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March 4, 2024

2024 ‘mega election year’ as 60 countries slated for polls

2024 ‘mega election year’ as 60 countries slated for polls

UN rights chief Volker Türk has described 2024 as a “mega election year” with more than 60 countries slated to hold elections involving nearly half of the world’s people.

Türk, in a statement, expressed optimism that most of the elections would likely be “free hatred” and respect the will of the people.

He, however, said there were warning signs that several polls may not – from Bangladesh to Chad, Hungary, Russia and Senegal,

“Every election – even an imperfect one – constitutes an effort to at least formally acknowledge the universal aspiration to democracy,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said, before citing “serious concerns” about polls in several countries.

Speaking on Chad, Türk highlighted with concern the killing of opposition leader Yaya Dillo in the country’s capital, N’Djamena, in February.

“I call for a transparent, timely, and independent investigation and for Chad’s transition ahead of upcoming elections to respect fully, international human rights law,” he added.

In Hungary, the UN rights chief maintained that although the “formal structure of election” still existed, civic freedoms had been restricted as power had been concentrated in the hands of the government.

He added that the judiciary was “deeply undermined” and the media’s ability to scrutinise elected officials had been “eroded” in the country.

Meanwhile, in India, with an electorate of 960 million, the coming election will be unique in scale,” Türk said.

The envoy expressed concern about restrictions on civic space, hate speech and discrimination against minorities, especially Muslims.

Turning to Iran, Türk noted that recent elections had occurred against the backdrop of deep divisions caused by repression of widespread protests linked to the death in police custody of Jina Amini.

According to him, Amini was reportedly detained for not wearing her headscarf properly.

Urgent reforms remain necessary to uphold the rights of all Iranians, especially women, and to halt the use of the death penalty, the UN rights chief said.

In Libya, the electorates are gearing up for the long-delayed elections amidst ongoing civil strife that has divided the country into two since the overthrow and killing of late President Muammar Gaddafi.

Türk said that genuine efforts were required to build unified and legitimate institutions and create a free and safe civic space in Libya.

On the forthcoming presidential election in the Russian Federation, Türk said there has been escalation of repression of dissenting voices.

He noted that several candidates have been barred from running for elected office, while thousands of politicians, journalists, human rights defenders, lawyers and social media users are facing charges.

Türk said that the administrative and criminal charges included “distributing information deemed to be false about Russia’s armed forces”.

The situation appears to have worsened in recent months, with even cultural figures now targeted, the UN rights chief added.

“The death in prison of opposition leader Alexei Navalny adds to my serious concerns about his persecution,” Türk said.

He however called for “swift and comprehensive review of all cases of deprivation of liberty that result from the exercise of fundamental freedoms”.

In Senegal, where the Presidential election was cancelled in February, Türk urged the authorities to hold it “as soon as possible”.

The UN rights chief also called for the release of close to 1,000 opposition members and activists reportedly arrested since 2021.

“I encourage the Government to ensure that the proposed national dialogue includes genuine participation by people of all political views,” he said.

In the United States, efforts to ensure free and fair elections were underway, Türk noted, despite curbs on postal votes reportedly introduced in 18 states after the 2020 presidential election – and expanded in 22 – following concerns about voter fraud.

Equal rights and the value of every citizen’s vote needed to be emphasised, particularly in a context of intense political polarisation, the High Commissioner said.

The U.S. Presidential election will hold on Nov. 5, 2024.