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In its mission statement the Global Commission on Elections, Democracy and Security points out that while elections are vital to democracy, on their own they are not sufficient. According to, “Deepening Democracy”, a recent report, elections also need integrity. They are right. But elections are insufficient in at least another respect too. Democracy is not limited to casting a ballot once every four or five years; the nature of democratic government also manifests itself in the period between elections. This is best exemplified by the current sovereign debt crisis in the Eurozone.

Barack Obama won re-election, his party managed to hold the Senate, and the House of Representatives is still – exactly as before the elections – dominated by the Republicans. Licking their wounds, they remain hostile to presidential administration. Has anything shifted? More than it seems. Certainly there is scope for a number of changes on the horizon – the most important ones concerning the American right.

Before joining the first cohort of students at the Blavatnik School of Government, I worked as a journalist for state-owned China Central Television, the biggest media outlet in China. Before that I spent four years working as a reporter and anchor for the Beijing Television Station, the local outlet for China’s capital city, also owned and operated by the government. Based on this, if I’m asked, about a single measure would strengthen democracy in my home country, I would firstly respond that you have to have more than one measure to reach that goal. However, if I can only choose one, I would definitely vote for free speech and an independent media.

“What single measure would help to strengthen democracy in your country? Would an improvement in electoral integrity help?” Share with us what you think.
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Deepening Democracy is an online series of articles, responding to the September 2012 report by the Global Commission on Elections, Democracy and Security, on improving the integrity of elections. The series is being curated by the Blavatnik School of Government and features contributions from students on the Master of Public Policy course at the School, as well as guest posts from Oxford and Cambridge scholars in politics and international relations.
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In 2008, when the economic crisis hit, many expected the demise of ‘neoliberalism’ as the reigning economic philosophy. Yet four years on, there are still few alternatives on offer. New citizen movements, such as the indignados in Spain and Occupy movements in London, New York and elsewhere, have articulated a need for an alternative. In this series, we will explore how republicanism – and republicans – might help achieve this.

From the coverage of the US election in the UK news media it would be easy to get the impression that we are witnessing a single battle of giants, or a least of the giantly funded. In mid-October the Center for Responsive Politics reported that the campaigns of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama had raised almost $900 million combined. But the presidential election is not the only place where money talks loudly.

It’s a little over three weeks to go before America votes in the 2012 presidential election, and things have suddenly turned interesting. For a while, orthodoxy was that Obama was likely to get re-elected and, maybe, by a substantial margin. As late as early October, Romney was still seen as a weak candidate with a history of vote losing gaffes. Those of us who thought the GOP might win the White House were treated like Right-wing Cassandras. It seemed like the European Union was more likely to win a Nobel Peace Prize… Suddenly, the national polls are even and the swing states are getting close. At this dramatic point in the race, I’d make the following observations…