public servants to participate in mass public gatherings including sports events, political rallies, and marches despite the dangers of spreading COVID-19 via mass gatherings.

The FSLN also used its authority to decide who could obtain national identity cards. Persons seeking to obtain or retain public-sector employment, national identity documents, or voter registration were obliged to obtain recommendation letters from CLS block captains. Those without identity cards were unable to vote and had difficulty participating in the legal economy or conducting bank transactions. Such persons also were subject to restrictions in employment, access to courts, and land ownership. Civil society organizations continued to express concern about the politicized distribution of identity cards, alleging this was one way the FSLN manipulated past elections and that the CSE failed to provide identity cards to opposition members while widely distributing them to party loyalists.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups, including persons with disabilities; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons; and indigenous persons, in the political process, and they did participate, although observers noted most women in elected positions at the municipal and national levels held limited power or influence in their respective bodies.

Niger

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: International and domestic observers found the first round of the presidential election in December 2020 to be peaceful, free, fair, transparent, and inclusive. Nearly 70 percent of registered voters participated. Mohamed Bazoum of the ruling Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism finished first with 39.3 percent of the vote. Opposition candidate Mahamane Ousman of the Democratic and Republic Renewal party finished second with 16.9 percent. A second round between the two candidates occurred February 21, and Bazoum won with approximately 56 percent of the vote. Observers considered the second round of voting to be equally peaceful, free, fair, transparent, and inclusive. In legislative elections conducted in tandem with the first round of the presidential election, the ruling party won 79 of 171 seats, the ruling coalition won 127 seats, and various opposition parties divided the rest. International and local observers found the legislative elections to be equally peaceful, free, fair, transparent, and inclusive.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The government intermittently interfered with opposition political party activities and limited opposition access to state media, despite Superior Communications Council decisions offering free and equitable access to all parties. Irregularities in the political campaign included a lack of campaign finance regulations, greatly benefiting the better-resourced ruling coalition, and the ruling coalition’s unequal and illegal use of public funds.

In November 2020 the Constitutional Court declared opposition leader Hama Amadou ineligible to run for the presidency. Authorities also disqualified other candidates due to ineligibilities in their applications. Critics alleged the ineligibilities were unfounded and politically motivated to prevent opposition candidates from challenging the ruling coalition.

The law centralizes authority for organizing elections in a permanent independent national election commission but defines its voting board in a way that leaves it dominated by the ruling coalition. The law requires the election commission to create biometric voter lists. Opposition parties and civil society groups alleged voter registration requirements were unevenly applied in different regions, particularly in view of ruling party control of the enrollment workshop process. Biometric voter registration was not available for citizens living outside the country due to COVID-19 and other obstacles, and they were unable to participate in the elections. Consequently, legislative elections for the diaspora were still pending as of October.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women and members of minorities in the political process, and they participated. The law mandates women fill at least 30 percent of senior government positions and at least 25 percent of elected seats. Women held 28 of 171 National Assembly seats (16 percent). Cultural factors limited women’s political participation. Women faced challenges including lack of access to relevant information such as eligibility criteria, limited knowledge of election campaign management, and lack of support when fundraising.

Certain ethnic groups had representation at all levels of government. There were eight seats in the National Assembly designated for representatives of “special constituencies,” including ethnic minorities and pastoral populations.

Nigeria

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 based on universal and equal suffrage and conducted by secret ballot.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The Independent National Electoral Commission is the independent electoral body responsible for overseeing elections by regulating the process and preventing electoral misconduct. In 2019 the electoral commission conducted the presidential election, National Assembly elections, state houses of assembly elections, and local elections in all 36 states plus the FCT, as well as gubernatorial elections in 30 states. During the year the electoral commission conducted by-elections to fill multiple vacant seats in the National Assembly and state houses of assembly. Anambra State held off-cycle gubernatorial elections on November 6. The election faced procedural challenges, but election day was peaceful, and observers and NGOs agreed the result reflected the will of the voters.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The constitution and law allow the free formation of political parties. As of November there were 18 parties registered with the Independent National Electoral Commission. The constitution requires political party sponsorship for all election candidates.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process. Observers attributed fewer leadership opportunities for women in major parties and government, particularly in the north, to religious and cultural barriers. The number of female candidates was disproportionally low. There were no known openly LGBTQI+ political candidates. Although the Independent National Electoral Commission introduced assistive materials, including braille ballot guides and sign language interpreters’ manuals, the accessibility of polls for persons with disabilities remained poor (see section 6). Less than 4 percent of those elected in the 2019 general elections were women. Only 12 percent of the 6,300 candidates for the National Assembly’s House of Representatives and Senate were women, and women won only 17 of the 469 National Assembly seats. The situation was similar in the 36 state houses of assembly and 774 local government councils. Women’s participation dropped from a high of 8 percent of National Assembly members elected in 2007 to 4 percent in 2019.

North Korea

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

Citizens do not have the ability to choose their government peacefully.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The most recent national elections to select representatives to the Supreme People’s Assembly occurred in 2019. These elections were neither free nor fair. The government openly monitored voting, resulting in a reported 100 percent participation rate and 100 percent approval of the preselected government candidates.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The government has created several “minority parties.” Lacking grassroots organizations, the parties existed only as rosters of officials with token representation in the Supreme People’s Assembly.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: Although the law affords women equal right to vote and hold political office, few women were elected or appointed to senior government positions. As of 2016 women constituted approximately 3.1 percent of members and 2.8 percent of alternate members of the Central Committee of the WPK and held few key WPK leadership positions. In 2020 media reported the appointment of a woman, Pak Myong Sun, to the WPK Central Committee Political Bureau, the party’s highest-level body, and as director of a WPK Central Committee department. In October Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, was appointed a member of the State Affairs Commission. She previously served on the Political Bureau but was not listed among the members after the party congress in January. Among approximately 20 party departments and offices, one was headed by a woman. The 2014 UNCOI report indicated 10 percent of central government officials were women.

The country is racially and ethnically homogeneous. There were officially no minority groups.

North Macedonia

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: Early parliamentary elections were held in July 2020. The OSCE/ODIHR report on the elections concluded, “The early parliamentary elections were generally administered effectively amid adjustments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but legal stability was undermined by substantial revisions to the Electoral Code and subsequent ad hoc regulations enacted during the state of emergency.” The report continued that “the campaign, although negative in tone, was genuinely competitive and participants could deliver their messages despite limitations on traditional outreach” and “election day proceeded smoothly, despite technical challenges in publishing results and concerns related to voter registration.” A popular election for president was held in two rounds in April and May 2019. Stevo Pendarovski won the election. The OSCE/ODIHR report on the elections concluded, “in the well administered [second round] to the presidential election, continued respect for fundamental freedoms allowed voters to make an informed choice between candidates.” The report also noted shortcomings in campaign rules reflected broader deficiencies in the electoral law, and the transparency of campaign finance was lacking due to incomplete reporting.

On August 7, the commission for Prevention of and Protection Against Discrimination found the State Election Commission discriminated against 1,218 young citizens during the 2019 presidential elections. These individuals turned 18 between the first and second rounds of the election but were not permitted to vote during the second round.

Political Parties and Political Participation: There were few restrictions on forming or joining political parties, which were subject to the same laws as ordinary citizens. While membership in a political party was not mandatory, there was an active patronage system in the country through which parties conferred special benefits and advantages to their members. The opposition VMRO-DPMNE Party accused the government of continuing these practices, alleging party membership overrode educational and professional qualifications prescribed by law for public administration positions.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and women and minorities did participate. The law requires gender diversity in each political party’s candidate list for parliamentary and municipal elections. At least 40 percent of a party’s candidates must be of the lesser represented gender. As of November 4, a total of 49 of the 120 members of parliament were women, and four women served as ministers in the prime minister’s 20-member cabinet. Two of the 81 mayors were women.

Members of smaller ethnic minority groups continued to complain of inequitable representation within government and discriminatory practices that excluded them from political participation. There were eight ethnic Albanian ministers in the 20-member government cabinet. As of November 1, there were 32 ethnic Albanian members of parliament, including the speaker of parliament, and three Turkish, two Serb, one Romani, one Vlach, one Bosniak, and one Jewish member of parliament.

The ombudsman reported some improvement in the equitable representation of the smaller nonmajority ethnic communities in the public administration ranks but not at the managerial level. The exceptions were ethnic Albanians, the largest nonmajority community, who participated in the government at the ministerial level.

Norway

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 the parliamentary elections held on September 13 to be free and fair.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate.

Oman

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The law does not provide citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections based on universal and equal suffrage. The sultan retains ultimate authority on all foreign and domestic matters. Except for the military and other security forces, all citizens who have reached 21 years of age have the right to vote for candidates for the Majlis al-Shura and the municipal councils.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In 2019 nearly 350,000 citizens participated in the Majlis al-Shura elections for the Consultative Council, or lower house of parliament. Electoral commissions reviewed potential candidates against a set of objective educational and character criteria (at least a high school education and no criminal history or mental illness) before they allowed candidates’ names on the ballot. The Ministry of Interior administered and closely monitored campaign materials and events. There were no notable or widespread allegations of fraud or improper government interference in the voting process. The government did not allow independent monitoring of the elections, but it invited some international journalists to the country to report on election day events. The OHRC said it was a member of the Main Elections Committee and a key partner in overseeing the electoral process.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in May 2020 the sultan postponed the quadrennial municipal council elections, last held in 2016. The government did not set a date for when these elections would take place.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The law does not allow political parties, and citizens did not attempt to form them.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. During the Majlis al-Shura elections in 2019, voters elected two women as representatives. The sultan appointed 15 women to the Majlis al-Dawla in 2019. Three women serve as ministers, four as undersecretaries, and one as Chair of the Small and Medium Enterprise Authority.

Pakistan

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution provides most citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage. Gilgit-Baltistan and the Azad Kashmir area have political systems that differ from the rest of the country, and neither have representation in the national parliament.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In 2018 the country held direct elections that resulted in a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-majority national government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan. EU observers assessed voting was “well conducted and transparent” but noted “counting was sometimes problematic.” Civil society organizations and political parties raised concerns regarding preelection interference, including restrictions on freedom of expression, allegedly creating an uneven electoral playing field.

In 2018 the Electoral College (made up of the members of both houses of parliament, and of the provincial assemblies) held presidential elections and selected Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf member Arif Alvi to succeed Mamnoon Hussain of the PML-N. Following the passage of the 25th amendment merging the former FATA with the rest of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2019, the government held special elections that gave representation in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial assembly to residents of the former FATA for the first time in its history. Politically, the only remaining hurdle for full integration of the former FATA with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is elections for local leaders.

Political Parties and Political Participation: There were no reports of restrictions on political parties participating in elections, except for those prohibited due to terrorist affiliations.

On July 25, Ali Pur Chattha police arrested dozens of PML-N workers, including the party’s deputy secretary general, a member of the National Assembly, and a member of the provincial assembly, ahead of a by-election in Gujranwala District, Punjab. The local magistrate granted bail to the PML-N leader and three other arrested party activists.

In November 2020, police arrested at least 25 activists of the opposition party alliance Pakistan Democratic Movement, including Pakistan Peoples Party leader Ali Qasim Gilani, after clashes between Punjab police and the opposition alliance’s workers ahead of a rally in Multan. After the rally Multan police registered two separate FIRs against 3,150 known and unknown Pakistan Democratic Movement workers under the Punjab Infectious Diseases Ordinance.

Judges ordered media regulatory agencies to enforce constitutional bans on content critical of the military or judiciary, compelling media to censor politicians’ speeches and election-related coverage deemed “antijudiciary” or “antimilitary.” Organizations that monitored press freedom reported direct pressure on media outlets to avoid content regarding possible military influence over judicial proceedings against politicians and to refrain from reporting on PML-N leaders in a positive way. In most areas there was no interference with the right of political parties and candidates to organize campaigns, run for election, or seek votes. In Balochistan, however, there were reports that security agencies and separatist groups harassed local political organizations, such as the Balochistan National Party and the Baloch Students Organization.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: The Elections Act of 2017 stipulates special measures to enhance electoral participation of women, religious minorities, transgender persons, and persons with disabilities. By law women must constitute 5 percent of party tickets, and if less than 10 percent of women vote in any constituency, authorities may presume that the women’s vote was suppressed, and the results for that constituency or polling station may be nullified. The government enforced the law for the first time in Shangla, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, when the Election Commission canceled the district’s 2018 general election results after women made up less than 10 percent of the vote.

Women’s political participation was affected by cultural barriers to voting and limited representation in policymaking and governance. According to an August survey by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, female legislators reported that discriminatory cultural norms and stereotypes hindered their entry into politics and impacted their performance as members of legislative assemblies.

Cultural and traditional barriers in tribal and rural areas impeded some women from voting. Authorities used quotas to ensure a minimum level of participation of women in elected bodies. Sixty seats in the National Assembly and 17 seats in the Senate are reserved for women. Authorities apportioned these seats based on total votes secured by the candidates of each political party that contested the elections. Women and minorities also may contest directly elected seats, but both women and minorities struggled to be directly elected outside of the reserved seats. Authorities reserved for women 132 of the 779 seats in provincial assemblies and one-third of the seats on local councils. Women participated actively as political party members, but they were not always successful in securing leadership positions within parties, apart from women’s wings. Of 48 members of the federal cabinet, only five were women. There were no religious minorities in the federal cabinet.

Some conservative political parties discouraged women’s participation in political rallies. In August JUI-F secretary general Maulana Rashid Soomro asked women not to attend a public gathering organized by the opposition alliance Pakistan Democratic Movement in Karachi.

The law requires expedited issuance of identification cards (which also serve as voter identification cards) for non-Muslims, transgender persons, and persons with disabilities.

The government requires voters to indicate their religion when registering to vote. To vote, Ahmadis are required to either swear Muhammad was the final prophet of Islam and denounce the Ahmadi movement’s founder or declare themselves as non-Muslims. Ahmadis consider themselves Muslims, and many were unable to vote because they did not comply with this requirement.

Palau

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 the November 2020 presidential and legislative elections, voters elected Surangel Whipps Jr. as president; observers judged the elections generally free and fair.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws prohibit or limit the participation of women or members of historically marginalized or minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. In the November 2020 election, two women were elected – one to the 13-seat Senate, and one to the 16-seat House of Delegates. The vice president, elected separately from the president, is a woman.

Panama

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 based on universal and equal suffrage. In October citizens protested against the National Assembly’s proposed electoral reforms, which several members of civil society had criticized as politically motivated mechanisms that could increase corruption and clientelism.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In May 2019 voters chose Laurentino Cortizo Cohen as president in national elections that independent observers considered generally free and fair. Elected at the same time were national legislators, mayors, local representatives, and council members. A group of international observers from the Organization of American States, the EU, electoral NGOs, regional electoral authorities, and the diplomatic corps considered the elections fair and transparent.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The law requires new political parties to meet strict membership and organizational standards to gain official recognition and participate in national campaigns. Political parties must obtain the equivalent of 2 percent of total votes cast to maintain legal standing. When the year began, there were six registered political parties, but three new political movements also received the Electoral Tribunal’s official recognition. The three new parties were Realizando Metas (Realizing Goals), led by former president Martinelli; Movimiento Otro Camino (Another Path Movement), led by the 2019 third runner-up, Ricardo Lombana; and Partido Alternativa Independiente Social (Alternative Social Independent Party, or PAIS), led by members of the evangelical community.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate.

Papua New Guinea

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution provides citizens the ability to choose their government through free and fair elections. Citizens exercised this right through periodic but flawed elections based on universal and equal suffrage. While voting is supposed to take place by secret ballot, secrecy of the ballot was routinely compromised during elections, and assisted voting was common.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The most recent general election occurred in 2017. Bribery, voter intimidation, and undue political and tribal influence were widespread in some parts of the country during the election. There were also many incidents of violence and destruction of property, primarily in the Highlands, during and after the voting period, causing the deaths of at least 40 persons, including four police officers. An observer group from the Commonwealth Secretariat noted that the Electoral Commission faced funding shortages and logistical challenges that were partly to blame for significant problems with the voter registration process. In some areas voting was peaceful and followed procedure, while in other areas ballot secrecy was not respected, and group voting occurred.

Political Parties and Political Participation: There were no restrictions on party registration, and 45 parties contested the 2017 national elections. Several parties alleged that sitting members of parliament used government resources for campaigning, although the lack of transparency in accounting for funds made such claims hard to verify. The Ombudsman Commission issued a directive to freeze public funds controlled by parliamentarians starting when the campaign officially opened in 2017. The commission reported after the election, however, that unusually large amounts of money were withdrawn from these accounts in the 30 days before the freeze went into effect.

In some areas tribal leaders determined which candidate a tribe would support and influenced the entire tribe to vote for that candidate.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups:  No law limits participation by women or members of historically marginalized and minority groups in the political process, but the deeply rooted patriarchal culture impeded women’s full participation in political life.  No women were elected in 2017 to the 111-seat parliament despite a record number of female candidates (167 of 3,332 candidates).  The political participation of women was often limited, since there were social expectations for them to vote along tribal and family lines.  The Electoral Commission instructed polling officials to create separate lines for women to allow them to vote more freely.  There were six female judges on the National Court and the Supreme Court out of a total of 65 judges serving on those bodies.  The chief magistrate and deputy chief magistrate were women.

There were three minority (non-Melanesian) members of parliament and several others of mixed parentage. Members of minority groups generally did not face limitations in running for office.

Paraguay

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 2018 the country held general elections to elect a president, vice president, department governors, members of both houses of Congress, and Mercosur Parliament members. Mario Abdo Benitez of the ANR party won the presidential election. The ANR also won a plurality in the Senate and a majority in the lower house of Congress. Election observation missions from the Organization of American States and the EU characterized the elections as free and fair.

On October 10, municipal-level elections were held for mayorships and municipal council seats across the country. Government and civil society observers judged the elections to have been free and fair. On September 20, prior to the municipal elections, Carlos Aguilera, an ANR candidate for municipal council in Itakyry, Alto Parana Department, was shot and killed in his home. The prime suspect, Luis Acosta, a municipal council candidate for a coalition of opposition parties, evaded law enforcement and as of October 18 remained at large. Including Aguilera, four municipal candidates – ANR and opposition members – were killed during the year’s election cycle. Opposition party PLRA also denounced threats and intimidation targeting at least three of its candidates for various municipal seats. ANR supporters vandalized a voting center in a school in Domingo Martinez de Irala, Alto Parana Department, after voting closed and results showed the former PLRA mayor had been reelected. The vandals also set the re-elected mayor’s car on fire. As of November 29, authorities were investigating the incident.

The Public Ministry received 167 complaints of mostly minor voting irregularities around the country. Media reported the ANR sent unsanctioned “election advisers” to multiple voting sites, at times illegally accompanying voters into voting booths. There were numerous anecdotal reports of vote buying, particularly in rural areas. Observers reported the price for an ANR vote in areas around Asuncion was approximately 100,000 Guaranies ($15).

The June 18 municipal primaries and October 10 municipal elections introduced a new system that allowed voters more freedom to prioritize individual candidates on their preferred party’s candidate list. Voters were able to select any candidate from their preferred party’s list to prioritize over the others on the list.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The ANR and the Liberal Party maintained long-standing control of the political process. New, small, and nontraditional political parties faced hurdles in securing sizable congressional representation due to seat allocation formulas in the electoral code that favor larger parties. Independent candidates faced obstacles in setting up and running campaigns, since by law they must form a movement or political party and present a minimum number of candidates in a slate to compete.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process. Women participated in the process, but there were no minority groups represented in Congress or governorships. The law requires that at least 20 percent of each party’s candidates in internal party primaries be women. Although the parties met this requirement in the 2018 election, they placed most female candidates toward the end of the closed party lists, effectively limiting women’s chances of being elected. Women’s representation in Congress, 14 percent, did not change as a result of the 2018 election.

Although there were no legal impediments to participation by members of minority groups, persons with physical disabilities, openly LGBTQI+ persons, or indigenous persons in government, no clearly identifiable individuals from those groups served as a governor or in the cabinet, legislature, or Supreme Court.

Peru

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

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

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Legislative and first-round presidential elections were held in April, and in June a presidential runoff election took place. Domestic and international observers, including the Organization of American States international observation mission, declared the elections to be fair and transparent. Pedro Castillo from the Free Peru party won and assumed the presidency on July 28, with Dina Boluarte as his vice president. Runner-up Keiko Fujimori from the Popular Force party and some of the party’s political allies presented legal challenges to the second-round result, alleging fraud. Electoral authorities reviewed the challenges per the electoral rules for six weeks after the election and eventually dismissed them as unsubstantiated. Citizens elected all 130 members of the single-chamber Congress freely and fairly, according to observers.

Political Parties and Political Participation: By law groups that advocate the violent overthrow of the government and adhere to ideologies “intrinsically incompatible with democracy” cannot register as political parties.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. For the first time, political parties’ lists of congressional candidates were required to have gender parity and alternate male and female candidate names. The law also requires gender parity and alternating male and female names on party lists for regional assemblies, regional governor and vice governors, and presidents and vice presidents. This law raised the previous quota of 30 percent of each gender on congressional lists to 50 percent. Of the 130 members of Congress elected for the 2021-26 term, an all-time high of 47 (36 percent) were women. This was in comparison with 33 congresswomen during the 2020-21 complementary term, 36 during the dissolved 2016-19 term, and 28 in the 2011-16 term.

Philippines

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The law provides citizens the ability to choose their government by secret ballot in free and fair periodic elections based on universal and equal suffrage. Candidates, including for the presidency, frequently had their legal right to run for office challenged by political opponents based on alleged criminal history, citizenship, or other disqualifying conditions. These cases were sometimes pursued to the Supreme Court. Political candidates were allowed to substitute placeholders for themselves if unable to complete the registration process on time.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The country conducted nationwide midterm elections in 2019 for national and local officials. International and national observers viewed the elections as well organized and generally free and fair, but they noted vote buying continued to be widespread and that dynastic political families continued to monopolize elective offices. The PNP reported 60 incidents of election-related violence that led to 23 killings in the month leading up to the election and a 55 percent drop in violent incidents on election day compared with the 2016 national elections. Election officials described the polls as relatively peaceful. International Alert, however, reported 144 election-related incidents in the BARMM alone, mostly fistfights and small-scale bombings. President Duterte’s release of his “narco-list” ahead of the 2019 midterms as a tool to defeat opposition candidates was of uncertain effect, as the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency confirmed that 25 of 46 politicians on it won in the midterm polls.

In 2019 President Duterte signed into law a bill postponing the next barangay and youth council elections, previously scheduled for 2021, to December 2022 to align the schedule with barangay elections.

There was concern that COVID-19 restrictions were preventing millions of potential voters from registering for the May 2022 national elections. Lawmakers compelled the extension of voter registration by one month. An August 2020 Commission on Elections resolution stated that voter registration cannot reopen in areas under the highest levels of COVID-19-related quarantine or lockdown.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority and historically marginalized groups in the political process, and they did participate. At the national level, women constituted nearly 30 percent of the legislature. Participation by these groups did not change significantly compared with previous elections.

Men dominated the political scene, although the number of women holding elected positions in government rose after the 2019 elections. Media commentators expressed concern that political dynasties limited opportunities for female candidates not connected to political families.

There were no Muslim or indigenous Senate members, but there were 11 Muslim members of the House of Representatives, mostly from Muslim-majority provinces, and at least three members of indigenous descent. Muslims, indigenous groups, and others maintained that electing senators from a nationwide list favored established political figures from the Manila area.

The law provides for a party-list system, designed to ensure the representation of marginalized and underrepresented sectors of society, for 20 percent of the seats in the House of Representatives.

Poland

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: According to a report of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on the first round of the 2020 presidential election, the decision to continue with the election during the pandemic necessitated legal and practical adjustments that put at risk “the stability and clarity of the otherwise suitable election legislation.” The report stated the changes “had practical implications for candidate registration, campaigning and campaign finance, voting methods, and resolution of election disputes.” The report stated the election campaign was characterized by “negative and intolerant rhetoric further polarizing an already adversarial political environment.” It also stated the public broadcaster “failed to ensure balanced and impartial coverage, and rather served as campaign tool for the incumbent.” The OSCE noted that the second round of elections was well-managed and candidates were “able to campaign freely in a competitive runoff, but hostility, threats against media, intolerant rhetoric, and cases of misuse of state resources detracted from the process. The polarized media environment, and particularly the biased coverage by the public broadcaster, remained a serious concern.”

According to the OSCE report, the 2019 parliamentary elections were well prepared and there was overall confidence in the election administration, but media bias – particularly in the public media – and intolerant rhetoric in the campaign, including instances of nationalist and homophobic rhetoric, were of significant concern. According to the OSCE, the dominance of the governing Law and Justice Party in public media (via changes made in 2015 and 2016 allowing for more direct political influence over the country’s public broadcasters) amplified its electoral advantage.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Women’s political participation remained low, with women accounting for 9 percent of ministerial positions, 29 percent of local legislature positions, and 27 percent of national legislature (Sejm and Senate) positions.

Portugal

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 most recent presidential election in January and national legislative elections in 2019 were considered free and fair.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women and members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate.

Qatar

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution does not 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. The government did not allow the formation of political parties or opposition groups. The amir exercises full executive powers, including the appointment of cabinet members. The law categorizes Qataris into “genuine” citizens who obtained their nationality before 1930 and “naturalized” citizens who became citizens after 1930. Only “genuine” citizens have the right to run and vote in Shura Council elections. There were no official statistics publicly available on the number of “genuine” and “naturalized” citizens.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In October citizens voted to choose 30 members in the first-ever partially elected Shura Council, while the amir appointed the remaining 15 in the 45-member consultative body. Approximately 63 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the election.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The government did not permit the organization of political parties, and there were no attempts to form them during the year. Voting is open only to citizens at least 18 years old who can prove that their family resided in Qatar before 1930 or that their grandfather was born in Qatar.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: Although traditional attitudes and societal roles continued to limit women’s participation in politics, women served in various roles in public office. In October the amir appointed women as the minister of social development and family and the minister of education and higher education. Including the minister of public health, the cabinet has three female members – the highest number in the country’s history. Women also occupied top positions such as the deputy foreign minister, chair of the Qatar Foundation, head of the Qatar Museum Authority, chairwoman of the National Human Rights Committee, and ambassadorships. In October the amir appointed two women to the Shura Council, one of whom was elected vice speaker. Noncitizen residents are banned from voting or otherwise participating in political affairs, although they served as judges and staffers at government ministries.

Republic of the Congo

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: During the March presidential elections international observers conducted two rounds of electoral observation: one for the advance vote of the security forces and the general public vote. Most observers reported polling stations and electoral officials conducted their business professionally and had the necessary tools. Civil society and political party representation inside polling stations was present and critical in dispute resolution. Observers, however, reported the heavy presence of security forces both inside and outside polling stations.

International electoral observers reported instances of fraud that benefitted candidate President Denis Sassou Nguesso of the ruling Congolese Labor Party (PCT) and its allies in both rounds. During the first round of voting, international observers witnessed ballot-box stuffing during and after the close of voting and before vote counts at voting stations in the Poto-Poto and Mpila neighborhoods of Brazzaville. During the public security forces vote, observers recorded testimony from soldiers who were ordered to vote multiple times at different polling stations at or near their place of employment. Observers in the Makelekele neighborhood observed a representative from the PCT paying persons to vote at a local voting booth, thus compromising the election results.

On presidential election day, international observers witnessed a number of irregularities including: incorrect voter lists; inconsistency in ballot boxes; polling officials allowing and encouraging multiple voting and instructing voters to vote only for the incumbent; polling stations opening late and without adequate supplies; polling and security officials refusing entry to accredited international observers; persons paying voters to vote for certain candidates; lack of uniform enforcement of voter identification requirements; polling officials, at separate locations, loyal to either the incumbent president or opposition candidates blocking entry to voters supporting opposing candidates; ruling party loyalists impersonating representatives of other candidates; polling officials not posting final vote tally sheets on the exterior wall of polling stations as required by law; and officials prohibiting observation at regional and national vote compilation centers.

Some opposition parties boycotted the election and the vote. In public statements Pascal Tsaty Mabiala, president of the Panafrican Union for Social Democracy (UPADS) announced that he and his party would not participate in the presidential elections because they “did not have the means nor the capacity to win the election.” In addition, former milia leader and head of the National Council of Republicans party, Frederic Bintsamou, commonly known as “Pastor Ntumi,” announced his party would voluntarily abstain from the elections.

The Constitutional Court declared incumbent President Denis Sassou Nguesso the winner of the March presidential election in the first round with 84 percent of the vote. The court cited a 72 percent voter turnout among the more than two million eligible voters, with a 100 percent voter turnout in at least three regions.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Political parties and civil society groups faced restrictions on their ability to participate in the political and electoral process. The law conferred recognition on 55 of 200 existing parties. According to the government, the remaining political parties did not meet the nationwide representation requirements.

There were unconfirmed reports of government funds being used to secure transportation, illicit votes, and used for campaigning activities leading up to and during the two weeks of the presidential campaign. With no official report available on campaign financing, however, these reports could not be verified.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Observers suggested cultural constraints might limit the number of women in government. Sexual harassment discouraged women’s participation in political activities. There were 14 women in the 72-seat Senate and 15 women in the 151-seat National Assembly. There were seven women in the 36-member cabinet. The law require that women make up 30 percent of each party’s slate of candidates for local or legislative elections. The constitution grants parity for women in political positions and mandated the creation of a national advisory council for women, but it did not specify whether the promotion of parity related to pay, benefits, appointment to political positions, or other topics.

Members of the LGBTQI+ community were allowed to participate in the political process, and they did participate. Persons with disabilities participated regularly and actively in the political process, although some voting sites on election day lacked accommodations to make polling stations accessible to persons with certain disabilities.

The political process excluded many indigenous persons. Reasons included their isolation in remote areas, lack of registration, cultural barriers, and stigmatization by the majority Bantu population (see section 6).

Romania

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 based on universal and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The country held parliamentary elections in 2020 that were considered free and fair and without significant irregularities. In 2019 the country held presidential elections that election observers also considered free and fair.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The law requires political parties to register with the Bucharest Tribunal and to submit their statutes, program, and a roster of at least three members. Critics asserted that certain requirements undermine the freedom of association. These include the requirement that parties field candidates – by themselves or in alliance – in at least 75 electoral constituencies in two successive local elections or that they field a full slate of candidates in at least one county or partial slates of candidates in a minimum of three counties in two successive parliamentary elections.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Societal attitudes presented a significant barrier, and women remained underrepresented in positions of authority. As of October there were 61 women in the 330-seat Chamber of Deputies and 25 women in the 136-seat Senate.

Under the constitution each recognized ethnic minority is entitled to a representative in the Chamber of Deputies. An organization is required, however, to receive votes equal to 5 percent of the national average number of votes cast for a deputy to be elected. The list of organizations that benefit from these provisions is limited to those that are already part of a National Council of Minorities, which consists of organizations already in parliament. The law sets more stringent requirements for minority organizations without a presence in parliament. To participate in elections, such organizations must provide the Central Electoral Bureau a membership list equal to at least 15 percent of the total number of persons belonging to that ethnic group, as determined by the most recent census. If this number amounts to more than 20,000 persons, the organization must submit a list with at least 20,000 names distributed among a minimum of 15 counties plus the city of Bucharest, with no fewer than 300 persons from each county. Some organizations and individuals, particularly Romani activists, claimed this rule was discriminatory.

Ethnic Hungarians, represented by the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania political party, were the sole ethnic minority to gain parliamentary representation by surpassing the 5 percent threshold of all valid votes cast nationally, the threshold set for political parties. A total of 18 ethnic minority political organizations, including the Pro-Europe Roma Party, received votes equal to 5 percent of the national average for a deputy to be elected.

Russia

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

While 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, citizens could not fully do so because the government limited the ability of opposition parties to organize, register candidates for public office, access media outlets, and conduct political campaigns.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections:  On September 17-19, the country held elections for the State Duma as well as 10 gubernatorial elections and 39 regional parliamentary elections.  The independent election observation group Golos concluded the elections were neither free nor fair.  Golos noted the electoral campaign was conducted in an unfree and unequal manner and that many politically active citizens were deprived of their constitutional right to be elected.  Observers also documented fraud and violations during voting and vote-counting that undermined public confidence in the elections and cast serious doubt on the integrity of the reported results.  In the period preceding the elections, authorities intensified repression of independent observers and media, including by designating Golos and dozens of media outlets and individuals as “foreign agents.”  In six regions including Moscow, opaque online voting procedures, the reported results of which often favored the ruling party by a larger margin than in-person voting, further called into question the integrity of the vote.

Ahead of the State Duma elections, the government adopted a series of repressive laws targeting independent media, human rights activists, and opposition politicians and used legislation to restrict the political participation of individuals or organizations designated as “foreign agents,” “undesirable,” or “extremist” (see section 2.b., Freedom of Association).  Authorities also banned many would-be candidates from running for office and pressured several to leave the country.

At the end of 2020, President Putin signed into law a bill that permits Roskomnadzor to block or entirely remove “certain” online campaign materials during federal or regional elections.  At the time, experts assessed that the bill was adopted with Aleksey Navalny’s Smart Voting campaign in mind.  On July 26, Roskomnadzor blocked 49 websites linked to Navalny, his associates, and his political organization, including his personal blog, the website of his Anticorruption Foundation, and websites affiliated with the local political offices for alleged “propaganda and extremist activity.”  Authorities also adopted legislative changes to expand the number of voting days from one to three, ostensibly to allow physical distancing between voters.  Critics of the changes noted, however, that the longer the ballots remained open, the greater the opportunity for fraud and the more time to ensure government loyalists voted.  Many experts concluded that these actions were designed to ensure that the ruling United Russia party retained a constitutional majority.

During the year authorities routinely restricted gatherings, campaign communications, and other political activities of opposition candidates and prodemocracy groups.  Authorities often charged the opposition and independent politicians with violating COVID-19 protocols, while not restricting similar gatherings by the ruling United Russia party.  For example, on May 22, police broke up a gathering of approximately 30 independent municipal and regional deputies attending a conference in Velikiy Novgorod and charged participants with violating pandemic restrictions.  The following month, however, dozens of persons attended the June 19 United Russia party congress in Moscow without facing similar restrictions.

Russian media and experts viewed the tightening of the “undesirable” organization legislation as a move intended to place further pressure on political opposition ahead of the September 19 elections, particularly on candidates affiliated with Navalny and exiled oppositionist Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s Open Russia organization.  During the year authorities routinely detained members of Navalny’s political operations throughout the country, conducted arbitrary searches of their homes and offices, and charged them with crimes on questionable grounds.  In one example, on April 12, two employees of Navalny’s newly opened campaign headquarters in Makhachkala were reported missing only to turn up later in special detention centers in Dagestan.  In another example, the Penza police sued the local director of Navalny’s organization for almost 900,000 rubles ($12,000) to offset the expenses the police department reportedly incurred on the weekend of the January 23 protest.

Authorities did not limit their election-related harassment to Navalny’s Anticorruption Foundation or Open Russia.  For example, on June 1, law enforcement officers searched the homes of former State Duma deputy and presumptive Yabloko party nominee Dmitriy Gudkov and his relatives before detaining Gudkov for 48 hours on suspicion of “property damage.”  Upon his release, Gudkov fled the country and told media that sources close to the Presidential Administration informed him if he did not leave the country, the fake criminal case would continue until his arrest.

Authorities disproportionately denied registration for independent and nonsystemic opposition candidates.  According to an investigation published by IStories on June 8, elections officials denied registration of opposition candidates at a rate of 25 percent over the past year, 10 times greater than the 2 percent of United Russia and systemic (effectively progovernment) opposition party candidates denied registration.  In a related investigation, Golos reported on June 22 that at least nine million citizens were prohibited by the state from running in elections for various reasons, representing an estimated 8 percent of the voting population.  In one example, the election commission barred prominent municipal deputy Ilya Yashin from running in the Moscow City Duma elections for his “involvement in extremist activities” due to his support of Navalny.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) reported that the 2018 presidential election “took place in an overly controlled environment, marked by continued pressure on critical voices,” and that “restrictions on the fundamental freedoms, as well as on candidate registration, have limited the space for political engagement and resulted in a lack of genuine competition.”  The OSCE also noted that “television, and in particular broadcasters that are state funded, owned, or supported, remains the dominant source of political information.  A restrictive legislative and regulatory framework challenges freedom of media and induces self-censorship.  Voters were thus not presented with a critical assessment of the incumbent’s views and qualifications in most media.”  Observers noted that the most prominent potential challenger, Aleksey Navalny, was prevented from registering his candidacy due to a previous politically motivated criminal conviction.

Political Parties and Political Participation:  The process for nominating candidates for the office of the president was highly regulated and placed significant burdens on opposition parties and their candidates.  While parties represented in the State Duma may nominate a presidential candidate without having to collect and submit signatures, prospective self-nominated presidential candidates must collect 300,000 signatures, no more than 7,500 from each region, and submit the signatures to the Central Election Commission for certification.  Presidential candidates nominated by parties without State Duma representation must collect 100,000 signatures.  An independent presidential candidate is ineligible to run if the commission finds more than 5 percent of signatures invalid.  On April 5, President Putin signed a law resetting his presidential term limits, reflecting amendments approved during the July 2020 constitutional referendum.

Candidates to the State Duma may be nominated directly by constituents, political parties in single-mandate districts, or political parties on their federal list, or they may be self-nominated.  Political parties select candidates for the federal lists from their ranks during party conventions via closed voting procedures.  Party conventions also select single mandate candidates.  While any of the country’s formally registered political parties may run candidates on the party list portion of the ballot, only political parties that overcame the 5 percent threshold during the previous elections may form federal and single-mandate candidate lists without collecting signatures.  Parties that did not overcome the 5 percent threshold must collect 200,000 signatures to register a candidate for the Duma.  A total of 32 parties qualified to participate in the State Duma elections, of which 14 parties met this threshold.  Self-nominated candidates generally must gather the signatures of 3 percent of the voters in their districts.

Observers and would-be candidates reported the municipal filter was not applied equally and that authorities pressured municipal deputies not to provide signatures to candidates who were not preapproved by authorities.  They asserted that no independent candidate with the potential to defeat authorities’ favored candidates was permitted to pass through the municipal filter, while progovernment candidates were passed through the filter without fulfilling technical requirements.

In some cases opposition parties were repeatedly denied registration or faced court-mandated suspensions of their activities.  The Central Election Commission announced on September 10 it had removed 16 State Duma candidates (from the Yabloko, Party for Growth, and Russian Party for Freedom and Justice parties) from their respective races for holding foreign assets.  On September 11 in Sterlitamak, a Fair Russia candidate for State Duma, Vadim Iskandarov, and seven of his supporters were detained while distributing campaign materials.  The candidate was participating in the City Day, an event where legal pre-election campaigns could be held, when National Guard officers detained the group claiming an official United Russia party event was occurring on the square.  The detainees were later released; no charges were announced.

Systemic opposition parties (i.e., quasi-independent parties permitted by the government to appear on the ballot) also faced pressure.  For example, on July 24, the Central Election Commission excluded from the party list candidate Pavel Grudinin, a prominent member of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation who had run an unsuccessful presidential campaign in 2018, on the grounds that he allegedly possessed foreign assets.  Party members and other observers claimed Grudinin’s disqualification was politically motivated.  On September 8, Roman Yakovlev, a Communist Party candidate for State Duma and deputy of the Novosibirsk Legislative Assembly, attempted to hold a meeting with voters.  Local authorities allowed Yakovlev to organize the meeting, but later blocked the only road to the site of the gathering.  The authorities cited COVID-19 regulations and concerns as rationale for their actions, despite the decision of Governor Andrey Travnikov to allow all candidate meetings with voters as an exception to bans on mass gatherings.  On September 15, Yelena Beshtereva from Fair Russia, Yevgeniya Bogdanova from the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, and Igor Kapelyukh from United Russia withdrew their candidacies for deputies of the Legislative Assembly of Eastern Petropavlovsk in protest of unfair elections and electoral procedures.

State entities or entities closely aligned with the state also influenced their employees to vote a certain way or in a specific location.  For example, employees of the Orenburg Oblast Tax Service reported that they received a text message instructing them to unregister themselves at their home polling stations and vote instead in a precinct near their workplace.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups:  No laws limit participation of women and members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate.  Women’s participation remained low, accounting for approximately 15 percent of elected seats in the national legislature.  As of July women held approximately 10 percent of ministerial positions.  While members of national minorities took an active part in political life, ethnic Russians, who constituted approximately 80 percent of the population, dominated the political and administrative system, particularly at the federal level.

Rwanda

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 based on universal and equal suffrage, but government restrictions on the formation of opposition parties and harassment of critics and political dissidents limited that ability. Additionally, broader restrictions on the political environment including limitations on freedom of expression by members of the media, freedom of association, and peaceful assembly inhibited citizens’ exercise of their political rights. The law provides for voting by secret ballot in presidential and parliamentary – but not local – elections. The Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and allied parties controlled the government and legislature, and RPF candidates dominated elections at all levels.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In 2018 the government held parliamentary elections for all 80 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of parliament. Of those, 53 seats were filled through general voting; the remaining 27 seats were reserved for women, youth, and persons with disabilities and were allocated by special electoral colleges. The National Electoral Commission (NEC) claimed that 6.6 million voters participated in the general voting, which equated to a 93 percent turnout. According to the NEC, the RPF coalition won 74 percent of the vote and was awarded 40 of the 53 contested seats. The RPF-allied Social Democratic Party and Liberal Party claimed five and four seats, respectively. The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda (DGPR) and the Social Party Imberakuri (PS-Imberakuri) were awarded two seats each. Neither the DGPR nor PS-Imberakuri was represented in the previous parliament.

As was the case in 2017 when the NEC announced voters had re-elected President Kagame to a third seven-year term with a reported 99 percent of the vote, irregularities and instances of ballot stuffing undermined confidence in the integrity of the results. Observers were unable to effectively monitor the process of vote tabulation at polling stations and vote consolidation at the sector, district, and national levels due to inconsistent levels of access and transparency. Ballots were not numbered or adequately controlled and accounted for, either at the individual polling station or at the sector, district, or national level. Observers noted reported results in some polling rooms exceeded the number of voters observed throughout the day. Some independent aspirants experienced politically motivated difficulties in obtaining the number of signatures required to register their candidacies ahead of the elections. For example, some independent candidates reported residents and local authorities attempted to prevent them from gathering signatures in certain areas. Four independent candidates managed to qualify for the ballot, but the compressed three-week campaign timeline and the prohibition on fundraising prior to the NEC’s certification of candidacies severely hampered their ability to compete against registered parties. Of the four independent candidates, none received enough votes to obtain a seat in the chamber.

In 2019, 12 new senators were elected to the 26-member Senate via indirect elections. Members of district councils and sector councils elected the 12 via secret ballot. Faculty at public and private universities elected an additional two senators. President Kagame appointed another four senators, and the National Consultative Forum for Political Organizations designated two, in accordance with the constitution. In 2020 the National Consultative Forum designated two new senators, including a DGPR member.

In 2015 the government held a referendum on a set of constitutional amendments that allowed the president to run for up to three additional terms in office. The NEC reported 98 percent of registered voters participated, and 98 percent endorsed the amendments. The text of the amendments was not generally available to voters for review prior to the referendum, and political parties opposed to the amendments were not permitted to hold rallies or public meetings to express their opposition to the amendments.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The constitution outlines a multiparty system but provides few rights for parties and their candidates. It was common for RPF principles and values to receive prominent attention during civic activities. Government officials often privately encouraged citizens to join the RPF. Political parties allied to the RPF were largely able to operate freely, but members faced legal sanctions if found guilty of engaging in divisive acts, destabilizing national unity, threatening territorial integrity, or undermining national security. Observers reported membership in the RPF sometimes conferred advantages for obtaining certain types of employment and business opportunities, including obtaining government procurement contracts. DALFA Umurinzi, an opposition political party that spun off from the FDU-Inkingi, remained unregistered. There were reports the government harassed or otherwise targeted DALFA Umurinzi and FDU-Inkingi members.

In February Christopher Kayumba, former editor in chief of The Chronicles, an independent media outlet, announced he was resigning from The Chronicles to start a new political party called the Rwandese Platform for Democracy (which as of November had been unable to register). The day following the formation of the party, the government publicized an investigation of Kayumba for sexual assault, which later resulted in his arrest (see section 1.d., Arbitrary Arrest). The timing caused some observers to suggest the government was using law enforcement tools to discourage political participation.

The government no longer required, but strongly encouraged, all registered political parties to join the National Consultative Forum for Political Organizations. The forum sought to promote consensus among political parties and required member parties to support publicly policy positions developed through dialogue. At year’s end all 11 registered parties were members of the organization. Government officials praised it for promoting political unity, while critics argued it stifled political competition and public debate.

In accordance with the constitution, which states a majority party in the Chamber of Deputies may not fill more than 50 percent of cabinet positions, independents and members of other political parties allied with the RPF held key positions in government, including that of prime minister. As of November, the PS-Imberakuri and the DGPR were not represented in the cabinet.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No law limits participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. The constitution calls for women to occupy at least 30 percent of positions in decision-making organs, including the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. The government consistently implemented this requirement. The government also involved persons with disabilities in the political process. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) organizations reported barriers to open participation in the political process in that candidates and government officials were unwilling to engage openly on LGBTQI+ concerns.

Saint Kitts and Nevis

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. Voters elect 11 members of the National Assembly, and the governor general appoints a three-person senate: two on the recommendation of the prime minister and one on the recommendation of the opposition leader.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Team Unity, a coalition of the People’s Action Movement and the People’s Labor Party in St. Kitts, and the Concerned Citizens Movement in Nevis, won nine of the 11 elected seats in the legislature in the June 2020 national elections. Team Unity leader Timothy Harris was reselected prime minister for a second term. The opposition St. Kitts and Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) won two seats in the election.

Five unsuccessful SKNLP candidates filed petitions in the High Court challenging the results of the June 2020 general elections in the constituencies in which they ran. Citing a lack of independent observers, the SKNLP leader alleged the government had an unfair political advantage, since the elections were held during a COVID-19-related state of emergency. A Caribbean Community observation mission assessed that “the voters were able to cast their ballots without intimidation or fear and that the results of the 5 June 2020 General Elections reflect the will of the people of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.”

The island of Nevis exercises considerable self-governance with its own premier and legislature, and it has the right to secede from the federation. There were no local elections during the year.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. The first woman to lead a political party in the country was elected president of the Nevis Reformation Party in September 2020.

Saint Lucia

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: In July the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) defeated the United Workers Party, winning 13 of 17 parliamentary seats, and SLP leader Philip J. Pierre became prime minister. Independent candidates won seats, albeit in districts not contested by the SLP. Elections experts from the Organization of American States, Caribbean Community, and the Commonwealth observed the elections at the government’s invitation; they reported that the elections were generally free and fair.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

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 November 2020 the United Labour Party won nine of the 15 elected seats in the unicameral House of Assemble, which also includes six appointed senators. The New Democratic Party won most of the popular vote but secured only six seats. Regional observers from the Caribbean Community declared the elections generally free and fair.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. There was one woman, an appointed senator, in the 21-seat legislature.

Samoa

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: Observers considered the April 9 general election free and fair on the day, but post-election disputes and a resulting political impasse caused some observers to question the legitimacy of the electoral process. The election initially resulted in a tie, with the Faʻatuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (Samoa United by Faith in God) (FAST) party and the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) each winning 25 seats and an independent candidate winning one seat. The independent parliamentarian-elect opted to join FAST, which declared victory, while court decisions and resignations forced by-elections in six constituencies originally won by the HRPP. The HRPP accepted defeat after the Court of Appeal affirmed FAST’s victory on July 23. The election ended the HRPP’s string of seven consecutive electoral victories, and Fiame Naomi Mata’afa became the country’s first female prime minister. There were widespread reports of cash and noncash bribes paid during the campaign by both parties.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The constitution gives all citizens older than age 21 the right to vote; however, only the more than 17,000 persons with a matai title, the chiefly leaders of extended families, may run for parliament or serve on village councils. Matai are appointed, not elected, to the councils.

In addition to the restrictions favoring matai, all candidates must satisfy a three-year period of monotaga (services rendered through participation and physical contributions) in their respective villages to be eligible to run. The law seeks to ensure that candidates fulfilled cultural and other commitments to their village and could not just use their matai status or make large, last-minute contributions to their villages to garner votes. The monotaga requirement led to a number of court petitions and the disqualification of multiple candidates deemed not to have met the requirement. The cases exposed deficiencies in the requirement since monotaga is poorly defined and can mean different types of service (or exemption from service for certain matai) in different villages. Some saw such subjective disqualifications as human rights abuses. After the April election, parliament passed a bill allowing candidates to use services rendered to their churches to satisfy the monotaga requirement.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of historically marginalized or minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Four women won seats in parliament in the April election. No female candidates won parliamentary seats in by-elections for six constituencies held on November 26. A 52nd and 53rd seat were added to parliament to ensure that the constitutionally mandated 10 percent female representation was met. The seats went to the unsuccessful female candidates with the highest percentages of votes in their constituencies. Although both men and women may become matai, only 10 percent of matai were women. Following the April election, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa became the country’s first female prime minister.

San Marino

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. Foreigners who have resided in the country for at least 10 years may vote in local elections.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Observers regarded the parliamentary elections in 2019 as generally free and fair.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women or members of minority groups, including persons with disabilities and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons, in the political process, and they did participate. Women accounted for 10 percent of ministerial positions.

Sao Tome and Principe

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: On September 5, voters elected Carlos Manuel Vila Nova as president in the second round of voting. Despite alleged bribes of voters and errors in first-round election reporting by the national electoral commission in July that led to the second round, there were no incidents or allegations of fraud. The country held legislative elections in 2018, which were followed by a peaceful transfer of power to a coalition composed of four parties. International observers deemed both elections transparent, adequately organized, and generally free and fair.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. There were 14 women elected to the 55-member parliament, an increase of four over the previous legislative period. Cultural and social factors, however, limited women’s political participation.

Saudi Arabia

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The law does not provide citizens the ability to choose their national government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage; it establishes an absolute monarchy led by the Al Saud family as the political system. The Allegiance Council, composed of up to 34 senior princes appointed by the king, is formally responsible for selecting a king and crown prince upon the death or incapacitation of either. Only select members of the ruling family have a voice in the choice of leaders, the composition of the government, or changes to the political system.

The law provides citizens the right to communicate with public authorities on any matter and establishes the government on the principle of consultation (shura). The king and senior officials, including ministers and regional governors, are required to be available through majlis, open-door meetings where any male citizen or noncitizen may express an opinion or a grievance without an appointment. Senior leaders were typically unavailable to the public, but their representatives or lower-level officials continued this traditional practice. Officials may also be reached through written petitions, such as an appeal of decisions from the legal system.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In 2015 elections were held for two-thirds of the 3,159 seats on 284 municipal councils; the government appointed the remaining third. Council members serve until the next election – nominally for four-year terms – but there was no public announcement of conducting municipal elections during the year. Women were allowed to vote and run as candidates for the first time in 2015. The voting age was also lowered to 18. The Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs actively encouraged women’s participation in the municipal elections. Election regulations prohibited candidates from contesting under party affiliation. Twenty-one women won seats, and 17 were appointed to seats, totaling approximately 1 percent of all available seats.

The NSHR observed the elections, and select international journalists were also permitted to observe. Independent polling station observers identified no irregularities with the election. Prior to the election, several candidates reported they were disqualified for “violating the rules and regulations” without further explanation. They had the right to appeal, and some were reinstated in time for the elections. Uniformed members of the security forces, including the military and police, were ineligible to vote.

Political Parties and Political Participation: There were no political parties or similar associations. The law does not protect the right of individuals to organize politically and specifically bans a number of organizations with political wings, including the Muslim Brotherhood, as terrorist groups. The government continued to regard human rights organizations, such as the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), as illegal political movements and treated them accordingly.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: The law permits women and men to engage in political activities on an equally limited basis. Women may vote and run for office in municipal elections and serve on the Shura council. Women served in a small number of senior positions within government ministries. On April 18, Inas al-Shahwan became the country’s third female ambassador. In August local media reported the appointment of two women, Al-Anoud al-Aboud and Fatima al-Rashoud, to top senior leadership positions at the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques. Women expanded participation in the military, security forces, and other major institutions. On July 13, soldier Abeer al-Rashed became the first woman to conduct the security forces briefing for Hajj, in September the first class of female soldiers graduated from the Armed Forces Women’s Training Center, and in October the first 30 Saudi female pilots received their licenses from OxfordSaudia Flight Academy.

There were no women on the High Court or Supreme Judicial Council and no female judges or public prosecutors. In January the undersecretary for women’s empowerment at the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development claimed in an interview that the appointment of female judges was forthcoming, but by year’s end no women had been appointed and no specific plans to do so had been released.

No laws prevent male citizens from minority groups from participating in political life on the same basis as other male citizens. Societal discrimination, however, marginalized the Shia Saudi population, and tribal factors and long-standing traditions continued to dictate many individual appointments to positions. Government authorities were unlikely to appoint a Bedouin tribesman to a high-ranking ministerial-level position or the senior-most positions in the armed forces. All Council of Ministers members from tribal communities were members of urbanized “Hamael” tribes, rather than Bedouin tribes. While the religious affiliation of Shura Council members was not known publicly, the council included an estimated seven or eight Shia members. The Council of Ministers contained one religious minority member, Mohammad bin Faisal Abu Saq, a Shia Ismaili, who had held the position of minister of state for Shura affairs since 2014. Multiple municipal councils in the Eastern Province, where most Shia Saudis resided, had large proportions of Shia Saudis as members to reflect the local population, including a majority in Qatif and 50 percent in al-Hassa. Eastern Province Shia judges dealing with intra-Shia personal status and family laws operated specialized courts.

Senegal

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: In 2019 President Macky Sall secured reelection, winning 58 percent of the votes. Election observers agreed the election was generally free and fair, despite isolated cases of voters being unable to vote. In 2017 legislative elections President Sall’s ruling Benno Bokk Yaakar coalition won most National Assembly seats. Observers judged these elections to be generally free and fair.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. The law requires candidate lists of political parties contain equal numbers of men and women for elected positions at all levels, from city councils to the National Assembly. While the number of women in elected positions increased, the law has not significantly expanded their role in exercising political authority since it does not apply to party leadership positions or to other important decision-making bodies, such as the cabinet and the judiciary. Some observers believed traditional and cultural factors prevented women from participating in the political process to the same extent as men. Women elected to office often faced additional pressure to maintain traditional subservient gender roles, making it difficult to confront male leadership and domination within the political sphere.

Serbia

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 country most recently held parliamentary elections in June 2020. Most established opposition parties chose to boycott the parliamentary elections, citing credible concerns regarding unbalanced media coverage, allegations of pressure on voters, and misuse of administrative resources to benefit the ruling party. President Aleksandar Vucic’s Serbian Progressive Party won an overwhelming majority, with more than 60 percent of the vote, and ultimately formed a governing coalition that included all but seven of the 250 members of parliament, leaving both the legislative and executive branches almost completely devoid of opposition voices. The global pandemic prevented the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s ODIHR from sending election observers as originally planned. A more limited ODIHR expert mission concluded that, aside from state of emergency restrictions, contestants were able to campaign, and that fundamental freedoms of expression and assembly were respected. The advantage enjoyed by the governing party, such as prolific media access unavailable to other parties, the effective blurring of the distinction between campaign and official government activities, the decision of many opposition parties to boycott the elections, and limited policy debate narrowed the choice and information available to voters.

The NGO Center for Research, Transparency, and Accountability (CRTA) found the parliamentary elections to be “borderline regular,” with irregularities recorded at 8 to 10 percent of polling stations, greater than during the 2017 presidential and 2016 parliamentary elections. CRTA reported, however, that these irregularities did not affect the overall election results.

Credible civil society organizations also raised similar concerns regarding the electoral environment. Some political analysts contended that the opposition parties’ decision to boycott the election was to conceal their low level of popular support.

Starting in March, the government participated in two interparty dialogue processes with opposition members to discuss ways to improve electoral conditions in advance of April 2022 presidential and parliamentary elections. During the same period, opposition politicians received limited additional opportunities to appear on the state broadcaster, RTS, which had been largely devoid of opposition voices outside the official campaign period.

International observers stated that the 2017 presidential election was mostly free but that campaigning ahead of these elections was tilted to benefit the ruling party. The final report of the limited ODIHR election observation mission on the 2017 presidential election concluded the election provided voters with a genuine choice of contestants who were able to campaign freely. The campaign, however, was dominated by then prime minister Vucic, who again benefited from the effectively blurred distinction between campaign and official activities.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. The law states that for municipal and parliamentary elections, two in five candidates must be a member of the sex least represented on the list, an increase from the previous requirement that one in three candidates be a member of the least-represented sex. Such requirements brought greater gender balance to parliament, where the percentage of women – which was already at 34 percent – increased to 39 percent in the session following the 2020 parliamentary elections. In late 2020 President Vucic announced a slate of 24 government ministers, of which 11, including Prime Minister Brnabic, were women. In local government, however, only 13 percent of the country’s mayors were women. Minority groups need only 1,000 signatures to register political parties, compared with 10,000 for nonminority parties. A lower electoral threshold also allowed them to enter parliament with a lower percentage of the votes than nonminority parties.

Seychelles

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution 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; however, citizens residing overseas were not permitted to vote.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In the October 2020 joint presidential and legislative elections, Wavel Ramkalawan of the opposition Seychellois Democratic Union (LDS) party won 54.9 percent of the vote, incumbent president Danny Faure of the United Seychelles Party won 43.5 percent, and third-party candidate Alain St. Ange won 1.6 percent. The LDS also won 20 of 26 seats in the National Assembly, with the former ruling party United Seychelles winning the remaining six seats. The LDS received an additional five proportionately elected National Assembly seats, and United Seychelles received an additional four proportionately elected seats.

Approximately 78 percent of the electorate voted in the elections, with 1.9 percent of ballots spoiled. International election observers from the East Africa Standby Force determined the elections to have been free, credible, and transparent, despite some reports of vote buying and voter intimidation. The result was the first peaceful democratic transition of power since independence in 1976, and President Ramkalawan took office in October 2020.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women and members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Following the October 2020 National Assembly elections, women held eight of 35 seats compared with seven seats in the previous assembly. Women continued to hold five of 12 ministerial positions in the cabinet. There were no openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex (LGBTQI+) persons in the government. Naddy Zialor became the first member of the National Assembly with disabilities after the October 2020 election.

The Electoral Commission Seychelles makes provision for the participation of persons with physical disabilities by installing temporary ramps at polling stations. Persons with physical disabilities can request assistance from the officer in charge of the polling station to vote. There was no provision for persons with visual disabilities to have braille ballot papers.

Sierra Leone

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 2018 presidential election, in which Julius Maada Bio of the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party prevailed, and the 2018 parliamentary elections, including an election rerun and by-elections, were regarded by most observers as free and fair. The first round of the parliamentary elections resulted in the formerly ruling All People’s Congress holding a plurality of seats. Following a later election rerun and by-elections, the Sierra Leone People’s Party and the All People’s Congress each held 58 seats.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Political parties were able to register and operate in the country. A total of 17 political parties were registered with the Political Parties Registration Commission, but only four were elected to parliament during the 2018 general elections. In the state legislature, 14 traditional authorities (paramount chiefs) and three independent candidates were represented. Unlike the previous year, there were no reports of political violence among competing parties.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women and members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Women have the right to vote, and they cast votes at rates similar to men. A 2018 poll by the International Republican Institute found women most frequently cited fear of violence, cultural norms, and lack of support from political parties as reasons why they avoided a more active role in politics. Women were underrepresented in government. Of the 148 parliamentarians, 18 were women, one fewer than in 2020. As of September women led four of the 30 ministries. On the three highest courts, 10 of 35 judges were women. Cultural and traditional practices in the northern areas of the country prevented women from holding office as paramount chiefs (a parallel system of tribal government operated in each of the 190 chiefdoms).

All citizens have the right to vote, but citizenship at birth is granted only to persons of “Negro-African” descent, thus disenfranchising the significant number of Lebanese and other “non-Negro-African” persons who were born in and continued to reside in the country (see section 6, Children, Birth Registration). Persons of “non-Negro-African” groups may apply to be naturalized. If naturalized they are eligible to vote in all national and local elections, but no naturalized citizen may run for public office.

Singapore

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The law provides citizens the ability to choose their government in open and free periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage. In five decades of continuous rule, however, the PAP employed a variety of measures that effectively limited the ability of the opposition to mount a serious challenge to its hold on power. In recent years the opposition won additional seats, although it still held a small fraction of seats in parliament.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The law provides for the popular election of the president to a six-year term from among candidates approved by two committees selected by the government. The constitution also requires multiracial representation in the presidency. The office of the president is reserved for a member of a specific racial community (Chinese, Malay, or Indian and other minority communities) if no person belonging to that community had held the office of the president for any of the last five terms of office. The 2017 presidential election was thus restricted to eligible Malay candidates. In 2017 former speaker of parliament Halimah Yacob became president without a vote because she was the only candidate; two other applicants were ruled ineligible according to criteria applicable to private- sector candidates.

The 2020 parliamentary general election was free and open. In addition to the governing PAP, 10 opposition parties participated in the election, and all seats were contested for the second time since independence. The general elections operate according to a first-past-the-post system, and there are both single-member and group constituencies. The PAP won 61 percent of the popular vote, capturing 83 of 93 seats in parliament. The opposition Workers’ Party won 10 seats, the most seats won by the opposition since independence. Because a constitutional provision mandates at least 12 opposition members in parliament, two losing candidates from the newly founded Progress Singapore Party were also seated as nonconstituency members of parliament, chosen from the highest finishing runners-up in the general election.

In September police issued a “stern warning” to Dr. Thum Ping Tjin, director of Observatory Southeast Asia and publisher of sociopolitical website New Naratif, for “unauthorized paid election advertisements” published on the website during the 2020 general election campaign. Police opened an investigation following a report filed by the Elections Department concerning five paid advertisements New Naratif was not authorized to publish, a potential breach of the law. Police found the advertisements “were intended to prejudice the electoral prospects of a political party” but, in consultation with the Attorney-General’s Chambers, issued a stern warning “in lieu of prosecution.”

Political Parties and Political Participation: The opposition criticized the PAP for its abuse of incumbency to restrict opposition parties. The PAP maintained its political dominance in part by circumscribing political discourse and action. For example, government-appointed and predominantly publicly funded community development councils, which provide welfare and other services, strengthened the PAP’s position. The PAP also had an extensive grassroots system and a carefully selected, highly disciplined membership. The constitutional requirement that members of parliament resign if expelled from their party helped promote backbencher discipline.

The PAP controlled key positions in and out of government, influenced the press, and benefited from structural advantages such as the group constituency system and short campaign period that disadvantaged smaller opposition parties, according to some human rights groups. While the PAP’s methods were consistent with the law and the prerogatives of parliamentary government in the country, the overall effect was to perpetuate PAP power. The government created the institutionalized position of an official leader of the opposition in parliament following the 2020 general election, which the Workers’ Party accepted.

Although political parties were legally free to organize, authorities imposed strict regulations on their constitutions, fundraising, and accountability, including a ban on receiving foreign donations and a requirement to report donations. There were 33 registered political parties, 14 of which were active.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No law limits the participation of women and members of historically marginalized or minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Three of the 20 members of the cabinet were women, and seven were members of a minority group. The country’s female president was a minority-group member. Presidential elections may be reserved for certain racial communities. There are no other restrictions in law or practice against voting or political participation by members of minority groups; they were well represented throughout the government and civil service, except in some sensitive national security positions in the armed forces and intelligence community. The country’s group representation constituency system also requires at least one candidate from a racial minority group in each group constituency to provide representation in parliament.

Slovakia

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution and the 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 from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe considered parliamentary elections held in 2020 as well as presidential elections held in 2019 to have been free and fair.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women and members of minority groups in the political process, and they have participated. In 2019 the country elected its first female president. Women constituted slightly less than 21 percent of the parliament elected in the 2020 elections, a slight increase compared with the previous election period. Three women held seats in a 16-member cabinet.

While there were small but increasing numbers of Romani mayors and members of local councils, few Roma were in communal, provincial, and national elective bodies. In 2020 three Romani candidates were elected to parliament, the highest number in the country’s history.

The Hungarian minority, the largest in the country, was proportionately present at the local and regional levels and participated actively in the political process. In the 2020 parliamentary elections, none of the ethnic-Hungarian parties crossed the threshold to enter parliament for the first time since the country’s independence in 1993.

Persons with disabilities rarely sought elected public office and were underrepresented in the political process at the local and national level. In 2016 for the first time ever a wheelchair user was elected to parliament, and one wheelchair user had served as a member of parliament since 2020. Politicians, public officials, or persons seeking elected office rarely identified openly as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex (LGBTQI+).

Slovenia

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: In 2018 the country held elections for seats in the National Assembly in which the Slovenian Democratic Party won the plurality of votes. Observers considered the elections free and fair. The list of Marjan Sarec won the second largest share of votes and formed a five-party coalition. In January 2020 former prime minister Marjan Sarec resigned, and in March 2020 Prime Minister Janez Jansa of the Slovenian Democratic Party was sworn in. Presidential elections in 2017 were considered free and fair.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No law limits participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Women only occupied 22 percent of elected seats in the National Assembly. The constitution provides for the National Assembly to include one member each from the Hungarian and Italian minorities.

Solomon Islands

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 based on equal and universal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Observers regarded the 2019 national parliamentary election as generally free and fair, although there was evidence of vote buying. The elections were the first since the full withdrawal of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands peacekeeping contingent. The Commonwealth Observer Group reported that members of parliament used rural constituency development funds to buy political support.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Political parties operated without restriction but were institutionally weak, with frequent shifts in political coalitions and unstable parliamentary majorities. Electoral law requires all candidates to present party certificates.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No law limits participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate; however, traditional male dominance limited the role of women in government. There were two women in the 50-member parliament and four female permanent secretaries in the 25 government ministries. There was one female judge on the High Court. Civil society groups such as the Young Women’s Parliamentary Group continued to advocate for more leadership positions for women.

Somalia

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, but citizens could not exercise that ability.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In 2015 the government decided direct elections during the year would not be possible due to security concerns; it subsequently developed a plan for indirect elections by electoral colleges selected by clan elders. Indirect elections for the federal parliament’s two houses concluded in January 2017, and parliament elected the president in February 2017. Indirect elections for the House of the People expanded the electorate from 135 elders to 14, 025 electoral college delegates selected by clan elders; 51 delegates selected by clan elders were responsible for voting on each lower house seat, and electoral colleges were required to include 30 percent women (16 members) and 10 youth.

In 2012 the Transitional Federal Government completed the 2011 Roadmap for Ending the Transition, collaborating with representatives of Puntland, Galmudug, ASWJ, and the international community. The process included drafting a provisional federal constitution, forming an 825-member National Constituent Assembly that ratified the provisional constitution, selecting a 275-member federal parliament, and holding speakership and presidential elections. As of year’s end, the government had not reviewed and amended the provisional constitution and submitted it for approval in a national referendum.

Somaliland laws prevent citizens in its region from participating in Somalia-related processes, although the federal parliament includes members “representing” Somaliland.

In 2012 Puntland’s constituent assembly overwhelmingly adopted a state constitution that enshrines a multiparty political system. In January 2019 Said Abdullahi Deni won 35 of 66 parliamentary votes in the third and last round of the region’s presidential election process. He gained four more votes than his closest challenger, General Asad Osman Abdullahi. Incumbent President Abdiweli Mohamed Ali “Gaas” lost in the first round and accepted the results.

In 2016 Hirshabelle was created as an FMS via a mediated union of the Hawiye clan-majority Hiiraan and Middle Shabelle regions. In October 2020 following a politically contested process with allegations of federal government interference, Hirshabelle elected its 99-member state assembly along the lines of a clan-based power-sharing formula. In November 2020 the assembly voted in Hirshabelle Vice President and Hawiye Abgaal subclan member Abdullahi Hussein “Guudlaawe” as president. The state presidential election outcome upset a delicate clan-based power-sharing arrangement. Hawadle factions under Abubaker Warsame Huud and others continued to contest the election outcome, including with threats of force to reverse the outcome. On August 23, an unknown number of rogue SNA soldiers of Hawadle origin took control of local government offices in Beledweyne, the capital of Hiiraan region, and were joined by Huud’s forces. The trigger for this event was an attempt by Guudlaawe to visit Beledweyne as state president, something he had been unable to do due to Hawadle opposition. On August 28, clan elders and government officials were able to de-escalate tensions and convince the forces to return to their prior positions, but conditions in Hiiraan remained tense in view of political frictions.

In 2017 Somalilanders elected ruling Kulmiye Party candidate Muse Bihi president with 55 percent of the vote, to runner-up and opposition Wadani Party member Abdurahman Mohamud Abdullahi’s 40 percent. Vice President and Kulmiye Party member Abdurrahman Abdallahi Ismail “Saylici” has served in his position since 2010, having won re-election in 2017.

Somaliland has a bicameral parliament consisting of an appointed 82-member House of Elders, known as the Guurti, and an elected 82-member House of Representatives with proportional regional representation.  Long-overdue House of Representatives and local council elections took place on May 31; international observers noted their sophistication, fairness, and security, observing that the ruling Kulmiye Party lost to the opposition Waddani and for Justice and Development parties, with President Bihi quickly accepting the results.

Al-Shabaab prohibited citizens in the areas it controlled from changing their al-Shabaab administrators. Some al-Shabaab administrators, however, consulted local traditional elders on specific matters and allowed preexisting district committees to remain in place.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The provisional federal constitution states that every citizen has the right to take part in public affairs, and this right includes forming political parties, participating in their activities, and seeking election for any position within a political party. In 2016 the president signed a law on political parties that created the first framework for legal political parties since 1969, when former president Siad Barre banned political activities after taking power in a coup. The law required all politicians to join a political party by the end of 2018. As of mid-October, 110 national parties had provisionally registered with the National Independent Electoral Commission. Prior to the law, several political associations had operated as parties. The September 17, 2020, agreement reached by the National Consultative Council of the federal government and FMS leaders on a model and timeline for federal parliamentary and presidential elections during the year stated no political parties would be participating.

The Somaliland constitution and electoral legislation limit the number of political parties to three and establish conditions pertaining to their political programs, finances, and constitutions.

In the period preceding Somaliland’s May 31 lower house and local council elections, authorities used questionable charges to arrest and detain candidates seeking to defect from the ruling Kulmiye Party to other parties and opposition politicians. The NGO Human Rights Center Somaliland reported that Somaliland authorities arrested seven opposition politicians who declared their willingness to compete in the elections and sought to arrest three other opposition politicians before the elections, despite an April 26 statement by Somaliland’s electoral commission asserting a legal provision that candidates were immune from arrest unless caught committing a crime. The Human Rights Center Somaliland noted a statement from police that they were investigating the candidates on charges of false certification by a person performing a service of public necessity, false certification of a public document by a private individual, and falsification of private deeds without explaining the facts underlying the charges or which candidates were under suspicion under which criminal charges. The Human Rights Center Somaliland reported that in April, the Attorney General’s Office had filed no charges for these alleged crimes. The NGO highlighted the cases of Raage Ahmed Yusuf and Mohamoud Ahmed Jama Dhadoon, candidates from the opposition For Justice and Welfare Party for Somaliland’s House of Representatives and Hargeisa local council elections, respectively, whom Somaliland police arrested on February 8 without charge. The two were reportedly released on March 6 on condition that they refrain from competing for political office for their party.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women, persons with disabilities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons, or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Cultural factors, however, limited their participation, particularly LGBTQI+ persons, who could not make their identities known publicly due to violence, harassment, and discrimination (see section 6). While signatories to the 2011 Roadmap for Ending the Transition agreed women should hold at least 30 percent of the seats in the federal parliament, women were elected to only 14 percent of the 275 seats in parliament in 2012. The 30 percent quota met significant resistance in the 2016-17 elections from clan elders, political leaders, and religious leaders, but women’s representation in parliament increased to 24 percent. The September 2020 agreement on the model and timeline for overdue federal elections, as well as implementation procedures published by federal and state leaders in October 2020 and in May, reaffirmed the 30 percent women’s quota, despite continued resistance from some stakeholders. These election documents expanded that quota to apply to clan caucuses, implementation committees, and the Dispute Resolution Committee. In the 54 Upper House races that began on July 29 and were completed on November 13, however, only 14 women were elected, falling short of the quota. The 26-member federal cabinet continued to include four women, reflecting a steady proportion compared with prior years.

Civil society, minority clans, Puntland authorities, and some national opposition figures called for the abolition of the “4.5 formula” by which political representation was divided among the four major clans, and the marginalized “minority” clans were combined as the remaining “0.5” share. This system allocated to marginalized clans and other groups a fixed number of seats in the federal parliament that advocates from these communities continued to claim underrepresented the real size of these populations. The country conducted its last publicly available census in 1975, so the validity of these criticisms remained unclear, but some academic research suggested that certain minority groups like the Somali Bantu represented a much larger share of the country’s population than that reflected by their representation in government under the 4.5 system. Under the provisional federal constitution, the electoral process was intended to be direct, thus transitioning from the 4.5 formula, but during the year federal and regional leaders decided to maintain the 4.5 formula in determining lower house composition.

In Somaliland’s May 31 lower house and local council elections, no women were elected to the House of Representatives, and only three women won in 220 local council races. Women traditionally were excluded from the House of Elders. Two of 24 cabinet ministers were women.

A woman chaired the Somaliland Human Rights Commission, while a minority youth served as deputy chair. The Somaliland president consulted with a presidential advisor on minority problems.

South Africa

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 2019 the country held National Assembly, National Council of Provinces, and provincial legislature elections. The ANC won 58 percent of the vote, the leading opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) Party 21 percent, and the EFF party 11 percent. According to the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa, voter turnout was 66 percent, the lowest turnout for national elections since the end of apartheid. The institute stated the elections were transparent, fair, credible, and in line with the constitutional and legal framework for elections.

The ruling ANC won 230 of 400 seats in the National Assembly, the dominant lower chamber of parliament. Election observers, including the African Union and the Southern African Development Community, characterized the elections as largely credible. The government, however, restricted diplomatic missions from assigning more than two election observers each, effectively excluding diplomatic missions from broad observation of the elections. The DA won 84 parliamentary seats, the EFF won 44 seats, the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) won 14 seats, and the Freedom Front Plus (FF+) won 10 seats. The remaining 27 seats were allocated to nine other political parties based on a proportional vote-count formula. In the National Council of Provinces, the upper house of parliament, the ANC won 29 seats, the DA 13 seats, the EFF nine seats, the FF+ two seats, and the IFP one seat. ANC leader Cyril Ramaphosa was sworn in for his first full term as president of the republic.

In the 2019 elections the ANC won control of eight of the nine provincial legislatures.

Political Parties and Political Participation: In an effort to promote transparency and accountability, President Ramaphosa signed in January a Proclamation on the Commencement of the Political Party Funding Act, which commenced April 1, regulating public and private funding of political parties. The Act establishes funds to provide political parties represented in parliament and legislatures with funding to undertake their work. It also requires that donations be disclosed by parties and donors to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). The Act prohibits donations to parties by foreign governments or agencies, foreign persons or entities, organs of state or state-owned enterprises. Parties may, however, receive funding from foreign entities for training, skills development or policy development. No member of a political party may receive a donation other than for political party purposes.

Opposition parties accused the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), the state-owned public broadcaster, of favoring the ruling party in its news coverage and advertising policies. Prior to the municipal elections, smaller political parties criticized the SABC for not covering their events. SABC regulations, however, dictate coverage should be proportional to the percentage of votes won in the previous election, and independent observers did not find the SABC violated this regulation.

Opposition parties claimed the ANC used state resources for political purposes in the provinces under its control. Prior to the 2019 national elections, the DA accused former ANC secretary general Ace Magashule of vote buying. In May the ANC sanctioned Magashule (see section 4, Corruption). ANC membership conferred advantages. Through a cadre deployment system, the ruling party controls and appoints party members to thousands of civil service positions in government ministries and in provincial and municipal governments.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No law limits the participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Civil society reported that fewer women participated as candidates and as voters in municipal elections compared to national elections. Concerns regarding violence around municipal voting stations affected female voter turnout more than male voter turnout. A municipality in KwaZulu-Natal elected the country’s first openly gay mayor, Chris Pappas. The IEC together with the South African National Council for the Blind developed a voting aid, the Universal Ballot Template, to assist persons with disabilities and special needs to have an independent and secret vote during elections.

South Korea

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 presidential election in 2017 and legislative elections in 2020 were considered free and fair. The 2017 presidential election was held early because of the impeachment of former president Park Geun-hye.

Political Parties and Political Participation: In January the Constitutional Court struck down a provision in election law that required citizens to use real names for online posts about forthcoming elections. Civil society groups had opposed the provision, asserting that such laws prohibited the electorate from freely expressing views, imparting information, and supporting campaigns.

By law the government rigorously and extensively regulates political expression by public officials and teachers, even in their private lives and regardless of their job duties. Public officials are also prohibited from joining political parties.

The law requires political parties to maintain a headquarters in Seoul and have at least five branch offices in other cities or provinces. A party’s registration is automatically cancelled if it fails to win a National Assembly seat or 2 percent of the vote.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws prevent the participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. A quota system requires political parties to put forth a gender-balanced candidate list for proportional representation seats in the National Assembly and for local council elections. Women were elected to 19 percent of seats in the National Assembly in April 2020, the most ever. Civil society and government research institutes said informal political power networks were still male dominated.

South Sudan

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The transitional constitution provides that every citizen has the right to participate in elections in accordance with the constitution and the law. Since the 2011 referendum on South Sudanese self-determination, no elections have been held. Elected officials were arbitrarily removed and others appointed to take their places.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Due to intense violence and insecurity starting in 2013, the government postponed elections several times. Since independence, the president fired and appointed local government officials and parliamentarians by decree. In 2015 and again in 2018, the legislature passed amendments to the transitional constitution extending the terms of the president, national legislature, and state assemblies for three years. The peace agreement signed in 2018 allowed for the extension of all terms for a three-year transitional period; by year’s end the cabinet approved the drafting of a law on the establishment of the National Constitutional Amendment Committee, which should draft a permanent constitution. The bill had not yet gone to the legislature, nor had the government made the draft public by year’s end.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The SPLM enjoyed a near monopoly of power in the government and continued to be the most broadly recognized political entity since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005. SPLM membership conferred political and financial advantages, and there was great reluctance by opposition parties to shed the SPLM name. For example, the main opposition party was referred to as the SPLM-IO (in opposition), and most other political parties either were offshoots of the SPLM or affiliated with it. In December 2020, after its integration into the transitional government, the SPLM-IO conducted a widely attended party conference in Juba without restrictions.

The peace agreement signed in 2018 allocated to the government and opposition a certain number of seats in parliament, leadership of ministries, and leadership of local governments. Members of the reconstituted parliament were appointed by presidential decree, and the parliament opened on August 30.

Opposition parties complained the government periodically harassed party members. A 2012 law mandates specific requirements for political parties that existed in a unified Sudan prior to South Sudan’s 2011 independence. Representatives of the Political Parties Council (an independent body created by law in 2018 to manage political party matters) estimated the requirements affected approximately 25 parties.

An unfavorable environment for media and citizen expression hampered participation in political processes.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: Women remained poorly represented in the judiciary, local governments, and among traditional leaders. Representation was particularly poor at the local level, where there was little to no implementation of the law’s provisions. The system also devolved substantial candidate-selection power to political party leaders, very few of whom were women.

Some observers believed traditional and cultural factors limited women’s participation in government. An entrenched culture of discrimination presented a major obstacle to their political participation. Women tended to be discouraged from assuming leadership positions because of the belief that such activities conflicted with their domestic duties. Basic safety and security concerns also limited women’s ability to participate in government.

Several ethnic groups remained underrepresented or unrepresented in government. Intercommunal and political violence exacerbated ethnic tensions and the imbalance in national- and state-level political institutions.

The absence of translations of the constitution in Arabic or local languages limited the ability of minority populations to engage meaningfully in political dialogue.

Spain

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: All national observers and those from the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe considered the two national elections in 2019 to have been free and fair. Regional elections in two of the country’s most populous and politically and economically influential regions, Catalonia (February) and Madrid (May), were considered free and fair.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. A cabinet reshuffle in July resulted in 14 women of a total of 23 ministers, including all three vice presidents, the largest percentage of female cabinet members in the country’s history.

Sri Lanka

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution provides citizens with 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 March 2020 President Rajapaksa dissolved parliament, calling for an election in April. The Elections Commission postponed the election twice, citing COVID-19 concerns, which allowed the president to govern without the opposition-controlled legislature for five months. In June 2020 the Supreme Court unanimously dismissed seven petitions challenging President Rajapaksa’s dissolution of parliament. In that same month the Elections Commission announced the general election would be held on August 5, 2020, after more than five months’ delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Parliamentary elections were conducted in August 2020. The ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) won 59 percent of the vote, or 145 seats, just shy of the two-thirds majority (150 seats) it sought. The SLPP reached a two-thirds majority coalition with the support of smaller, progovernment parties that ran independently of the SLPP but joined or aligned with the SLPP-led Sri Lankan People’s Freedom Alliance. The SJB came in second, with 23.9 percent of the vote and 54 seats. The United National Party, the country’s founding political party, won 2.61 percent. The parliamentary elections were conducted peacefully, with few reported violations, no violence, and public-health guidelines largely adhered to by voters.

COVID-19 travel restrictions and public-health guidelines prevented the travel of international observers and limited domestic election observers. The election was largely considered free and fair, although civil society and some monitoring bodies reported some instances of voter intimidation.

Following the passage of the 20th Amendment, the National Election Commission was no longer deemed an independent institution by domestic and international observers.

Political Parties and Political Participation: There were no reports of restrictions on political parties participating in elections except for those prohibited due to terrorist affiliations.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. There were reports of harassment of women and minorities prior to the parliamentary elections in 2020. Although women formed most of the electorate, only 5 percent of elected legislators were women.

Sudan

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The 2019 constitutional declaration provides that every citizen has the right of political participation and the right to participate in public affairs in accordance with the law.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: National executive and legislative elections took place in 2015, under the regime of former president Bashir and were not deemed to be free or fair. The main opposition parties at that time – National Umma Party, National Consensus Forces, Sudanese Congress Party, Sudanese Communist Party, and the Popular Congress Party – boycotted those elections, leaving only the ruling National Congress and National Unity Parties to participate.

Under the Bashir regime, general elections for president and the National Assembly were scheduled to be held every five years. Under the Political Agreement and the constitutional declaration signed in 2019, elections were scheduled to be held in 2022, but the October 2020 signing of the Juba Peace Agreement and amendment to the constitutional framework postponed elections until 39 months after the signing, delaying planned elections until early 2024.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups from voting or otherwise participating in political life on the same basis as men or nonminority citizens, and they did participate. The constitutional declaration states that political parties are free to operate and that every citizen has the right of political participation and the right to participate in public affairs in accordance with the law. In addition, it states that the country shall afford equal rights of women and men to the enjoyment of political rights. In the CLTG cabinet, women held three of 20 positions. There were two women on the Sovereign Council, one of whom was from the minority Coptic Christian community. The constitutional declaration requires at least 40 percent of the Transitional Legislative Council members be women, but the council had not been formed as of year’s end. As of year’s end, there were no women serving as governors.

Suriname

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 constitution provides for direct election of the 51-member National Assembly no later than five years after the prior election date. The National Assembly, in turn, elects the president by a two-thirds majority vote. Following legislative elections in May 2020, the National Assembly unanimously elected Chandrikapersad Santokhi as president on July 13, 2020.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The law prohibits political organizations from running on a combination ticket in elections, putting at a disadvantage smaller parties that seek to combine their strength to challenge larger parties.

Smaller parties and activists stated the 2019 introduction of a registration fee for political parties to participate in elections was an attempt to form an additional burden for smaller or less wealthy parties to take part in the elections. Despite these obstacles, 17 of the 20 parties that initially registered to take part in the elections were found eligible and participated.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women and members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate.

Sweden

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: Observers considered the general elections held in 2018 to be free and fair.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate.

Switzerland

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: In 2019 voters elected parliamentary representatives for the National Council and the Council of States. Runoff elections for the Council of States in 12 of the 26 cantons were completed the following month. Parliament elected the executive leadership (the seven-member Federal Council). Observers considered the elections free and fair.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women and members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Nearly 1,900 women, or 40 percent of all candidates, ran for election to the National Council in 2019, 565 more than in the prior federal elections in 2015. Following federal parliamentary elections and runoffs in 2019, women made up 43 percent of representatives in parliament’s lower house and 26 percent in parliament’s upper house.

Syria

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

Although 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, citizens were not able to exercise that ability.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Presidential elections were held in May with three candidates, including incumbent president Bashar Assad, who claimed victory with an alleged 95 percent of the vote. Media outlets and human rights organizations described the election as “neither free nor fair” and noted the lack of a safe and neutral environment for campaigning and voter participation. Though regime officials claimed that 78 percent of voters participated in the elections, the Atlantic Council and others reported turnout was closer to 33 percent of the electorate. According to the COI’s September report, voting was restricted to regime-controlled areas and parts of the diaspora. National Public Radio reported that millions of Syrians living in Idlib Governate and the northeast, and in many countries abroad were excluded. The law only allows diaspora voting for presidential, not legislative, elections. Syrian refugees seeking to vote were required to present a valid passport with an exit stamp at Syrian embassies abroad, thereby excluding the large number of citizens who fled the country or did not have a valid Syrian passport. The fear of surveillance also dissuaded Syrian refugees from going to vote at the only designated locations in Syrian embassies.

The regime claimed there were no reported violations or infringements, but The Washington Post reported that government intimidation and coercion forced individuals to vote under the threat of being fired, dismissed from school, or having their businesses closed. There were also reports of intimidation at diaspora voting locations, such as in Lebanon, where voters reported threats of reprisals and property seizures. Residents of regime-held areas told The Washington Post the regime made voting a condition for the distribution of bread subsidies in Homs and World Food Program aid baskets in Damascus and Aleppo.

Parliamentary elections which introduced primaries and a two-round election system were held in July 2020, with 1,656 candidates vying for 250 seats. The Washington Post reported that the elections resulted in reports of alleged corruption, even within the regime loyalist community, including fraud, ballot stuffing, and political interference. Media outlets described low voter turnout, despite compulsory voting requirements for military and law enforcement officials, reportedly intended to bolster support for regime-affiliated candidates. Syrians residing outside the country were not permitted to vote, and those in areas outside regime control often had no or limited access to voting locations. Similar to the presidential elections in May, reports of citizens being pressured to vote were common, and voter privacy was not guaranteed. Polling staff reportedly handed out ballots already filled in with Baath Party candidates. According to observers the results were rigged in favor of the ruling Baath Party, and losing candidates leveled allegations of fraud, ballot stuffing, and political interference. Most candidates were either from the Baath Party or associated with it.

In 2017 Kurdish authorities held elections for leaders of local “communes” in an effort to establish new governing institutions to augment claims of regional autonomy. The regime does not recognize the Kurdish enclave or the elections. The Kurdish National Council (a rival to the PYD) called for a boycott, terming the elections “a flagrant violation of the will of the Kurdish people.” Media outlets reported the election was monitored by a small group of foreign experts, including a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, which runs the Kurdish Regional Government in neighboring Iraq.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The constitution provides that the Baath Party is the ruling party and assures that it has a majority in all government and popular associations, such as workers’ and women’s groups. The Baath Party and nine smaller satellite political parties constituted the coalition National Progressive Front. The Baath-led National Progressive Front dominated the 250-member People’s Council, holding 183 of the 250 parliament seats following the 2020 election marred with allegations of electoral fraud. The law allows for the establishment of additional political parties but forbids those based on religion, tribal affiliation, or regional interests.

Membership in the Baath Party or close familial relationships with a prominent party member or powerful regime official assisted in economic, social, and educational advancement. Party or regime connections made it easier to gain admission to better schools, access lucrative employment, and achieve greater advancement and power within the government, military, and security services. The regime reserved certain prominent positions, such as provincial governorships, solely for Baath Party members. Freedom House reported that political access was primarily a function of proximity and loyalty to the regime, noting that Alawites, Christians, Druze, and members of other religious minorities who were considered to be outside of the regime’s inner circle were “politically disenfranchised along with the rest of the population.”

The regime showed little tolerance for other political parties, including those allied with the Baath Party in the National Progressive Front. The regime harassed parties, such as the Communist Union Movement, Communist Action Party, and Arab Social Union. Police arrested members of banned Islamist parties, including Hizb ut-Tahrir and the Muslim Brotherhood of Syria. Reliable data on other illegal political parties was unavailable.

The law prohibits individuals convicted of a felony or misdemeanor that “shakes public trust” from voting for 10 years after their conviction. The Ministry of Justice determines which felonies or misdemeanors fall under this category as the law does not specifically delineate the list of relevant crimes. As a result large numbers of Syrians, including those arrested on political charges, were unable to vote, according to NGOs.

SANES generally controlled the political and governance landscape in the northeast while allowing for Arab representation in local governance councils. SANES, however, maintained overall control of critical decisions made by local councils. SANES-affiliated internal security forces at times reportedly detained and forcibly disappeared perceived opponents.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Although there were no formal restrictions, cultural and social barriers largely excluded women from decision-making positions, except for within SANES, which enforced a minimum of 40 percent female representation in all civilian entities. The Syrian Democratic Council was led by a woman, Ilham Ahmad. Media reported that the government formed after the May election remained largely unchanged and included three women in the cabinet. Women accounted for 13 percent of the members of parliament elected in July 2020. There were Christian, Druze, and Armenian members of parliament but no Kurdish representatives. Alawites, the ruling religious minority, held greater political power in the cabinet than other minorities, as well as more authority than the majority Sunni sect.

Taiwan

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

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

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In 2020 presidential and legislative elections, President Tsai Ing-wen won re-election, and her party, the Democratic Progressive Party, maintained a majority in the legislature. Observers regarded the elections as free and fair, although there were allegations of vote buying by candidates and supporters of both major political parties.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate.

President Tsai Ing-wen is Taiwan’s first female president. Since the 2020 elections, a record 42 percent of national legislators were women, an increase from 38 percent in 2016. Six seats are reserved in the legislature for representatives chosen by Taiwan’s indigenous people.

Tajikistan

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The law provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair elections based on universal suffrage, but the government restricted this right. The president and his supporters continued to dominate the government while taking steps to eliminate genuine pluralism in the interest of consolidating power. The president’s political party, the People’s Democratic Party of Tajikistan (PDPT), dominated both houses of parliament. PDPT members held most government positions. The president had broad authority, which he exercised throughout the year, to appoint and dismiss officials.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The country held two major elections in 2020, parliamentary elections in March and presidential elections in October. Neither vote was free nor fair because of the country’s restrictive political environment.

On January 29, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) released its final report on the October 2020 presidential elections, which stated that the elections were held peacefully, but in a tightly controlled environment with long-standing restrictions on fundamental rights and freedoms. The report noted that there was no room for pluralistic political debate during the elections and no genuine political alternatives were presented to voters.

In April the Central Election Commission announced early elections to the lower house of parliament in three constituencies with vacancies. Residents of those constituencies were not made aware of the elections, no campaigning occurred, candidates did not make public appearances, and no information was distributed about the candidates. In previous elections, posters depicting the various candidates with their platforms were posted in public locations. There was no media coverage of the elections and members of the ruling PDPT won all three seats.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The government continued to enforce the ban on activities held under the banner of the IRPT, Group 24, and the National Alliance. Religious-affiliated political parties are banned.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and to some extent they participated. Women were underrepresented in decision-making processes at all levels of political institutions. Female representation in all branches of government was less than 30 percent. There were three female ministers but no ministers from minority groups. Cultural practices discouraged participation by women in politics, although the government and political parties made some efforts to promote their involvement.

Tanzania

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, but it allows parliament to restrict this right if a citizen is mentally infirm, convicted of certain criminal offenses, or omits or fails to prove or produce evidence of age, citizenship, or registration as a voter. Citizens residing outside the country are not allowed to vote. The National Election Commission (NEC) is responsible for mainland and union electoral affairs, while the Zanzibar Electoral Commission manages elections in Zanzibar.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In October 2020 the country held its most recent multiparty general election. Separate elections are held for the union and for Zanzibar, ordinarily on the same day, in which citizens of the two parts of the union elect local officials, members of the national parliament, and a union (national) president. Additionally, Zanzibar separately elects a president of Zanzibar, members of the Zanzibar House of Representatives, and Ward Councilors. In 2020 Zanzibar held two election days, with one election day taking place the day before the general election to allow security officials and others working on election day the opportunity to vote. International and local observers noted that the 2020 elections were marred with numerous credible reports of irregularities, along with internet and social media outages.

On March 17, the government announced the death of President John Magufuli. Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan was sworn in as Tanzania’s first female president and sixth president since independence. Due to a constitutional provision permitting the president’s deputy to carry out the remaining presidential term in the event of death, there was no need to conduct a new election following Magufuli’s death.

The first election under the Hassan administration occurred on May 16 when the NEC conducted a by-election to fill two parliamentary seats for Muhambwe and Buhigwe constituencies in Kigoma Region. The two seats were vacated following the death of Atashasta Nditiye, member of parliament (MP) representing Muhambwe, and after Philip Mpango, MP for Buhigwe, became President Hassan’s vice president. Observers concluded the Muhambwe election was competitive, while they noted a number of election irregularities in Buhigwe, including unannounced relocation of polling stations and instances of multiple voting.

On July 18, the NEC held a by-election in Konde constituency on Pemba to fill a vacant seat after the death of Katib Said Haji from the opposition ACT-Wazalendo party. CCM, ACT-Wazalendo, and 10 other political parties participated in the by-election, with the NEC declaring the CCM candidate the winner. Following a public outcry over election malfeasance by ACT-Wazalendo and other stakeholders, the CCM candidate who had been declared the winner resigned, citing family reasons. On August 27, the NEC announced a rerun of the by-election in Konde and a new by-election in Ushetu constituency in Shinyanga Region, which were held on October 9. ACT-Wazalendo candidate Mohamed Said Issa was declared the winner by the NEC. The by-election in Ushetu followed the death of parliamentarian and former minister of defense Elias Kwandikwa on August 2. In Ushetu CCM candidate Emmanuel Peter Cherehani won in a landslide victory following mass voter turnout after NEC provided civic education programming.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The constitution establishes the country as a multiparty democracy and requires that persons running for office represent a registered political party. The law prohibits unregistered parties. There were 19 political parties with full registration and three with provisional registration. In the 2020 election, 17 parties participated. To secure full registration, parties must submit lists of at least 200 members in 10 of the country’s 31 regions, including two of the five regions of Zanzibar. On August 30, the registrar of political parties, a presidential appointee, began the reverification process of all political parties. The verification exercise aimed to confirm that registered parties were adhering to legal requirements, including having offices on the mainland and in Zanzibar.

The registrar of political parties has sole authority to approve registration of any political party and is responsible for enforcing regulations. A 2019 amendment expanded the registrar’s powers, a move opposition MPs asserted would cement one-party rule. Under the amended law, the registrar may prohibit any individual from engaging in political activities and request any information from a political party, including minutes and attendee lists from party meetings. During the 2020 elections, the political opposition faced difficulty forming a coalition due in part to the legal requirement that all minutes, areas of agreement, and strategic plans be shared with the registrar. As the government is primarily comprised of one party, membership in the dominant party may confer advantages, including appointments to government jobs. President Hassan, however, made efforts to appoint opposition party members to high-level government positions, including regional commissioners. The government in Zanzibar made efforts to do the same, primarily through its establishment of a Government of National Unity, which included members of the opposition.

The law requires political parties to support the union between Tanganyika (mainland Tanzania) and Zanzibar; parties based on ethnic, regional, or religious affiliation are prohibited.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Some observers believed cultural and financial constraints limited women’s participation in politics. There were special seats allocated to women in both parliament and the Zanzibar House of Representatives. During the year there were nine elected members of parliament with disabilities representing the mainland and Zanzibar. The only two elected opposition seats in parliament from the mainland were both held by women, one from ACT-Wazalendo and one from the Civic United Front. Chadema also technically maintained 19 special seats for women in parliament, although Chadema officials were challenging the women’s legitimacy, claiming they took the seats without party concurrence. President Hassan appointed five women to regional commissioner positions, including Queen Sendinga, 2020 Alliance for Democratic Change opposition presidential candidate. President Hassan also appointed seven women to ministerial positions, an increase of two from the Magufuli administration.

The government participated in several meetings and events with NGOs related to policy or regulatory improvements to enhance the participation of women, youth, and persons with disabilities in political and electoral processes.

Thailand

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. In 2019 the country held national elections after five years of rule by the military-led NCPO following a 2014 coup. The campaign was mostly peaceful, with many political parties competing for seats and conducting political rallies for the first time in five years. A restrictive legal framework and selective enforcement of campaign regulations by the Election Commission, however, impacted the outcome in favor of the parties aligned with the Phalang Pracharath Party.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The country held national elections in March 2019, following five years of military rule. In July 2019 Prayut Chan-o-Cha’s cabinet was sworn in, officially disbanding the junta NCPO. In December 2020 the government held local elections for the first time since the 2014 coup.

There were few reports of election irregularities during the 2019 national elections, although there were frequent reports of vote buying by both government and opposition parties. The NGO Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) – the only global organization allowed by the government to observe the election – found the election “partly free, not fair.” ANFREL noted many positive aspects of the election primarily related to election-day activities, including high voter turnout, free access to the polls, and peaceful conditions during the campaign and on election day. ANFREL also found, however, that a restrictive and biased legal framework and lack of transparency by the Election Commission meant authorities “failed to establish the healthy political climate that lies at the heart of free and fair electoral process.”

Political Parties and Political Participation: Critics complained that police and courts unfairly targeted opposition parties for legal action. In 2020 the Constitutional Court dissolved the opposition Future Forward Party (FFP), citing an illegal loan to the party from its leader, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, and banned all members of the party’s 16-person executive committee from politics for 10 years. Prodemocracy activists alleged the decision was part of a politically motivated effort to weaken a key opposition party. In April, two members of the Thai Pakdee Party filed a lawsuit against Thanathorn and another former FFP leader, Pannikar Wanich, accusing them of mismanaging a COVID-19 assistance fund. Thanathorn and other former FFP leaders remained under indictment in more than 20 other cases, many of which carry potential prison sentences.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No law limits participation of women and members of historically marginalized or minority groups in the political process; however, their participation was limited. There were 76 female members of parliament in the elected lower house out of 487 members and 26 female senators out of 250 members. There were four women in the 35-member cabinet, all in deputy minister positions. There were four lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) individuals in parliament and one member of the Hmong ethnic group.

Tibet

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

According to law, Tibetans, like other Chinese citizens, have the right to vote in some local elections. The PRC government, however, severely restricted its citizens’ ability to participate in any meaningful elections. Citizens could not freely choose the officials who governed them, and the CCP continued to control appointments to positions of political power.

The TAR and many Tibetan areas strictly implemented the Regulation for Village Committee Management, which stipulates that the primary condition for participating in any local election is the “willingness to resolutely fight against separatism”; in many cases this condition was interpreted to require candidates to be CCP members and denounce the Dalai Lama.

Recent Elections: Not applicable.

Political Parties and Political Participation: TAR authorities have banned traditional tribal leaders from running their villages and often warned those leaders not to interfere in village affairs. The top CCP position of TAR party secretary continued to be held by a Han Chinese, as were the corresponding positions in the vast majority of all TAR counties. Within the TAR, Han Chinese persons also continued to hold a disproportionate number of the top security, military, financial, economic, legal, judicial, and educational positions. The law requires CCP secretaries and governors of ethnic minority autonomous prefectures and regions to be from that ethnic minority; nonetheless, party secretaries were Han Chinese in eight of the nine autonomous prefectures in Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan, and Yunnan Provinces. One autonomous prefecture in Qinghai had an ethnic Tibetan party secretary.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: There were no formal restrictions on women’s participation in the political system, and women held many lower-level government positions. Nevertheless, women were underrepresented at the provincial and prefectural levels of party and government.

Timor-Leste

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: Electoral management bodies administered an early parliamentary election in May 2018. International observers assessed it as free and fair. President Lu-Olo swore in Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak in June 2018. International observers similarly assessed national presidential and parliamentary elections in 2017 as free and fair, with only minor, nonsystemic irregularities.

Political