Ingrid Graves (Washington, DC)
This Monday, President Obama will become the first sitting American President to visit Myanmar. When we read the latest headlines about the President’s upcoming trip to Southeast Asia, this is a recurring theme. While many Burmese citizens are preparing to welcome the President on his first visit to their country, some are discussing the details of the election in which he was reelected and how it compares to international standards and elections in Myanmar.
Creative Associates International hosted a delegation from Myanmar to observe U.S. elections on November 6, 2012. A diverse group of civil society representatives and members of the country’s election commission participated in the Electoral Study Tour. To give insight into the American political process, the Creative Electoral Education and Integrity Practice Area provided the delegates with background on the American political process, provided access to political operatives close to the two main parties in the U.S., and facilitated meetings with senior U.S.-government policy makers on issues related to Myanmar.
On Election Day, Creative and the Burmese delegates visited ten polling stations across Virginia, District of Columbia, and Maryland. They observed electoral practices and talked to poll works and voters on site, comparing U.S. elections to international standards and best practices. One of the delegates summarized the group’s perceptions about the way elections are organized in the U.S. saying, “America has strong institutions, but weak regulation,” appreciating the trust American voters place in their system. Another delegate described witnessing three main aspects of American democracy on this trip: “freedom of speech, decentralization [of voting], and partisan politics.”
“Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision.” – President Lincoln
The fact that President Lincoln articulated this concept in the 19th Century illustrates how some concepts are universal to the individual, country, or even time. As global citizens, we recognize the value of free and fair elections for a country’s electorate to shape their future by choosing leaders they believe will best serve their society. By advancing electoral education and encouraging governments to foster free and fair elections, Creative supports this objective in electoral processes worldwide.
For additional information, we have made a full copy of the Preliminary Findings Report available.