International Foundation for Election Systems

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International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) Founded in 1987, based in Washingon DC, it fosters "democratic initiatives", extending loans and grants to various "developing" countries, and it "provides "targeted technical assistance to strengthen transitional democracies". IFES notes: "the end of the Cold War in 1989 created opportunities… to respond to an overwhelming demand for technical non-partisan expertise in democracy and governance."

From the website:

As one of the world's premier democracy and governance assistance organizations, IFES provides targeted technical assistance to strengthen transitional democracies. Founded in 1987 as a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, IFES has developed and implemented comprehensive, collaborative democracy solutions in more than 100 countries.[1]

Haiti Chapter

Tom Griffin, Attorney and Human Rights Activist, wrote a report for the National Lawyers' Guild, and took part in making a documentary about the coup in Haiti. In an interview, he stated:

They went down [to Haiti] as part of a USAID package, with a multi-million dollar plan to, basically, fix the judicial system – that was what they operated under. It was really a plan to oust Aristide. The IFES workers I was able to isolate and talk to in confidence, completely take credit for ousting Aristide. They started with this theory that the judicial system was corrupt in Haiti, and that it had to be turned around and cleaned out. From that premise came that if the judicial system was corrupt, Aristide, who is controlling them is most corrupt, and he must go. So, there was no unity in the Haitian judicial bar or in the judiciary, and IFES went out and formulated groups that never existed or united pre-existing groups, gave them sensitization seminars, paid for people to attend, paid for entertainment and catering, and basically built group after group, and then they realized that in order to be successful they had to reach out from beyond the lawyers and judges. They reached out to student groups and business groups to get a bigger economic behind them. They also reached out to human rights groups – which they actually paid off to report human rights atrocities to make Aristide look bad. It just sort of snowballed. They bought journalists, and the IFES associations grew into the Group of 184 that became a solidified opposition against Aristide. What is probably most interesting is that Gerard Latortue, the prime minister, was an IFES member for a couple of years before of the ouster of Aristide last year. The myth that he had been plucked from pool-side on March 1st, the day after the coup, to become prime minister was pretty much debunked – he was in the planning for a couple of years. Bernard Gousse, the justice minister who is in charge of the prisons and the police, was in it for many years. He was a sensitization speaker coming to talk in the US on behalf of IFES.
—Tom Griffin, Interviewed on Flashpoints, February 21, 2005.

Griffin continues:

What is so sick and so evil about what is happening in Haiti – if you want to do evil, you can do that very easily. … For a few dollars can buy a human rights organization down there. A few dollars can take an bar association and turn it against its elected president. That is what happened. (Griffin, ibid.)

In an extensive human rights report, Griffin adds:

The administrators reported that USAID awarded IFES a series of contracts for millions of dollars, often as the sole bidder, and gave IFES substantial logistical assistance in Haiti. The administrators stated that they, and IFES, considered the programs to be an avenue to exposing, and then ending corruption in the Haitian government. They felt that President Aristide was corrupt, and that their job was to nurture civil society institutions that could provide a counterweight to the elected authorities.
The principal focus of IFES’ programs was the Haitian justice system. The justice program began in about 2001 with an initial budget of $3.5 million. Its purpose was, in the words of the administrators, “to advocate for the independence of judges from the executive branch via the formation of a range of coalitions from various societal institutions.” The IFES programs involved many people now prominent in Haitian politics. For example, Minister of Justice Bernard Gousse and his cabinet member Philippe Vixamar were IFES consultants for several years. Among other things, Gousse was a “sensitization” speaker, wrote key reports, spoke at conferences, and played a leading role in the IFES exchange program for lawyers and judges at Tulane University in Louisiana in April 2003, and at seminars in Minnesota and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. See Interview of Justice Cabinet Minister Vixamar, infra. Prime Minister Gerard Latortue and Interim President Boniface Alexandre both participated in IFES justice programs. Latortue, a former UN official and a resident of Boca Raton Florida before becoming Prime Minister, was part of the association that IFES formed to include the Haitian diaspora in the United States. According to the administrators, he led the Haitian Resources Development Foundation (HRDF), a Miami–based group that claims to “initiate and/or support projects and programs aimed at developing economic and cultural resources in Haiti.”
— Thomas M. Griffin, "Haiti Human Rights Investigation: November 11-21, 2004" Center for the Study of Human Rights, Univ. of Miami School of Law. (footnotes excluded) The report has an extensive discussion of IFES's activities, and it is worth reading from page 20 onwards.

Iraqi Chapter

IFES also sent "election observers" to the Iraqi election of January 30, 2005. On February 2nd it issued a press release lauding the election process. It was also responsible for running the "out of country" election and drawing up the electoral roll outside Iraq.

Source: IFES Recognizes Iraqis, Electoral Commission on Successful Balloting, February 2, 2005.

Ambassador Michael Kozak, Acting Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, notes how the International Foundation for Election Systems has been working closely with the Iraqi Independent Electoral Commission. [2]

Angolan elections

On 24 July 2006, Paul Bonicelli, deputy assistant administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance, discussed the upcoming Angolan elections in front of a US Congressional panel:

Bonicelli said the Bush administration is supporting the electoral process with a $3 million grant, in addition to the close to $8 million already devoted to supporting democracy programs in the southern African nation since 2001.
In Angola, he explained, USAID works through American nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), such as the International Republican Institute (IRI), the National Democratic Institute (NDI), IFES (formerly the International Foundation for Election Systems) and Search for Common Ground, which partner with local NGOs to train election workers.
They have provided technical and project management training, as well as voter education materials, to six civil-society electoral networks in the provinces of Luanda, Benguela, Huambo, Bie, Uige and Lund-Sul, emphasizing voter registration, democratic principles and citizen rights and "promoting political dialogue." They also are providing training to Angolan political parties on codes of conduct and dispute resolution techniques, Bonicelli said.[3]


An account of IFES participation in the elections in Guyana can be found here


Since 2001, USAID has spent close to $37 million on democracy and governance programs in Ethiopia. Half of that sum has been devoted to improving the efficiency of accounting and budgeting at the federal, state and local levels.

Shinn said that before national elections in May 2005, the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs asked the National Democratic Institute (NDI), the International Republican Institute (IRI) and IFES (formerly the International Foundation for Election Systems) to leave Ethiopia, allegedly because they were not registered in the country.
—Jim Fisher-Thompson, Women Lawmakers in Ethiopia Upgrade Skills with U.S. Help,, 2 August 2006.


In 2006, IFES and the U.S. embassy were involved in the Azerbaijani elections and civil society.[4]


IFES has a long history of re-engineering the electoral system in Yemen. It has been involved in "reforming the electoral law", thus:

IFES completed an in-depth analysis of Yemen’s election law in Jan. 2004, identifying five priority areas to be addressed before the 2006 elections: the statutory voter registration update schedule, dispute resolution mechanisms, the ballot-counting venue, the process of appointing election subcommittee members and local council election procedures.

And also in attempting to get marginalized communites involved in elections:

Approximately 74 percent of Yemen’s population lives in rural areas where many citizens have no access to television or radio news and many are uninformed about their political rights. Additionally, only 30 percent of Yemeni women are literate, compared to 70 percent of men. According to the SCER, a large number of Yemeni citizens eligible to vote aren’t engaged in the political process. IFES’s project targeted these citizens.[5]

On 30 August 2006, Yemen Times reported:

In related news, the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) in Yemen proposed numerous suggestions

aimed at supporting the elections and making them a great success. IFES assured that the upcoming presidential and local elections require adopting advanced techniques and procedures, hinting that the absence of such techniques might affect the elections. Other recommendations included training electoral committees, particularly subcommittees, in how to work before, during and after election day. IFES also recommended training security forces and establishing their work agenda during the electoral process, as well as suggesting that the SCER impose its own authorities to prevent the intervention of security forces.

Additionally, IFES demanded that SCER employees monitor all phases involving photocopying, cutting and distributing ballots, as well as calling observers to attend the ballot production process.

(Source: Yasser Al-Mayasi, Election Media Center inaugurated and IFES makes recommendations, Yemen Times, 30 August 2006.

Notice that IFES stresses that elections require "advanced" techniques, and of course, utilization of banks of computers. This is nonsense. There is such a thing as appropriate technology, and simple techniques and procedures could assure clean, fair, and transparent elections. IFES's predilection may actually lead to elections that can be manipulated.

On 17 September 2006, Bin Shamlan (an electoral candidate) criticized the process stating: "In the current circumstances, these elections have a 60 to 75 per cent chance of being free and fair." This followed the NED/IFES poll indicating that Saleh was ahead in the polls before the election. (NB: this is a rather odd procedure to guarantee clean and fair elections. That is, the surveys can be rigged, and the outcome affects the election outcome -- the results also could work as a legitimizing tool in case the election is actually rigged. In many countries pre-election surveys are banned for this very reason.)

Yemen IFES Resources

  • IRIN, YEMEN: Much to do in countdown to elections, Reuters: AlertNet, 13 September 2006.
  • NewsYemen staff, SCER: 45 election centers canceled and 8 killed, 22 September 2006. ("It said in a statement that eight people were killed including the candidate of Yemeni Nasserite Union for the local council in the Jabal Habashi district of Taiz, director of the district of Khairan in Hajah and the candidate of GPC in Amran governorate.  The commission said also that three soldiers and 42 people were injured in different areas."
  • Angus Reid, President Saleh Headed for New Term in Yemen, 19 September 2006, AngusReid Consultants, Press Release (viewed 23 September 2006). Summary:

Incumbent Ali Abdullah Saleh could win tomorrow’s presidential election in Yemen, according to a poll by the Yemen Polling Center, the National Endowment for Democracy and the Middle East Partnership Initiative. 49 per cent of respondents would vote for Saleh.

Election Guide

IFES has produced a website which enables the monitoring of elections, the election process, and information about parties. The website was paid for by "a generous grant" from USAID.

Contact and personnel


IFES Principals and Staff

Board Memebers

IFES Senior Field Staff

IFES Field-Based Senior Staff
Bradley Austin – Senior Field Development Manager, East/South Africa Dickson Bailey – Project Director, IFES Albania and Kosovo (Elections) Dan Blessington – Chief of Party, Azerbaijan
Elizabeth Côté – Chief of Party, Guinea Almami Cyllah – Chief of Party, Liberia Peter Erben – Deputy Director and Senior Advisor, Center for Transitional and Post-Conflict Governance
Ched Flego – Chief of Party, Armenia Ben Goldsmith – Chief of Party, Egypt Beverly Hagerdon Thakur – Chief of Party, Philippines
Paul Harris – Chief of Party, Yemen Leone Hettenbergh – Chief of Party, Uganda Richard John – Chief of Party, Iraq
Edward Kibirige – Chief of Party, Burundi Charles Lasham – Chief of Party, Nigeria Dr. Cecile Marotte – Chief of Party (Victims of Violence), Haiti
David Mikosz – Chief of Party, Kyrgyz Republic Katherine Müller --Chief of Party, Tajikistan Theo Noel – Chief of Party, Kenya
Mauricio Claudio López-Rivera – Chief of Party, Timor Leste Carmina Sanchis-Ruescas – Chief of Party, DRC Hermann Thiel – Chief of Party, Lebanon
Rodolfo Ticao – Senior Program Manager, Iraq Marcin Walecki – Senior Political Finance Advisor, Center for Transitional and Post-Conflict Governance Peter Williams – Chief of Party, Afghanistan
Jennifer Wilson – Chief of Party, Kazakhstan


Countries where IFES has been active

IFES states that it is active in 35 countries (inc. most of the former Soviet republics), but major activity occurred here:

Countries where IFES has major operations
Alabania Angola Azerbaijan
Dominican Republic East Timor Ethiopia
Georgia Guatemala Guinea
Guyana Haiti Honduras
Indonesia Iraq Kazakhstan
Nicaragua Nigeria Pakistan
Palestinian Territories Paraguay Tajikistan




1101 15th Street, N.W., Third Floor
Washington, D.C. 20005
202.828.8507, Telephone
202.452.0804, Fax

External Sources