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Money in Politics: Is there Hope? A Global Take

I’ll be in Mexico City September 3-5th for the first Global Conference on Money in Politics. Knowing that almost $400 million has already been raised for our presidential election that’s still a year away, I’ll be all ears. Spending in the U.S. presidential race alone almost doubled from 2000 to 2012 and is predicted to double again next year, reaching over $4 billion.

So I want to find out how other countries are fighting for democracy against its corruption by powerful private interests.

My learning began in a conversation with Secretary General Yves Leterme of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), a Stockholm-based organization of 28 member states. It is a co-sponsor of this historic conference with the Mexican Electoral Tribunal of the Federal Judiciary, OECD and others.

From your global perch, in what recent breakthroughs do you see significant democratic progress?

The balance between citizens and leaders is going in a positive direction. People just don’t accept cheating with the rules anymore! Social media is playing a big role in creating more transparency. Consider Tunisia. It is a difficult time for this new democracy—bordered by Libya, Algeria and challenged by terrorists—but despite a backlash, the country is trying to give rights to women and to stabilize its democracy after successful electoral processes. Tunisia is a true democratic breakthrough to emerge from the “Arab Spring.”

Also, a number of countries are experiencing the peaceful transition of leadership as a normal part of life for the first time. Think of Nigeria and Senegal. And in Burkina Faso citizens stood up against an unconstitutional extension of mandate. Next may be Myanmar, where we’re working with both citizens and the government to make possible a smooth, peaceful transition.