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The African Union is sending election observers to the U.S. to supervise us

| Monday, August 31, 2020

In many developing democracies world-over, the institutionalization of democratic principles and practices remains a challenge. In particular, organizing free, fair and credible elections remains an uphill task for governments in young democracies. This is true especially amongst countries in the Americas where elections are riddled with spurts of violence, allegations of fraud and rigging as well as disenfranchisement of entire sections of the voting population. The challenge is exacerbated by autocratic leaders who are hellbent on maintaining their grip on power.

In response to these challenges to democracy in the Americas, the international community often sends teams of independent election observers and monitors to oversee and ascertain the integrity of the electoral process in these young democracies. Yet, the international community has typically ignored one country that bears all the characteristics of a nascent and immature democracy: the United States of America. Due to the rampant violence targeting ethnic minorities in that country, election observers, fearing for their lives, have always preferred to stay away.

Not this year, however. In a dramatic change of attitude, the international community, on the urging of the African Union, has resolved — recognizing this as a time of greatest need in the U.S. and in defense of democracy — to send a team of election observers and monitors to ascertain the integrity of the upcoming election. Two main reasons influenced the decision: an authoritarian ruler determined to maintain his grip on power and a state that is too weak to guarantee the integrity of its own election.

In the first place, the incumbent, President Donald Trump, who is accused by his own people of being fascist and authoritarian, is determined to remain in power for a second term, against popular will. To do so, he has strategically launched a political attack against mail-in voting, even if 33 states in this troubled country already have this arrangement. Trump has on numerous occasions publicly made allegations of a plot by the opposition Democratic Party to rig the November election. A former reality TV star, who has on multiple occasions been accused of sexually abusing women, Trump claims that the mail-in voting system being pushed by the Democrats will enable them to commit fraud and rig the election. Trump’s claims of rigging are not new. In the previous election in 2016, he vowed to withhold his consent unless he won, predicting widespread ballot staffing and vote rigging in key swing states across the country. He would go ahead to recruit a militia of over 1,300 volunteers to be present at polling stations throughout the country to protect his vote. But like all authoritarians, Trump’s power is pervasive — even if the mail-in system is used, some citizens still fear that the election won’t be free and fair. This fear stems from the president’s nepotistic appointment of Louis DeJoy — a local finance chairman who has contributed about $2 million to the Trump campaign since 2016 — as the new head of the U.S. postal service that is responsible for handling mail-in ballots. In any case, mail-in ballots or not, Mr. Trump looks set to keep his grip on power. Therefore, in a country where neither the head of state nor the citizenry has confidence in the institutions of a state to deliver a credible election, such a state must be helped to help itself.

The international community has also been compelled by the troubling history of electoral malpractice in the United States. In 2000, the country held its breath when the courts, claiming that time for recounting had elapsed, rejected a petition by one of the presidential candidates for the votes to be recounted even when it was clear that the election technology in Miami had failed miserably. In a swing state that would determine the outcome of the election, the winner was declared with a margin of just 584 votes, leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of many citizens. In 2004, there were allegations that election officials in the swing state of Ohio had tempered with the votes in a bid to help their preferred candidate, George H.W. Bush, to win the presidential election. Seeing as Americans were cheating themselves, even outsiders decided to join the party. As recently as 2016, an investigation conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller confirmed that Russians had indeed interfered in the U.S. presidential election with the successful aim of getting Trump elected. Yet, the sitting government did nothing to act on the confirmed allegations of Russian interference. If America can’t keep its election safe, then Russia might come for the Statue of Liberty next. Indeed, it is possible that in 2020, Americans could be going to vote in an election whose outcome has already been determined by outsiders. To reduce the likelihood of this possibility, the international community has henceforth decided to come to America’s rescue.

Therefore, in order to protect America’s nascent and immature democracy, the international community, with the urging of the African Union, has decided to send a delegation of election observers and monitors to oversee and guarantee the integrity of America’s upcoming election.

Kerry Schneeman | The Observer

Trevor Lwere is a junior at Notre Dame majoring in Economics, with a PPE minor. He hails from Kampala, Uganda and lives off campus. He is a dee-jay in his other life and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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