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Background
More than a dozen Asian countries have recently or are in the process of conducting their elections within the framework of constitutional democracy. Among these are the Philippines, East Timor, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, South Korea, Japan, India, Sri Lanka, and Taiwan.

These elections represent the continuing surge of democracy in the Asia and the Pacific. This surge started in the Philippines’ People Power revolution in 1986 and, to a greater or lesser extent, spread throughout Asia and other regions of the world.

Given the varied political history, state of governance, economic and social context, culture, and level of development of Asian democracies, it is interesting to compare how they are implementing the core process of democracy—the right of suffrage exercised through open and fair elections.

They range from long-term democracies to new or newly-restored democracies, from well-governed states to relatively corrupt ones, from strong market economies to weak ones, from cohesive unitary states to loosely federated or even loosely autonomous ones, Westernized states to strongly nationalistic one, and from prosperous and developed states to poor and less developed ones.

Yet all of these states held elections generally in accordance with the internationally-recognized UN standards for the exercise of the human right of suffrage.

The conference therefore is a venue for sharing the experiences from these electoral exercises, learning from each other, and exploring future possibilities.

Conference Objectives

The general objective of the Asian conference on democracy and electoral reforms is share and learn from various recent or current election experiences of Asian democracies.

Specifically, the conference will attempt to identify and propagate best practices in the conduct of an election, design of an electoral system and in the advocacy for electoral reforms. It will also attempt to present views from three basic sectors of election stakeholders—the electoral administration, academe, and civil society. Lastly, the conference will attempt to draw up an Asian mechanism for continuing dialogue and cooperation on the agenda of electoral reforms.
Conference Concept
The conference was attended primarily by 33 key representatives of the electoral management bodies of the 11 Asian countries and corresponding delegates from the academe and civil society. Civil society and academic actors in the international, Asian and Philippine level also attended the conference, based on their contributions to and interest in the democratization and election systems of the region. All in all, more than 60 participants attended the conference.

The agenda of the conference cover three main areas of interest: 1) Conduct of national election; 2) Electoral system design and prospect/implementation of electoral modernization; and 3) Electoral reforms. Derivative topics may also be discussed, based on specific requests and interests of the participants as communicated to the conference host.

Contributions—whether scholarly, expository or field research—were presented by some individual participants from the above-named countries. The contents of these contributions deal with an assessment of the country’s election system and areas for electoral reform, from the participant’s own point of view.

The conference were divided into three parts: First part, plenary inputs (presentations dealing with the country-level situations); second part, workshop inputs (presentations dealing with specific thematic topics); and third part, plenary session (conference summary and resolutions).

Key resource persons presented an Asia-level situationer and analyses regarding the subject matter of the conference.

The conference was jointly hosted by the Philippine Commission on Elections, the Consortium on Electoral Reforms (CER), the Philippine Political Science Association (PPSA), and University of the Philippines Asian Center. The Asian networks of these organizations as well as those of the UNDP’s country offices, the Asian Electoral Administration Association (AAEA) and the Asian Network for Free Election (ANFREL) supported the conference.

 

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© 2004
Asian
Conference
on Democracy and
Electoral Reforms
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