By Victoria Ojeme
ABUJA — Minister of United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Jeremy Browne, and his counterpart in Department for International Development, DFID, Stephen O’Brien, have set out the British government’s approach to supporting democracy and free and fair elections overseas.
However, the UK believes that elections were just one aspect of supporting democracy, which also required the rule of law, freedom from discrimination, freedom of expression, civil society and strong democratic institutions.
This was contained in a press statement issued yesterday by the Press and Public Affairs section of British High Commission in Abuja, signed by Hooman Nouruzi.
According to O’Brien, “the right to vote is a fundamental human right regardless of where you live.
“Many of the world’s poorest people have no power, no power to shape their own life, no power to make sure government policy meets their needs and no power to hold their leaders to account.
“Democracy can help pull countries out of poverty and this guide is a practical tool for aid workers and diplomats to provide assistance based on where countries have succeeded and failed when running elections.
“Simple schemes, such as anti_violence car bumper stickers in Malawi’s 2009 election, can help create a calm environment and allow people to exercise their right to vote in safety.
“DFID aid workers will be able to add to the guide with their experiences so we can support democracy in the most effective way possible.”
In his speech, Jeremy Browne said “elections are important for two fundamental reasons: Firstly, so that individuals can make choices about how their lives are governed; and secondly, so that individuals can hold the state to account.
“Credible elections enable this; they reflect the views of the population and ensure that those views are respected by those chosen to represent them.
“Democracy is integral to our wider foreign policy and we will take a practical approach focusing on where we can have impact while upholding democratic principles in all contexts.”