Image via WikipediaElection-monitoring, an establishment overseen by the United Nations and founded to ensure fair, smooth, and violence-free elections, is a democratic process that has now become universally accepted where democratic governance is the norm. It is a democratic process overseen by election observers whose primary challenges are to deter fraud and irregularities in elections. Using a variety of techniques, international election observers, through the use of broad and long-term observations, assess pre-election, election-day, and post-election periods in areas of deployment (Carter Center, 2011). Working in concert with the United Nations, the Carter Center, founded by Jimmy Carter, former president of the United States and his wife Rosalyn in 1982 (Carter Center, 2010), has transformed into a visible and gigantic election-monitoring organization in the last decade. The most recent election monitored by the Carter Center was in South Sudan that declared independence in July 2011 and separated from the north to become the newest nation. Election observers or election monitors follow fundamental sets of rules and regulations that are exclusive to them.
Election-monitoring is the responsibility of the Electoral Assistance Division (EAD) of the Department of Political Affairs of the United Nations that oversees plebiscites, referenda and elections needs of member states worldwide (United Nations, 2011). Historically, election-monitoring got off the ground in the late 1940s with South Korea becoming the first testing ground followed by successive observations in the era of trusteeships and decolonization (UN, 2011). Since then, the UN has been actively involved in election processes in a dozen member states most notably Timor-Leste, South Africa, Mozambique, El Salvador, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Iraq, Nepal, Sierra Leone, and Southern Sudan. Election-monitoring is not possible without the presence of political parties or factions and intensive strategic lobbying.
Strategic lobbying is a democratic process and a tactical practice lobbyists use to influence political leaders. According to Henderson (2011, September 26), strategic lobbying implies the act of influencing certain decisions to the lobbyist’s favor. In the United States, according to the 1st Session of the 104 Congress (House of Representatives, 1995), the Lobbying and Disclosure Act of 1995 requires lobbyists and interest groups to register with the Clerk of the House and Secretary of the Senate. Lobbyists and interest groups in the US spend a lot of money to advance their aims and objectives. It has been estimated that lobbyists and interest groups in the US spent $2.21 billon lobbying Congress in 2005 (Jennifer, 2006).
Another important aspect of profound importance in the democratic process is the presence of parties or factions whose absence makes democracy null and void. In healthy democracies, such as those found in the western hemisphere, political parties jostle for power in order to control the resources of a nation. Driven by ideals, factions either stick to their governing principles or advance effective changes they deem commensurate with their mode of leadership. According to Dislavo (2010, p. 273), “more specifically, factions often drive the parties toward or away from the political center”. Thus, a party may take a different course which could be beneficial or detrimental to the party and its leadership.
In conclusion, intense competitions between rival parties driven by the desire to control national resources are part of the processes that influence public policy. In the presence of checks and balances, strategic lobbying and political parties are two mutually supporting principles that subsist to formulate healthy democratic processes for the common good of all citizens. In case of negative influences, political irregularities or misappropriations, the long arm of the law is there to take the lead and bring culprits to books. Thus, lobbyists and interest groups can effect change in modern democracies as they have the capacity to generate remarkable developmental projects that benefit not only themselves, but the constituencies they live in.
Carter Center Calls for Calm as Parties Await Electoral Results (2011). Retrieved from http://www.cartercenter.org/news/publications/election_reports.html
The Carter Center at a Glance (2010). Retrieved from http://www.cartercenter.org/resources/pdfs/news/annual_reports/annual-report-10.pdf
United Nations (2011). Electoral assistance. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/wcm/content/site/undpa/main/issues/elections/
Henderson, B. (2011, September 26). RE: Week 4-Discussion (Online Discussion group). Retrieved from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=5680882&Survey=1&47=9462243&ClientNodeID=404822&coursenav=1&bhcp=1
Lobbying Disclosure Act (1995). House of Representatives report. Retrieved from http://lobbyingdisclosure.house.gov/HReport104-339.pdf
Watkins, Z. L. (2008). Lobbyists and interest groups. Retrieved from http://www.senate.gov/reference/resources/pdf/RS20725.pdf
Disalvo, D (2010). The Politics of a party faction: The liberal labor alliance in the Democratic Party, 1948–1972, p. 273. Journal of Policy History, Vol. 22, No.