The Asian Electoral Resource Center (AERC) is the latest program launched by the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL). AERC chronicles the democratization process, specifically concerning elections, in Asia. AERC’s goal is to strengthen the capacities and efforts of various democracy and electoral reform stakeholders in the region. It is a resource center for reform advocates, election management bodies, international and domestic election observers, researchers, and individuals seeking to understand the complexities of the electoral systems and processes and how to advance democracy in Asia.
The Asian Electoral Resource Center
What is AERC?
The universal human right of suffrage, as provided for in the Universal Declaration of Human rights (UDHR, Article 21) and emphasized in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR, Article25), is one of the major bedrocks of democracy. This right is exercised through the conduct of free and fair elections. However, many men and women in Asia are still denied this basic right.
There are different levels of democracy in Asia today. There are (a) emerging democracies; (b) consolidating democracies; and (c) stable democracies. Some countries, like China, Vietnam, North Korea, and Laos, have yet to begin their transition, while others, like Cambodia, Burma and Nepal, have fragile democracies that are standing still or at risk of slipping backwards. Even countries with established democratic systems face electoral problems due to factors ranging from racial or religious tensions to the rise of extremism to poor representation and voter apathy.
Although steps taken by several countries in the past decade to strengthen democracy are commendable, the process of democratization in most of Asia has a long way to go, and several areas of concern remain, especially for countries subject to serious questions on the credibility of their electoral processes.
The challenges besetting elections and democracy in Asia are in need of urgent attention, but they can only be addressed when the causes of the problem are identified accurately and well understood.
The Asian Electoral Resource Center (AERC) was launched to address this need by taking up the role of providing relevant information and offering perspective in understanding the region and the political context of specific countries.