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Press Release : Global Voter Turnout Declining

Voter turnout has decreased globally over the past 10 years by almost 10 percent, both in established democracies as well as newly-democratized developing countries. The only region in the world with an increase in voter turnout during the past 10 years is Central and Eastern Europe where democracy has returned since 1989. These are some of the findings from the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA)'s new publication Voter Turnout since 1945 - A Global Report, considered by democracy experts as the most comprehensive compilation of voter turnout statistics ever published. The report includes statistics from more than 1,600 parliamentary and presidential elections in over 170 countries.

"International IDEA's report is the main global data source on voter turnout available today", says International IDEA Senior Advisor Rafael López Pintor. "This publication allows interested persons to make comparisons over time in assessing the problem of declining voter turnout among the major democracies."

International IDEA's data indicates that established democracies around the world have experienced a slow but steady decline in turnout since the 1970s. Despite initial increases in voter turnout in newly democratized countries during the 80s and 90s, current turnout in those states is now at about 70 percent -- lower than the 73 percent found in the established democracies.

Other findings of the report:

  • The ten countries with the highest voter turnout in the world are: Australia, Singapore, Uzbekistan, Liechtenstein, Belgium, Nauru, Bahamas, Indonesia, Burundi and Austria.

  • France had a voter turnout of 79.7 percent in the most recent 1995 Presidential elections; ranking them third among the seven Western European nations that elect presidents. Average turnout at na-tional parliamentary elections in France has been approximately 74 percent since 1945, across 15 elec-tions.

  • Compulsory voting laws exist in approximately 30 countries of the world, with varying levels of enforcement.

  • The enforcement of compulsory voting laws seems to have a strong influence on turnout, countries enforcing compulsory voting have on average a 10-15 percent higher turnout than other countries. Six of the top ten countries practise compulsory voting: Australia, Singapore, Liechtenstein, Belgium, Nauru and Austria.

  • As mentioned above, the only region in the world with an increase in voter turnout during the past ten years is Central & Eastern Europe. No countries practise compulsory voting in this region, which has proved to boost turnout elsewhere.

  • Western Europe: Liechtenstein has the highest turnout average, Switzerland the lowest.
    North American region: highest is Bahamas, lowest is Haiti.
    Central & South America: highest is Guyana, lowest is Colombia.
    Asia: highest is Singapore, lowest is Pakistan.

As the third edition of International IDEA's Voter Turnout series, this report contains a thematic focus on voter registration. Voter registration is the process of exercising the franchise, and as such is a key condition of electoral participation.

"History shows that the removal of barriers to registration is essential to the full exercise of a citizen's political rights", says International IDEA's acting Secretary-General Erling Olsen. "Since its inception, International IDEA has focused on electoral administration. The collection and analysis of data on methods of voter registration and its effect on voter turnout is thus a natural complement to our other efforts in the electoral field."

Country case studies as well as an analysis of voter registration methods used today in different nations are presented together with graphs and global information on voter registration. Political participation in different regions is also analyzed and corresponding information is presented on the potential impact of literacy, a country's wealth and civil liberties on voter turnout.

All voter turnout information available at International IDEA's website

For more information, contact International IDEA:

Karin-Lis Svarre, +46 70 4293704

The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) exists to nurture, sustain and promote democracy around the world. Global in membership and scope, independent of specific national interests, and quick in its response, International IDEA is an intergovernmental organization with a unique mandate - to support the growth of genuine, sustainable democracy.



International IDEA
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