• Albania

    header1 Country Overview

    Albania will hold its April parliamentary elections under a newly amended electoral code. Passed in October 2020, the changes include a reduced vote threshold for parties to enter parliament, a restructuring of the Central Electoral Commission (CEC), and alterations to the way coalitions put forth candidates. The United States, European Union, and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) initially supported for electoral reforms but criticized the ultimate outcome and the exclusion of the opposition from the process. A joint opinion from the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR described the procedure as “extremely hasty” and “against the most basic rules of democratic law-making.” The opinion also called for further reforms after the April parliamentary election.  

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Albania has a record of generally competitive elections, despite criticism of the CEC for its lack of transparency and concerns about vote-buying and corruption. The PS and the Democratic Party (PD), the main opposition party, dominate the political landscape, while numerous smaller parties have little opportunity to gain power. April’s parliamentary elections are under additional scrutiny following the PD’s boycott of the 2019 local elections and 2017 parliamentary elections. The media environment is highly concentrated, and owners use outlets to push narratives supporting their political and financial interests. Intimidation, including pressure from the government, leads many journalists to self-censor, and efforts to pass harsh anti-defamation legislation in 2019 and 2020 reinforced concerns about government hostility towards independent media.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key digital interference issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Arrests and prosecutions: Numerous laws allow users to be punished for online speech, including criminal penalties for defamation, which is frequently used against journalists and media outlets. Authorities have made multiple arrests in recent years for “knowingly [distributing] false information with the intention of spreading panic.” In 2019, Xhuliana Aliaj was detained for three days for Facebook posts asking the government assess damage caused by an earthquake and urging people to leave the area for their safety. The case against her was dropped after 11 months. In 2020, an online media company, Nova Media, was reportedly referred for prosecution for causing panic related to the pandemic. This pattern of legal interventions sets a worrying precedent for how the Albanian government can limit politically sensitive speech, particularly as the government’s pressure on media has ramped up more generally.
    • Blocking of websites: The Albanian government has shown greater willingness to block online content. In April 2020, the Audiovisual Media Authority required ISPs to block several websites, including the entire Medium.com domain. The Medium block was reportedly in response to a copyright complaint and was reversed after less than a week, but the decision to block the entire site, rather than only the relevant content, raises concerns about the proportionality of restrictions imposed by the government. After the 2019 earthquake, the Electronic and Postal Communications Authority (AKEP) blocked an online news outlet’s website and the Facebook page of another. In addition, the proposed anti-defamation package included a legal mechanism for blocking websites.
    • Cyberattacks: Online media and the Albanian government have occasionally fallen victim to cyberattacks in recent years. A malware infection in April 2020 rendered Exit, a news site, inaccessible to users and administrators for 24 hours while a malware infection attempted to delete content. Though the website was restored and no content was lost, the incident represented a worrying escalation against an independent media outlet that has faced threats and legal harassment in the past. Also in 2020, an attack on Albanian intelligence, believed to be perpetrated by Turkish authorities, compromised the personal information of hundreds of people. Similar breaches ahead of Albania’s election could negatively impact the election environment, including by obstructing access to information or interfering with elections infrastructure or personal data, and even unsuccessful attacks could fuel doubts about electoral integrity.

    Albania has a score of 68 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects a generally strong environment for political rights despite challenges to rule of law and free expression. The country is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2020, with a score of 67 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties and as a transitional or hybrid regime in Nations in Transit 2020, with a score of 47 out of 100 for the country’s democratic progress. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Albania country reports in Freedom in the World and Nations in Transit.

    Download the preelection assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    News and Updates
    New Report

    Albania’s overall score fell in the 2021 edition of Freedom in the World, reflecting a charged political atmosphere that gave rise to several violent confrontations between police and protestors. Read the Albania report.

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    • Global Freedom Score

      67 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      April 25, 2021
    • Type of Election

      Parliamentary
    • Internet Penetration

      70.35%
    • Population

      2.8 million
    • Election Year

      _2021-
  • Angola

    header1 Country Overview

    Angola has a score of 46 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects elections that are not regarded as free and fair. Voters do not directly elect a president in Angola; instead, the head of the national list of the political party receiving the most votes in general elections becomes president. In December 2021, the ruling MPLA announced that president João Lourenço would again be the party’s presidential candidate in 2022. Lourenço was first elected to the presidency in 2017, succeeding former president José Eduardo dos Santos, who had been in power for 38 years. Opposition parties disputed the 2017 results, alleging irregularities at the National Election Commission. In November 2021, Lourenço signed into law an amendment to general election law that will centralize vote counting, a move that some organizations have criticized as decreasing the amount of civil society oversight. Laws criminalizing online activities and the threat of cyberattacks against civic actors are the two main digital risks to elections in Angola. The country is rated Not Free in the Freedom in the World 2022, with a score of 30 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties; and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2021, with an internet freedom score of 62/100. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Angola country reports in Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Note: This country received an abbreviated preelection assessment. For more information, please refer to the Election Vulnerability Index data and the annual country reports listed above.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    On Angola

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    • Global Freedom Score

      28 100 not free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      59 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      August, 24 2022
    • Type of Election

      General
    • Internet Penetration

      31.00%
    • Population

      32.5 million
    • Election Year

      _2022-
  • Argentina

    header1 Country Overview

    Argentina has a score of 80 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects competitive elections and robust civil society, though judicial corruption and violence from police and drug-related criminal organizations persist. Some laws assign harsh penalties for online activities, but they are rarely used, and users can generally access online content without legal or extralegal consequence; cyberattacks during recent elections and a trend of disproportionate content removals from civil lawsuits threaten the digital sphere. The country is rated Free in Freedom in the World 2021, with a score of 84 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties and Free in Freedom on the Net 2020, with an internet freedom score of 71 out of 100. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Argentina country reports in Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Note: This country received an abbreviated preelection assessment. For more information, please refer to the Election Vulnerability Index data and the annual country reports listed above.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    On Argentina

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    • Global Freedom Score

      85 100 free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      73 100 free
    • Date of Election

      October 24, 2021
    • Type of Election

      Legislative
    • Internet Penetration

      77.43%
    • Population

      45.4 million
    • Election Year

      _2021-
  • Argentina

    header1 Country Overview

    On October 22, 2023, Argentines will vote in the country’s next general election. Voters will select the next president, 24 members of the Senate, and 130 members of the Chamber of Deputies, in addition to several provincial and local offices. The country’s president is elected for a four-year term, and presidential candidates must win 45 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff, which would take place on November 19. The center-left incumbent, President Alberto Fernández, announced in April 2023 that he would not seek a second term, despite being eligible to do so. Presidential candidates will be officially selected in an August 13 primary (commonly referred to as the “PASO”), and opinion polls have suggested a competitive race between candidates from the governing Union for the Homeland (UP) coalition, formerly known as the Front for Everyone, the opposition center-right Together for Change (JxC) coalition, and the right-wing Freedom Advances (LLA) coalition, led by libertarian candidate Javier Milei.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Argentina is a vibrant representative democracy, and the country has a clear and relatively fair framework for conducting elections, which are administered by the National Electoral Chamber (CNE) in conjunction with the National Electoral Directorate (DNE), a department of the Interior Ministry. Argentine voters will head to the polls amidst considerable economic, political, and social upheaval. With the incumbent president not running for reelection, much remains unclear about which candidates will appear on the October ballot, and how the new government will address the country’s serious challenges once elected.

    Economic concerns are likely to be top of mind for Argentine voters. The Fernández administration has struggled to alleviate the country’s severe economic crisis in recent years, with annual inflation reaching 114 percent in May 2023, the highest rate recorded since 1991. Argentina is deeply polarized, and voters remain divided over which political coalition will most effectively reverse the current economic situation—creating an opening for candidates outside the political mainstream, such as Milei. Meanwhile, the traditional political coalitions have struggled ahead of the PASO. JxC, affiliated with former president Mauricio Macri, who also decided against running again in 2023, has been slow to unite behind a candidate ahead of the election. Minister of Economy Sergio Massa, who UP preemptively selected as its sole presidential candidate ahead of the PASO, has led Argentina’s recent loan negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and has staked his candidacy on pragmatic leadership. However, UP, which is aligned with the country’s often-dominant Peronist working-class movement, lost its long-held congressional majority in the November 2021 midterm election, weakening its electoral standing ahead of the 2023 general election.

    Argentina’s democracy also continues to suffer from deeply entrenched corruption, which has reached officials at the highest level of government in recent years and fueled instability. Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who served as president between 2007 and 2015 and is not related to current president Fernández, was sentenced to six years in prison and permanently banned from holding public office after being convicted on corruption-related charges in December 2022, though the sentence will not take effect while an appeals process is in progress. Fernández de Kirchner, who has repeatedly claimed that the court’s decision was politicized, is considered the leader of modern Peronism in Argentina and a dominant force behind current president Fernández’s victory in 2019. She confirmed in May 2023 that she would not seek the presidency in October’s election, despite speculation that she would run.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key digital interference issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Harassment and intimidation: Physical violence in reprisal for digital activities is rare in Argentina, though journalists and activists, including those who work online, have been subject to intimidation, harassment, and smear campaigns on social media. Online gender-based harassment poses a prominent threat to women offline. After the attempted assassination of Vice President Fernández de Kirchner in September 2022, the alleged perpetrator was reportedly linked to Rouzed, an online forum that has been known to host hate speech and extremist content. This climate of online hostility, particularly against women, is likely to continue in advance of the October election, and in isolated instances could create a risk of offline harms.
    • Information manipulation: Manipulated content has appeared online during previous elections in Argentina, and seemingly organized digital behavior has been connected to political campaigns. Ahead of the 2019 general election, reputation-management agencies reportedly developed tailored social media campaigns for presidential candidates that used trolls and bots to promote negative narratives about opponents. In the past online disinformation tactics in Argentina have often lacked sophistication, such as the spread of crudely manipulated images, or have been quickly disproven, such as claims that former president Macri misspelled “November” in personal notes. While these efforts have had a limited effect on the online information landscape in Argentina, it is possible that more effective information manipulation strategies could emerge before October’s vote.
    • Technical attacks: Government entities in Argentina remain particularly vulnerable to ransomware attacks, and digital media outlets have suffered cyberattacks in recent years, creating the potential for digital interference ahead of the October election. Before the previous general election, in October 2019, fact-checking organization Chequeado disclosed that it experienced an alleged denial-of-service (DoS) attack during a presidential debate, forcing the platform to temporarily restrict access to its website for users outside Argentina. More recently, in May 2023, reports emerged that the data of 11 million Argentine citizens had been leaked online, potentially from a previous electoral register. In an electoral context, cyberattacks could undermine Argentines’ ability to access trusted information about the election—either from government or media sources—and create additional vulnerabilities for personal data protections.

    Argentina has a score of 80 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects a robust electoral system that is stable and generally regarded as free and fair, but where severe economic troubles, corruption, and political polarization have continued to pose challenges for the country’s democracy. The country is rated Free in Freedom in the World 2023, with a score of 85 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties; Free in Freedom on the Net 2022, with an internet freedom score of 71 out of 100. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Argentina country reports in Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    On Argentina

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    • Global Freedom Score

      85 100 free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      73 100 free
    • Date of Election

      October 22, 2023
    • Type of Election

      General
    • Internet Penetration

      87.20%
    • Population

      46.2 million
    • Election Year

      _2023-
  • Bangladesh

    header1 Country Overview

    In January 2024, Bangladesh will hold a parliamentary election for 300 seats in its national legislative body, the Jatiya Sangsad (JS). These elections occur every five years and are administered by the Bangladesh Election Commission (EC). The political party that secures a majority of seats in the JS gains the right to appoint the prime minister. The 50 remaining seats in the legislature, which are reserved for women, are assigned proportionally based on parties’ overall performance in the polls. The incumbent Awami League (AL) is led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who has held power since 2009 and is seeking to be reelected for a fourth time. The AL has consolidated power through sustained harassment of the opposition, and the main opposition faction, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), is boycotting the election and demanding that a caretaker government oversee the voting process, citing the EC’s lack of independence. Several members of the banned Jamaat-e-Islami party, Bangladesh’s largest Islamist political faction, are expected to run in the election as independents, along with other members of smaller parties. 

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Bangladesh’s last election in 2018 was characterized by harassment, violence, and arrests throughout the election cycle, notably of the opposition and government critics, making it difficult for opposition candidates to campaign freely and hold political rallies. The BNP claimed that 6,000 of its supporters and 10 of its candidates were arrested ahead of the election. One of those arrested was Khaleda Zia, the BNP’s leader, who was convicted and jailed on corruption charges and later banned from participating as an electoral candidate, which significantly harmed the party’s competitiveness on voting day. The BNP also accused AL supporters and law enforcement agents of ballot stuffing and polling station intimidation. Moreover, the government’s failure to issue visas and credentials to most international and domestic election monitoring missions effectively prevented independent observation. 

    Political violence has continued in the lead-up to the 2024 elections. At recent BNP rallies, at which participants demanded Prime Minister Hasina’s resignation and that the election be held under a caretaker government, police arrested and injured thousands of attendees. The possibility of another election cycle marred by harassment and violence has concerned several democratic countries and bodies, including the United States, Japan, the European Union (EU), and United Nations, who have called upon the government to conduct the upcoming vote with integrity. The United States also announced a new policy to restrict visas “for any Bangladeshi individual believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic election process in Bangladesh” in hopes of promoting a free and fair election.

     
    While polls show that most Bangladeshis approve of the prime minister, the opposition’s approval ratings have risen as voters have become increasingly frustrated by the country’s economic crisis, inflation rate, and endemic corruption.  The election’s outcome could have far-reaching impacts on Bangladesh’s domestic politics: if the upcoming vote is not conducted in a free and fair manner, Bangladesh could endure another five years of polarization and political violence. 

    Freedom House has identified the following as key digital interference issues to watch ahead of election day: 

    • Social media and website blocks: Social media platforms, websites, and online news outlets that are critical of the government or supported by opposition parties are often blocked by the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), especially during politically tense periods. In December 2018, the BTRC blocked 58 news sites for publishing “fake news” ahead of the last election. More recently, in January 2023, the BTRC canceled 191 news website domains for allegedly publishing “misleading antistate content.” Similarly, in June 2023, Bangladeshi authorities closed down the offices of two privately owned social media–based platforms, CplusTV and C Vision, and seized their broadcasting equipment, stifling their coverage of political and human rights ahead of the upcoming election.  Authorities have also restricted access to other social media platforms, including Facebook and Facebook Messenger, during periods of political unrest. These restrictions, which limit access to voting information and opportunities for political discussion, are expected to increase, as the BTRC aims to enact several new expansive censorship laws before election day, including the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission Regulation for Digital Social Media and OTT Platforms, 2021. 
    • Internet shutdowns: Partial restrictions of internet and communication services during protests, elections, and tense political moments have become common in Bangladesh. Throughout the previous election period in 2018, the BTRC throttled mobile services and made both third and fourth generation (3G and 4G) service for mobile devices unavailable in the run up to and on election day. Similarly, since August 2022, there have been several reports of internet throttling as the BNP and its affiliates launched nationwide protests in response to inflation and corruption. In October and November 2022, the BTRC reportedly ordered mobile service providers to shut down 3G and 4G service during major opposition rallies. Should such restrictions continue, online and in-person political discussions and rallies will be curtailed, and journalists, civil society members, and election observers’ ability to report on the election will be hindered. 
    • Harassment and intimidation: Journalists, activists, and opposition politicians who speak out against the government are subject to harassment and intimidation both online and offline. In the first three months of 2023, 56 journalists were reportedly targeted, harassed, and threatened by the AL and its supporters for their online reporting that criticized the government. Ahead of the upcoming elections, several journalists have been assaulted while reporting, including at political rallies.  As a result, a fear of assault is contributing to the country’s growing self-censorship, and the suppression of critical voices is limiting access to independent and diverse information ahead of election day.   
    • Arrests and prosecutions for online activity: Members of opposition parties, the media, and civil society who criticize the government online are regularly arrested and imprisoned under the Digital Security Act (DSA). Between January 2020 and February 2022, at least 2,244 individuals were reportedly accused of violating the DSA, with the majority identifying as politicians, followed by journalists. A 2021 survey of 668 DSA cases found that a majority were filed by AL activists against critics of the party’s leaders. Similarly, in May 2023 alone, 27 the of 28 individuals arrested under the DSA were affiliated with the BNP. Since the judicial process moves slowly in DSA cases, those arrested under the act often undergo long pretrial detention periods. These legal repercussions also contribute to the country’s growing self-censorship and could limit transparency around the election.

    Bangladesh has a score of 41 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects a restrictive online and offline environment for opposition groups, civil society organizations, and journalists; a history of content removal that is critical of the government; and network interference and restricted connectivity during political events. The country is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2023, with a score of 40 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2022, with an internet freedom score of 43 out of 100. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Bangladesh country reports in Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net. 
     

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    On Bangladesh

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    • Global Freedom Score

      40 100 partly free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      41 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      January 7, 2024
    • Type of Election

      Parliamentary
    • Internet Penetration

      38.90%
    • Population

      171.2 million
    • Election Year

      _2024-
  • Belarus

    header1 Country Overview

    On February 25, Belarus will hold a legislative election for the bicameral National Assembly, the first national elections since the rigged 2020 presidential vote, which spurred a wave of mass protests and a crackdown on civil society and independent media. In the most recent parliamentary elections in 2019, virtually all the seats in both the Council of the Republic and the House of Representatives went to loyalists to Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who has held the presidency since 1994, with “independent” candidates unaffiliated with any political party winning most of the seats. In 2023, the independents, who are closely aligned with Lukashenka, formed the Belaya Rus party, which now holds a supermajority in both chambers. Since Lukashenka’s brutal response to protests over his reelection to a sixth term in 2020, the major democratic opposition, led by Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, has operated in exile and does not consider the elections legitimate. Supporters of the opposition remaining in the country have faced severe repression. The judiciary and other institutions lack independence and provide no check on Lukashenka’s power.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    The parliamentary elections are expected to be neither free nor fair. According to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the 2019 parliamentary contest featured an “overly restrictive” registration process, severe limits on freedom of assembly and expression, and an election administration process partial to the incumbent government. These conditions have only worsened in the interim. Following the 2020 protests, Lukashenka further consolidated his control over the country, eliminating critical media outlets and the remaining opposition. A 2022 constitutional referendum, which featured widespread electoral fraud, once again expanded the president’s powers. Then, in 2023, Lukashenka introduced stricter rules for operating a political party and banned an array of remaining parties, including the Belarusian Popular Front Party, the Green Party, Republican Party, and Social Democratic Party of People’s Accord, effectively reducing the number of registered parties to four, all fully controlled by and loyal to the Lukashenka regime. The electoral process in 2024 will be even more tightly controlled; recent amendments to the electoral code banned the practice of photographing a completed ballot and removed the turnout threshold after opposition calls for a boycott. 

    Lukashenka’s regime has also supported the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine since February 2022, when the Russian military launched a portion of the full-scale invasion from Belarus. Although the Belarusian government did not deploy troops in Ukraine, the administration has ramped up defense spending and has reportedly been complicit in the kidnapping and “reeducation” of Ukrainian children living in Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine. The authorities have made “armed pacifism” a key tenet of their messaging ahead of the parliamentary elections and the ensuing presidential vote in 2025. The Belarusian government United States- and European Union-led sanctions continue to negatively impact the Belarusian economy, which already suffered from the departure of much of its tech sector following the 2020 protests. 

    Freedom House has identified the following as key digital interference issues to watch ahead of election day: 

    • Website blocking and content removal: Lukashenka’s government has blocked websites of most independent media outlets, civil society organizations, and Ukrainian news sites, as well as links to Telegram channels and crowdfunding platforms. As of June 2023, the Belarusian Internet Observatory reported that upwards of 9,000 websites were blocked. When media websites have begun operating again in exile, authorities have also blocked their “mirror sites.” For instance, the state blocked the new website of Brestskaya Gazeta, a media outlet that had its original website blocked prior to launching a new website abroad. The government also invokes a wide range of “anti-extremism” legislation to mandate the removal of content, including news articles and comments on websites, and persecute those who share it. The Lukashenka regime is likely to employ these tactics against any criticism of the electoral process or results. 
    • Arrests and prosecutions: Individuals who have criticized Lukashenka and his government’s policies routinely face lengthy prison sentences, often under “extremism” or “terrorism” charges. The government has sought to make an example out of those who participated in the protests against Lukashenka in 2020. In June 2023, a Belarusian court sentenced activist Yana Pinchuk to 12 years in prison for her role in managing the critical Telegram channel Vitsebsk97%. Several other bloggers, Telegram channel administrators, and those who helped campaign against Lukashenka in the 2020 elections have faced similar sentences. The government could detain and prosecute individuals who question the integrity of the parliamentary elections in 2024. 
    • Harassment and intimidation: Authorities have conducted raids and launched smear campaigns against activists, journalists, civil society representatives, and ordinary citizens who have criticized the government online. Additionally, authorities torture and publicly humiliate those who they have imprisoned on trumped-up charges. Security agencies have made a practice of releasing forced confession videos, where they coerce individuals who have been arrested to “admit” to their crimes and reveal personal information, including intimate images. Publicly government-aligned social media channels, like Zheltye Slivy (Yellow Plums), harass and intimidate critics. The government will continue to retaliate against perceived opponents ahead of the election.
    • Internet shutdowns: The government initiated a three-day nationwide internet shutdown during the mass protests that followed the 2020 presidential vote. In the following months, the government launched localized internet shutdowns to hamper organizing as people took part in weekly Sunday protests, which it had previously done in 2019 and earlier in 2020 at rallies ahead of the election. The government could use the upcoming election as a pretext to restrict internet connectivity, though its use of widespread website blocking since early 2021 and the evisceration of the political opposition may make a full-scale internet shut unlikely. 

    Belarus has a score of 13 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects widespread website blocking, severe intimidation and harassment, and the continued arrest of those who criticize the regime online. The country is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2023, with a score of 8 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties; Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2023, with an internet freedom score of 25 out of 100; and as a Consolidated Authoritarian Regime in Nations in Transit 2023, with a score of 2 out of 100 for the country’s democratic progress. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Belarus country reports in Freedom in the World, Freedom on the Net, and Nations in Transit

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    On Belarus

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    • Global Freedom Score

      8 100 not free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      25 100 not free
    • Date of Election

      February 25, 2024
    • Type of Election

      Parliamentary
    • Internet Penetration

      86.90%
    • Population

      9.2 million
    • Election Year

      _2024-
  • Brazil

    header1 Country Overview

    Brazil’s four-year election cycle calls for voters to take to the polls on October 2 to choose a president, vice president, and legislative representatives—including one-third of the country’s 81-member Senate and all 513 members of the Chamber of Deputies. The presidential contest is the most consequential in recent history for the country’s democratic trajectory. Incumbent Jair Bolsonaro of the far-right Social Liberal Party faces a strong challenge from popular former president Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva of the leftist Workers’ Party. Lula, as he is commonly known, returned to the political fray after serving three years of a 12-year prison sentence for his involvement in the “Operation Car Wash” corruption scandal. He maintains that the corruption investigation was politicized, and the UN Human Rights Committee recently concluded that the judge overseeing the case had not been impartial and violated Lula’s rights. Should no candidate secure 50 percent of the votes in the first round, the presidential election will head to a runoff on October 30.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Bolsonaro—who has used antidemocratic rhetoric, tripled the number of military personnel in civilian posts, and spread misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic—regularly warns that he might not accept unfavorable election results. He and his allies have cast doubt on the security of electronic voting machines and made allegations of an impending “rigged” election a centerpiece of his campaign. Bolsonaro loyalists have signaled support for these unfounded fraud claims, including by raising concerns about election vulnerabilities, calling for the use of paper ballots, and proposing a parallel, military-led audit of the vote. Some analysts have indicated that in the event of a close or drawn-out contest, Bolsonaro might refuse to concede and could even resort to extralegal attacks on election officials and political opponents. Specifically, there are fears that he will use false claims about electoral fraud to incite his followers to violently disrupt the democratic transfer of power.

    Brazil is a democracy that holds competitive elections, and the political arena, though polarized, is characterized by vibrant public debate. However, independent journalists and civil society activists risk harassment and violent attack, and the government has struggled to address high rates of violent crime as well as disproportionate violence and economic exclusion affecting certain segments of the population—including Black, Indigenous, and LGBT+ Brazilians. Corruption is endemic in government and politics, contributing to widespread disillusionment with traditional political parties.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key digital interference issues to monitor ahead of the election period: 

    • Information manipulation and disinformation: Candidates, parties, and their supporters—most often those aligned with Bolsonaro—manipulate online content in service of false and misleading narratives. While the messaging platform WhatsApp was a major vector of election disinformation in 2018, Telegram has emerged as a new hub for Bolsonaro’s camp. Supporters are often directed to prominent Telegram channels via hyperlinks posted to other social media platforms by high-profile Bolsonaro associates. Disinformation narratives in Brazil frequently intersect with online harassment of marginalized communities, such as LGBT+ people, women, and Afro-Brazilians. Given his sagging poll numbers, some experts expect Bolsonaro to double down on false narratives that include attacks against his perceived opponents that invoke these protected characteristics. However, observers also expect disinformation in this election to focus on the technical mechanics of voting. Bolsonaro has openly asserted that Brazil’s electronic voting system is unreliable and seeded the idea that fraud is inevitable in October. The system has been the object of previous disinformation campaigns, with federal police determining that Bolsonaro had a “direct and relevant” role in spreading disinformation about electoral processes in 2018. This year, both Bolsonaro and the military have called for parallel recounts and the use of printed ballots, an option that is not currently available, as Brazil’s direct recording electronic voting machines do not leave a paper trail. However, research has shown that the adoption of the electronic voting system in 1996, overseen by the Superior Electoral Court (TSE), dramatically reduced election fraud. In order to protect Brazilian voters and the integrity of October’s elections, social media companies, media outlets, and Brazilian federal institutions must quickly distinguish between valid complaints of electoral fraud and baseless allegations designed to disrupt the democratic process.
    • Online blocking and content removal: In past elections, politicians have attempted to use legal mechanisms to compel social media and messaging platforms to remove content. The Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji) recorded at least 500 such attempts during the 2018 election campaigns and warned against the trend of politicized content removals. Bolsonaro was among the most active complainants during the 2018 elections, according to Abraji. More broadly, the proliferation of disinformation has meant that platforms’ content moderation practices have been subjected to increased scrutiny. In March 2022, Telegram was banned for two days after it failed to comply with court orders demanding the removal of content and cooperation with Brazilian authorities. The ban was linked to a larger Supreme Court investigation targeting disinformation in the lead up to the October elections. In response to the restriction, Telegram complied with requests to remove content, including messages from Bolsonaro and an account affiliated with a prominent supporter, and appointed its first in-country legal representative. Telegram also indicated that it would establish a communication channel between itself and the court to receive reports on election-related disinformation. The court has signed similar cooperation agreements with Twitter, TikTok, Facebook, WhatsApp, Google, Instagram, YouTube, and Kwai.
    • Harassment: Journalists, bloggers, politicians, activists, members of marginalized communities, and ordinary users have reported harassment on social media platforms in response to their identities, occupations, and online activities—including sharing views that are critical of Bolsonaro and the government. Some of these attacks are launched from inside the administration, at times by Bolsonaro himself. For example, in February 2020, the journalist and disinformation researcher Patrícia Campos Mello was subjected to misogynistic online attacks by users including the president’s son, Eduardo Bolsonaro, who serves as a member of the Chamber of Deputies. Online harassment could lead to self-censorship on topics related to the elections and act as a barrier to political participation by potential candidates and voters alike. Bolsonaro’s tenure as president has also featured the revival of old fear-mongering narratives about the threat of a communist takeover and the crucial role of the military in preventing such an event. The recent murder of a member of the Workers’ Party, coupled with physical attacks on Lula campaign events by Bolsonaro supporters, suggest that political tensions could erupt into violence with a sufficient catalyst. Online accusations of communist affiliation are part of a harmful trend that exacerbates political polarization and recalls the era of anticommunist violence associated with Brazil’s military dictatorship, which endured for two decades until the restoration of democracy in the 1980s. 

    Brazil has a score of 66 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects a track record of elections that are generally regarded as free and fair, coupled with an online environment marred by disinformation, hyperpartisanship, harassment, and intimidation. The country is rated Free in Freedom in the World 2022, with a score of 73 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties, and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2021, with an internet freedom score of 64 out of 100. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Brazil country reports in Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net.
     

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    On Brazil

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    • Global Freedom Score

      72 100 free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      64 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      October 2, 2022
    • Type of Election

      General
    • Internet Penetration

      74.09%
    • Population

      212.8 million
    • Election Year

      _2022-
  • Bulgaria

    header1 Country Overview

    Bulgaria will hold parliamentary elections in April against a backdrop of democratic deterioration and antigovernment protests. The vote is seen as a test of the ruling coalition, which is composed of the center-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) party and its junior partner, the nationalist United Patriots alliance. The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), the main opposition, holds the second-most seats in parliament, followed by the centrist Movement for Rights and Freedom (DPS).

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Anticorruption protests began in the summer of 2020 and continued into the winter, with demands ranging from judicial reform to snap elections and the resignation of the government, including Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and chief prosecutor Ivan Geshev. In October, the European Parliament passed a resolution condemning Bulgaria’s “significant deterioration in respect for the principles of rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights, including the independence of the judiciary, separation of powers, the fight against corruption and freedom of the media.” Legal changes in 2019 allowed unlimited private financing for political parties, opening the door for increased oligarchic influence and vote buying. In September 2020, the electoral code was amended to allow polling places to use a combination of electronic and paper ballots, instead of switching to electronic voting as planned. The use of mixed voting mechanisms could compound a lack of trust among voters.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Influence operations: Multiple factors may negatively impact the online information environment ahead of the elections. Concentrated media ownership, which extends to online outlets, allows the government and oligarchs to exert extensive influence over reporting. Political parties have been linked to social media influence operations in the past, leading several parties to sign an agreement in 2015 against the use of these campaigning tactics. Nonetheless, recent research has documented separate domestic and Russia-based influence operations to bolster attitudes on Russia or spread divisive and misleading content about Bulgarian politics. These combined media factors may disrupt voters’ ability to engage with reliable information ahead of the election. 
    • Cyberattacks: Government agencies have been targeted by cyberattacks in recent years, including a 2019 breach of the National Revenue Agency, and DDoS attacks on the Central Election Commission (CEC) in 2015 and 2013. Following these attacks, the CEC identified DDoS attacks as a main technical risk during elections, along with personal data leaks and other compromising cyberattacks. In January 2021, a platform for a volunteer ballot monitoring initiative was hacked, and the personal data of thousands of Bulgarians was uploaded to the initiative’s online recruitment platform. 

     

    Bulgaria has a score of 76 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects a history of credible elections, despite concerns about state capture and declining media freedom. The country is rated Free in Freedom in the World 2020, with a score of 80 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties, and as a semi-consolidated democracy in Nations in Transit 2020, with a score of 59 out of 100 for the country’s democratic progress. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Bulgaria country reports in Freedom in the World and Nations in Transit.

    Download the preelection assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    On Bulgaria

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    • Global Freedom Score

      79 100 free
    • Date of Election

      April 4, 2021
    • Type of Election

      Parliamentary
    • Internet Penetration

      66.03%
    • Population

      6.9 million
    • Election Year

      _2021-
  • Burkina Faso

    header1 Country Overview

    Burkinabè will vote in November in the second presidential and legislative elections since Blaise Campaoré’s 27-year regime was overthrown in 2014. Over 20 candidates filed for the first round of the 2020 presidential contest, including numerous prominent figures such as incumbent president Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, whose People’s Movement for Progress (MPP) party holds a plurality in parliament; Zephirin Diabré of the opposition Union for Progress and Change (UPC) party; and former prime minister Yacouba Isaac Zida, who now lives in Canada and could face charges for desertion should he return to Burkina Faso.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    The election takes place amid a deterioration in security that, as of August 2020, has forced over a million Burkinabè to flee their homes. Insecurity —driven in large part by militant groups operating in the north and east of the country—is a major challenge to the electoral environment, making it unsafe to campaign and limiting access to polls in some areas. The government has responded to the security situation by criminalizing speech that “demoralizes” the security forces. A new law allows the Constitutional Court to certify election results based on incomplete returns in cases of “force majeure or exceptional circumstances,” potentially disenfranchising thousands of people residing in northern rural areas where voting is likely to be disrupted due to violence. These regions are also home to large populations of ethnic and religious groups that have been historically underrepresented in politics and government.

    Burkina Faso has a score of 65 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerable in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. Burkina Faso’s score reflects generally credible and competitive recent elections and a relatively robust environment for media and civil society, despite significant security challenges that threaten the democratic gains made in recent years. The country is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2020, with a score of 56 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties. To learn more about this annual Freedom House assessment, please visit the Burkina Faso country report for Freedom in the World.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Arrests and prosecutions: Individuals are sometimes arrested for their online activity, including in relation to a 2019 revision of the penal code that criminalized the dissemination of information related to terrorist attacks and speech that “demoralizes the defense and security forces.” Given the close ties between security and elections issues, the use of this law could hinder election-related media coverage and online discussion.
    • Blocking websites: The recently amended penal code permits the blocking of websites or email addresses that disseminate alleged false information. The provision is subject to judicial oversight, but any legal avenue for blocking is cause for concern and the Burkinabè judiciary sometimes suffers from political interference.

    Download the preelection assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    On Burkina Faso

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    • Global Freedom Score

      30 100 not free
    • Date of Election

      November 22, 2020
    • Type of Election

      General
    • Internet Penetration

      17.50%
    • Population

      20.3 million
    • Election Year

      _2020-
  • Cambodia

    header1 Country Overview

    On July 23, 2023, voters in Cambodia will head to the polls for the country’s general election, which is held every five years. Cambodia is a de facto one-party state: the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), which has ruled the country since the fall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979, currently holds all 125 national assembly seats, and party leader Hun Sen has served as prime minister since 1985. Though candidates from several opposition parties are contesting the July election, the ruling party’s steady quashing of the political opposition has meant that these groups have struggled to gain traction. International election monitors and democracy-focused civil society organizations do not expect this election to be free and fair.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Cambodia’s last general election was held in 2018 in a severely repressive environment. In the run-up to the polls in 2017, Cambodia’s Supreme Court issued a ruling dissolving the then main opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). The ruling also imposed a five-year political ban on 118 CNRP members, many of whom were imprisoned and some of whom have since fled the country. In 2018, the National Election Commission (NEC)—on which the CPP controls all nine seats—sought to aid the ruling party by threatening to prosecute figures who urged an election boycott. The NEC also informed voters that criticism of the CPP was prohibited. The CPP ultimately won the 2018 election in a landslide victory.  

    Since 2018, the CPP has continued to attack opposition politicians. Ahead of local elections in June 2022, several members of the Candlelight Party (CP), Cambodia’s largest and most prominent opposition party, were removed as candidates from the NEC list and threatened with criminal charges. Similar harassment and intimidation of the opposition has persisted in 2023 ahead of the July general election. In January, CP vice president Thach Setha was arrested for allegedly falsifying bank checks; the CP has condemned his arrest as politically motivated. The same month, Prime Minister Hun Sen threatened to sue the CP after its leaders accused the CPP of political persecution.  

    Hun Sen has also openly promoted a dynastic succession plan for the Cambodian government. In December 2021, the CPP endorsed the prime minister’s son, Hun Manet, as “future prime minister.” While Hun Sen has stated that this transfer of power would be enacted through an election—possibly in 2028—Cambodia’s downward democratic trajectory, characterized by the ruling party’s tight political control, systematic attacks on the media, and the country’s shrinking civic space, signals that another carefully controlled election environment may be replicated to ensure such a succession

    Freedom House has identified the following as key digital interference issues to watch ahead of election day:  

    • Arrests and prosecutions for online activity: Prime Minister Hun Sen and the CPP have increasingly penalized critical online speech in Cambodia. Throughout 2021 and 2022, dozens of activists and political leaders were prosecuted for their online activities, with many receiving lengthy prison sentences for criticizing the government on social media. In February 2022, CNRP activist Voeurn Veasna was sentenced to a year in prison for making Facebook posts criticizing the government’s COVID-19 response and stating that Prime Minister Hun Sen sought to appoint his son as his successor. Journalists have also faced criminal charges and imprisonment for their online work, especially as it relates to government corruption. In September 2021, a Cambodian journalist was arrested and sentenced to one year in prison after reporting on a land dispute allegedly involving high-ranking government officials. In May 2022, a producer for Facebook-based TCN TV was arrested and charged with defamation and incitement to discriminate for making corruption allegations against government officials on a Facebook livestream. By criminally charging and imprisoning opposition figures, activists, and journalists, the CPP encourages self-censorship and thus limits voters’ ability to access diverse and reliable information. This trend could worsen in the coming months, as lawmakers have entered the final stages of drafting a cybercrime law that would impose harsh criminal penalties on speech that the government deems adverse. 
    • Website blocks: News and other websites have been periodically blocked in Cambodia, particularly those that disseminate information that could be perceived as a threat to the government. In July 2018, the government ordered the temporary blocking of 17 websites, including the Phnom Penh Post, Voice of America (VOA), and Voice of Democracy (VOD), for 48 hours before that year’s general election. Authorities justified the decision by invoking an electoral law that prohibits campaigning in the 24-hour period before the polls open. However, news outlets perceived as less critical of the government were not blocked. Internet service providers also reportedly blocked VOD’s website after the government revoked its license in February 2023. Blocking websites limits people’s ability to access information needed to inform their voting choices and stay up-to-date on the election process.  
    • Content removal: Online content is susceptible to removal at the government’s behest, and the government regularly revokes the licenses of online media outlets in apparent retaliation for their content. In February 2023, the government revoked the operating license of VOD’s parent organization, the Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM), effectively shutting down VOD—one of the country’s last independent news outlets—and blocking its website over its reporting on Hun Manet’s role in the government. Further content restrictions are expected ahead of election day in July, limiting people’s access to both information about the election and campaigning from sources other than state media.  
    • Information operations: The sharing of false and misleading information online has been a growing concern in Cambodia in recent years. Government agencies, politicians, and political parties have all reportedly used coordinated cybertroops to manipulate information on social media. The government has also conducted online disinformation campaigns against the CNRP. In 2019, the online outlet Coda Story reported that opposition supporters were forced to make videos “confessing” that they helped former CNRP leader Sam Rainsy return from self-imposed exile. At least one such video was shared by a progovernment news outlet. There are concerns that false and misleading information—especially misinformation appearing to discredit the CP—may permeate the online environment ahead of this year’s election.

     Cambodia has a score of 29 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects a tightly restricted political and media landscape where free expression and assembly are severely suppressed on and offline, and independent media and civil society are often targeted for their critiques of those in power. The country is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2023, with a score of 24 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2022, with an internet freedom score of 43 out of 100. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Cambodia country reports in Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net.  

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    On Cambodia

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    • Global Freedom Score

      24 100 not free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      44 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      July 23, 2023
    • Type of Election

      General
    • Internet Penetration

      65.70%
    • Population

      15.7 million
    • Election Year

      _2023-
  • Chad

    header1 Country Overview

    President Idriss Déby Itno is running for a sixth term in office in a tightly controlled political environment. His Patriotic Salvation Movement (MPS) and allied parties control the National Assembly; members of the body have not faced an election since 2011 due to repeated postponements. Though opposition parties are legally permitted, their leaders face legal and physical harassment for their political organizing. Over a dozen candidates will contest the election, including opposition leader Saleh Kebzabo and Theophile Bebzoune Bongoro, who has the backing of Alliance Victoire, a new coalition comprising 15 opposition parties.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Constitutional reforms passed in December included the creation of a vice president position appointed directly by the president, as well as formation of a second legislative chamber elected by provincial and municipal councilors. The opposition was largely excluded from the reform process, and the changes are widely viewed as a further entrenchment of power by the Déby and his allies. In February 2021, authorities placed a ban on public demonstrations and arrested numerous activists and opposition members who defied the measure in the following days. The government tightly controls the media environment, and members of the media self-censor to avoid reprisals. Access to information is further limited by low internet penetration and high illiteracy rates. Despite these obstacles, the internet remains an important avenue for access to information, making it a target for government interference.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key digital interference issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Blocking websites and social media: The Chadian government has a history of restricting access to online content surrounding politically consequential events. Beginning on July 22, 2020, authorities blocked WhatsApp for at least two months in an apparent attempt to prevent the circulation of images and videos of extrajudicial violence between a member of the Chadian military and civilians at an N’Djamena market. A 15-month social media blackout began in March 2018, affecting WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other platforms. While authorities justified the blocking on security concerns, its implementation coincided with tensions surrounding constitutional reforms that allow Déby to serve additional terms as president. The 2016 presidential election also saw largescale blocking of social media, messaging apps, and several websites.
    • Internet shutdowns: The 2021 presidential election brings an increased risk of connectivity restrictions. The internet was inaccessible for eight months following the 2016 presidential elections and has been disrupted several times since then. More recently, the internet was throttled or inaccessible in many parts of the country from July 22 through August 18, 2020, coinciding with the blocking of WhatsApp. 
    • Arrests and prosecutions: Individuals are often punished for critical online commentary about the government. In January, a journalist was fined and sentenced to prison on defamation charges after criticizing a local judicial system in a Facebook post. In addition to defamation, Chadian laws criminalize the publishing of “outrages” against government institutions or their members; disseminating information in violation of national security interests; and praising or provoking terrorist acts, with especially harsh punishment reserved for internet-related offenses. The vague nature of these laws makes them particularly vulnerable to abuse, including politicized application to critics, members of the media, and opposition figures. For example, in February the head of the Chadian Organization for Human Rights received a three-year prison sentence and a fine for “violation of the constitutional order” in relation to a Facebook post about Déby’s allegedly ill health.

    Chad has a score of 30 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects a restricted digital sphere, an uncompetitive electoral environment, and the regular violation of a range of human rights. The country is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2020, with a score of 17 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Chad country report in Freedom in the World.

    Download the preelection assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    News and Updates
    New Report

    Chad’s overall score did not change in the 2021 edition of Freedom in the World, but legislative elections were delayed for the fifth time, the government adopted new constitutional reforms, and the country continued to face multiple insurgencies. Read the Chad report.

    On Chad

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    • Global Freedom Score

      15 100 not free
    • Date of Election

      April 11, 2021
    • Type of Election

      Presidential
    • Internet Penetration

      10.25%
    • Population

      16.9 million
    • Election Year

      _2021-
  • Chile

    header1 Country Overview

    Chile has a score of 91 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects democratic stability and competitive elections, though Indigenous Mapuche people are underrepresented politically and occasional corruption scandals arise. Chile’s broad respect for civil liberties is undercut by abuses from national police and discrimination against Indigenous and LGBT+ people. Despite some laws that assign harsh penalties for libel and slander that could be applied to online activities, internet users can generally access and share online content without legal or extralegal consequence. The country is rated Free in Freedom in the World 2021, with a score of 93 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties. To learn more about this annual Freedom House assessment, please visit the Chile country report in Freedom in the World.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Note: This country received an abbreviated preelection assessment. For more information, please refer to the Election Vulnerability Index data and the annual country report listed above.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    On Chile

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    • Global Freedom Score

      94 100 free
    • Date of Election

      November 21, 2021
    • Type of Election

      General
    • Internet Penetration

      82.21%
    • Population

      19.5 million
    • Election Year

      _2021-
  • Colombia

    header1 Country Overview

    Roughly a year after mass protests—sparked by an unpopular tax reform but ultimately encompassing discontent about economic despair, inequality, police brutality, and a rise in armed violence—swept the nation, Colombians will take to the polls to elect their new president. The first round of the vote to replace President Iván Duque, who is constitutionally limited to one term, will fall on May 29; should no candidate win a majority of votes, a runoff between the two candidates with the highest number of votes will be held on June 19. Voters’ dissatisfaction with the right-wing president, whose public approval rating stood at only 20 percent in February 2022, and his party may prompt a broader political shift away from historically conservative leadership. Interparty consultations held on March 13 seemingly signaled public support for such a change: the consultations, which function as primaries to narrow the candidate pool, yielded an important win for leftist Senator Gustavo Petro, who had previously lost to President Duque in the 2018 presidential runoff. 

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Colombia is among the longest-standing democracies in Latin America, but one with a history of widespread violence and serious human rights abuses. Public institutions have demonstrated the capacity to check executive power, and the country’s main left-wing guerrilla group signed a peace accord in 2016. Nonetheless, Colombia faces enormous challenges in consolidating peace and guaranteeing political rights and civil liberties outside of major urban areas.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key digital interference issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Harassment and violence: Online journalists, and digital media personnel more broadly, face attacks and harassment by state and non-state actors in connection with their reporting. Security forces deployed violent force against digital media personnel covering 2021 protests, for instance, and journalists sometimes receive death threats for reporting on corruption. Paired with Colombia’s history of electoral violence, the dangerous climate for online journalists may encourage self-censorship around political issues, limiting the electorate’s access to objective reporting and hindering the public’s ability to make informed decisions surrounding the vote.
    • Cyberattacks: Online outlets, journalists, and government institutions have occasionally fallen victim to cyberattacks in recent years. In March 2020, a cyberattack rendered online news outlet La Oreja Roja inaccessible shortly after it published an article discussing deceased drug trafficker José Guillermo “Neñe” Hernández’s suspected involvement in a vote-buying campaign during the 2018 presidential election. Earlier, in the lead-up to 2018 parliamentary elections, more than 50,000 cyberattacks were recorded against the web platform of the country’s national voter registry. Cyberattacks targeting outlets and journalists could limit access to information about voting or independent reporting on candidates, while breaches of elections infrastructure may compromise actual or perceived electoral integrity and sensitive voter data. 

    Colombia has a score of 66 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects a democracy bolstered by well-administered and competitive elections, but encumbered by rule of law deficits, restrictions to assembly, and pressures on media. The country is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2021, with a score of 65 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties, and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2021, with an internet freedom score of 65 out of 100. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Colombia country reports in Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    On Colombia

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    • Global Freedom Score

      70 100 free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      65 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      May 29, 2022
    • Type of Election

      Presidential
    • Internet Penetration

      65.71%
    • Population

      49.4 million
    • Election Year

      _2022-
  • Costa Rica

    header1 Country Overview

    Costa Rican voters, who enjoy a competitive and credible electoral environment, will head to the polls in February to elect their president, two vice presidents, and all 57 Legislative Assembly deputies. The upcoming vote will feature a diverse array of presidential candidates along a wide political spectrum. Thirty parties have registered nationally as of September 2021 and more are registered at the provincial and municipal levels, potentially resulting in a record number of presidential candidates and a legislature composed of more parties than ever (seven parties won legislative seats in the 2018 elections). Registered parties include the historically dominant National Liberation and Social Christian Unity parties, as well as the governing Citizen Action Party and the increasingly popular evangelical National Restoration Party (PRN).

    header2 Preelection assessment

    This wealth in electoral choice is partially due to waning trust in leadership from well-established parties. Recurring corruption scandals have contributed to dissatisfaction and distrust in elected officials for over a decade, while the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and related economic pressures have also fostered disillusionment. Indigenous and Afro-Costa Ricans, meanwhile, are underrepresented in the political sphere, though gender parity is generally upheld. Despite these challenges, Costa Rican democracy is buttressed by a long history of stability, robust protections for freedoms of expression and association, and respect for the rule of law. 

    Freedom House has identified the following as key digital interference issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Information manipulation: Online media outlets are largely independent and prominent sources are considered credible. However, the 2018 electoral period featured activity by “cybertroops” who disseminated false or misleading information on social media, particularly Facebook, Twitter, and, increasingly, WhatsApp. Political actors and private individuals—notably conservative politicians linked to the PRN, the New Republic Party, and the National Integration Party—spread xenophobic, homophobic, and populist narratives while making false claims about corruption, government initiatives, immigration, and abortion. Similar efforts to manipulate information ahead of the 2022 elections could present an obstacle for voters seeking to inform themselves and their political choices with factual and objective information.

    Costa Rica has a score of 91 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects stable political and electoral systems, protections for civil liberties in law and in practice, and one of the world’s most open online environments. The country is rated Free in Freedom in the World 2021, with a score of 91 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties, and Free in Freedom on the Net 2021, with an internet freedom score of 87 out of 100. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Costa Rica country reports in Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net.

    Download the pre-election assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    On Costa Rica

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    • Global Freedom Score

      91 100 free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      85 100 free
    • Date of Election

      February 6, 2022
    • Type of Election

      General
    • Internet Penetration

      78.63%
    • Population

      5.1 million
    • Election Year

      _2022-
  • Côte d'Ivoire

    header1 Country Overview

    President Alassane Ouattara has backtracked on an earlier promise to step down after completing two terms. The reversal came after Ouattara’s preferred successor, Amadou Gon Coulibaly, died suddenly in July. Opponents have criticized the move as unconstitutional, whereas Outtara and his Rally of the Republicans party have argued that the adoption of a new constitution in 2016 reset his terms in office. The move has sparked political unrest: at least a dozen people have died and over one hundred were injured during clashes, while dozens have been arrested.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Recent political fractures make for a competitive and contentious election. Presidential candidate (and former president) Henri Konan Bédié, who belongs to the Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire, split with Ouatarra in 2018. Outtara first won the presidency in 2010, but then-president Laurent Gbagbo refused to concede, plunging the country into a crisis that left more than 3,000 dead. In 2019, the International Criminal Court acquitted Gbagbo of crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the post-election conflict. He is now on conditional release and while the verdict is appealed by the prosecutor.

    Meanwhile, Gbagbo and Guillaume Soro, a former ally of Ouattara and rebel commander during the Ivorian Civil War, have both been barred from running in October. Gbagbo’s party, the Ivorian Popular Front, nominated former prime minister Pascal Affi N'Guessan as their candidate. In September, Bédié called for civil disobedience ahead of the vote and for Gbagbo and Soro to return to Côte d’Ivoire. Civil disobedience and protests may result in violence, given security forces’ frequent use of force against protesters and the especially tense political environment.

    Côte d’Ivoire has a score of 54 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on selection of key election-related indicators. Côte d’Ivoire’s score reflects relatively weak rule of law and strained political and electoral conditions. The country is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2020, with a score of 51 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties. To learn more about Freedom House’s annual assessment, please visit the Côte d’Ivoire country report in Freedom in the World.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Hate speech and violence: The heightened political tensions create a high-risk environment for hate speech and incitement to violence. Given the ongoing intercommunal and ethnic conflicts in Côte d’Ivoire, as well as the history of electoral violence in 2010-11, the potential for election-related incitement along ethnic lines should be closely watched.
    • Arrests and prosecutions: The June 2019 criminal code includes a provision criminalizing false news “that results or could result in disturbance to public order” or “causing offense to the president or vice-president.” The vague nature of the provision and personalized exception to free expression make this law ripe for abuse and politicized application, particularly during a tense electoral period.

    Download the preelection assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    On Côte d'Ivoire

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    • Global Freedom Score

      49 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      October 31, 2020
    • Type of Election

      Presidential
    • Internet Penetration

      44.89%
    • Population

      25.5 million
    • Election Year

      _2020-
  • Cuba

    header1 Country Overview

    Cubans will take to the polls on March 26 to vote for the country’s unicameral National Assembly, in line with the country’s five-year election cycle. Elections are tightly controlled by the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), the country’s only party, and rarely beget political change. Voters will be presented with a single candidate for each of the 474 seats: half of the candidates are put forward by civic groups allied with the PCC, including labor unions and students’ associations. The other half of candidates will be proposed by municipal assemblies, the elections of which are the only polls that offer voters a choice of more than one candidate. However, campaigning for municipal assembly seats is banned and opposition candidates routinely face pressure from the government. The final list of National Assembly candidates will ultimately be determined by the PCC-controlled National Candidature Commission. Those who receive more than 50 percent of the valid votes cast are deemed elected. The National Assembly, a rubber-stamp legislature in practice, in turn chooses the nation’s president and vice president.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Political rights are not on the ballot in Cuba: A lack of fundamental freedoms was one of many grievances that sparked nationwide antigovernment protests in July 2021, the largest in the country since the 1959 revolution. The state’s frequent repression of political dissent and tightly controlled electoral context preclude voters’ ability to alter the nation’s political landscape. However, the March election will be the first since 1976 in which neither former president Fidel Castro nor his brother, former PCC first secretary Raúl Castro Ruz, are involved.

    Cuba’s one-party communist state outlaws political pluralism, bans independent media, suppresses dissent, and severely restricts basic civil liberties. The government continues to dominate the economy despite recent reforms that permit some private sector activity. The regime’s undemocratic character has not changed despite a generational transition in political leadership between 2018 and 2021 that included the introduction of a new constitution.
     
    Freedom House has identified the following as key digital interference issues to watch ahead of election day: 

    • Internet shutdowns: Restricting connectivity during times of political upheaval has become a go-to tactic for the Cuban government to quell dissent. Internet shutdowns bar residents from accessing reliable voting information, engaging in political discourse, or mobilizing during the election. Selective connectivity restrictions—those targeting the mobile and fixed-line connections of specific dissidents—have routinely enabled Cuban officials to silence individual voices. Widespread disruptions were most recently imposed by the government during July 2021 demonstrations and in the aftermath of an earlier historic protest in November 2020.
    • Website and social media blocks: Cuban authorities routinely block a host of independent news websites and occasionally block social media platforms during politically tense periods, which could inhibit residents from accessing independent commentary about the election, criticism of the government, and information about voting. In addition to restricting connectivity in response to the July 2021 protests, authorities temporarily blocked WhatsApp, Telegram, and Signal; these blocks, and the long-standing ones affecting news sites, severed the protest movement from its connections to independent news outlets and Cubans based abroad, who had rallied support for the demonstrations on international social media platforms.
    • Information manipulation: The government manipulates the online information landscape to maintain the dominance of progovernment news outlets and narratives and to discredit independent sources of information. Many actors within Cuba, including government agencies, employ coordinated networks that spread disinformation, amplify progovernment content, and troll dissenting voices on social media. State efforts to manipulate the online information landscape could further prevent residents from finding independent commentary on the vote, muddy public discourse in favor of the current government, and limit voters’ access to reliable reporting or guidance about the elections. Such tactics have featured in past elections: the Cuban Democratic Directorate, a Miami-based nongovernmental organization, found that dozens of automated “bot” accounts had posted progovernment messages on Twitter during the 2018 parliamentary and provincial election period. 
    • Arrests and prosecutions: Online activity is subject to punishment under a variety of laws and penalization is common, usually in the form of short-term detentions, interrogations, fines, legal harassment, and travel bans. Cuba’s new penal code, approved in May 2022, added “using social networks” to organize gatherings, meetings, or protests to the list of established crimes often used to target dissidents, like “disrespect,” “public disorder,” and “sedition.” Resolution 105, enacted in August 2021 following the July protests, outlines online offenses including the dissemination of “false news” and content defaming the country’s prestige. Decree Law 370, approved in 2019, prohibits the use of foreign servers to host vaguely defined “sites” and outlaws the spread of information against “the social interest, morals, good customs, and integrity of people,” through “public data transmission networks.” Using these repressive laws, officials could arrest or prosecute journalists who report on elections online, impeding access to information. Concerns about such arrests or legal liability could also drive people to self-censor reports on and discussions about the polls more generally. Authorities have increasingly targeted independent journalists, influencers, and online activists using these laws. In March 2022, for instance, protester Yoan de la Cruz was sentenced to six years in prison for live-streaming one of the early July 2021 antigovernment protests on Facebook, though he was released on appeal two months later. 

    Cuba has a score of 14 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The Cuba score reflects a tightly restricted political space where free expression is suppressed online and offline, and independent media and civil society face legal pressure from the government limiting their ability to criticize those in power. The country is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2022, with a score of 12 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties, and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2022, with an internet freedom score of 20 out of 100. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Cuba country reports in Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    On Cuba

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    • Global Freedom Score

      12 100 not free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      20 100 not free
    • Date of Election

      March 26, 2023
    • Type of Election

      Parliamentary
    • Internet Penetration

      68.13%
    • Population

      11.2 million
    • Election Year

      _2023-
  • Ecuador

    header1 Country Overview

    February’s legislative and presidential elections are widely seen as a determining moment for the trajectory of Ecuadorian democracy. President Lenín Moreno faces a dismal approval rating and will not run for a second term. The political field is highly fractured; no less than 17 candidates are vying for the presidency and a coalition of several parties will be necessary for control of the National Assembly. Legal disputes, economic mismanagement, and policy failures around the COVID-19 pandemic have compounded to create a highly contentious climate ahead of the vote.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    The previous president, Raphael Correa, remains a highly influential figure in the political scene, despite his self-exile in Belgium and a tenure marked by attacks on civil society and the media. Correa is prohibited from running for president by a 2018 referendum that reinstated term limits only four years after the pro-Correa legislature voted to remove them. In April, a court sentenced him in absentia to eight years in prison and a ban on engaging in politics for 25 years over bribery and corruption, throwing his vice presidential bid into doubt. The legislative contest is also mired in legal uncertainty. The National Electoral Council suspended the registration of four political parties in July, including Correa’s Social Commitment Movement, only for the decision to be overturned by the Election Dispute Tribunal in August.

    Ecuador has a score of 61 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects limitations on free expression online and offline, but a relatively strong environment for elections and activities of political parties. The country is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2020, with a score of 65 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties, and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2020, with an internet freedom score of 57 out of 100. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Ecuador country reports in Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Influence operations: False and misleading content is likely to proliferate ahead of the election, given a history of influence operations by the country’s current and former political leaders. Correa and his allies reportedly used messaging groups to coordinate the dissemination of false and doctored content about the government response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the use of paid progovernment commentators is reduced under the Moreno administration, Twitter removed a network of inauthentic accounts linked to the ruling party in 2019.
    • Content removal: Copyright law is frequently exploited for political censorship, with the government requesting several news sites be removed by their hosting companies. The government also has a history of seeking content and account removals on social media platforms. Politicized targeting of news outlets could impact voters’ access to information ahead of the election.
    • Harassment and violence: Political tensions will likely exacerbate instances of harassment against media workers and candidates representing marginalized groups ahead of the election. In February 2020, unknown assailants detonated an explosion inside the home of the founder of a political news channel on Facebook. Women candidates and Afro-Ecuadorians are disproportionately subject to harassment online.
    • Cyberattacks: Media outlets and numerous candidates were targeted with cyberattacks during the 2017 campaign period, and media outlets have been hacked in the years since. Digital security remains a potential vulnerability ahead of the 2021 election.

     

    Download the preelection assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    News and Updates
    Incident Alert

    Presidential elections are headed to a runoff on April 11th after economist Andrés Arauz won the first round with too few votes to secure the presidency. Arauz will face either Guillermo Lasso, a conservative banker, or Yaku Pérez, an Indigenous environmental activist; the contest between Lasso and Pérez remains too close to call. Source.

    On Ecuador

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    • Global Freedom Score

      70 100 free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      64 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      February 7, 2021
    • Type of Election

      General
    • Internet Penetration

      68.14%
    • Population

      17.3 million
    • Election Year

      _2021-
  • Egypt

    header1 Country Overview

    Egypt has a score of 22 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects a highly restricted political and media environment where freedom of expression and assembly are severely suppressed, and digital activism or political mobilization efforts are highly restricted. Pervasive online censorship of political, social, and religious speech has significantly limited the diversity and reliability of the online ecosystem, and expressions of dissent or criticism of the government online or offline can draw criminal prosecution and imprisonment. The country is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2023, with a score of 18 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties; and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2023, with an internet freedom score of 28 out of 100. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Egypt country reports in Freedom in the World, and Freedom on the Net

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Note: This country received an abbreviated preelection assessment. For more information, please refer to the Election Vulnerability Index data and the annual country reports listed above.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    On Egypt

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    • Global Freedom Score

      18 100 not free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      28 100 not free
    • Date of Election

      December 10-12, 2023
    • Type of Election

      Presidential
    • Internet Penetration

      72.20%
    • Population

      103.8 million
    • Election Year

      _2023-
  • El Salvador

    header1 Country Overview

    The February legislative elections have major implications for President Nayib Bukele’s authority for the remainder of his term, which so far has been marked by hostility towards democratic institutions. The vote, which takes place alongside local elections, will test the viability of newer and smaller parties and coalitions. Bukele, of the Grand Alliance for National Unity (GANA) party, was elected in 2019, defeating the long-dominant Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) and Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) parties. His election marked the first time a third-party candidate won the presidency since the end of the civil war in 1992. 

    header2 Preelection assessment

    El Salvador has a history of generally free and credible elections, and the media environment remains vibrant in the face of interference by the government and violence against journalists who report on sensitive issues, such as corruption and gang activity. In February 2020, Bukele deployed troops to the El Salvadorian parliament in a bid to coerce lawmakers to pass a funding bill that was part of his anti-crime agenda, and throughout the year his administration defied numerous court orders. Administration officials and members of law enforcement have intimidated independent journalists, prevented them from attending press conferences, and limited their access to protests and other political events. Bukele has repeatedly harassed independent media for their investigative reporting on government activities and has made unsubstantiated claims that specific reporters and outlets are under investigation for money laundering.

    El Salvador has a score of 73 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects a strong track record of election credibility and political participation despite corruption, challenges to media freedom, and widespread activity of criminal groups. The country is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2020, with a score of 66 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the El Salvador country report in Freedom in the World.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Influence operations: Domestic political actors have regularly manipulated online discourse and may do so ahead of the February election. A July 2020 report from the International Crisis Group identified coordinated domestic influence operations on Twitter, in favor of and in opposition to Bukele. Earlier in the year, the government alleged that the FMLN was running an influence campaign. During his candidacy in 2018, Bukele was linked to an effort to imitate the websites of media outlets while publishing misleading information. 
    • Harassment and violence for online activity: Journalists consistently face harassment on social media for criticizing Bukele, including frequent threats of sexual violence against women journalists. Through his Twitter account, Bukele has disparaged journalists and accused them of propagating “fake news.” Escalating political discourse ahead of election day could encourage a parallel rise in harassment. Given the history of offline intimidation and violence against reporters in El Salvador, it is possible that digital harassment for online activity could escalate into physical attacks.
    • Cyberattacks: Media outlets and civil society organizations are potential targets for cyberattacks during the electoral period. Independent outlet Revista Factum, whose journalists faced escalating harassment online and were banned from attending one of Bukele’s press conferences in September 2019, was targeted by a cyberattack in October 2019 that left their website inaccessible for a week. The Salvadoran Network of Women Human Rights Defenders reported attempts to hack their Twitter account in September 2020.

     

    Download the preelection assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    News and Updates
    Incident Alert

    In the wake of the killing of two FMLN supporters, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) has called on the United Nations, the European Union, and the Organization of American States to deploy international election observers earlier than planned. Observers are scheduled to arrive one week before the election day, but the TSE’s February 2 statement urges advanced deployment “in order to monitor, prevent, and denounce any act of political violence.” Source.

    Incident Alert

    The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued a statement on February 4 calling on El Salvador’s government to protect 34 journalists at the investigative online news outlet El Faro. Since Bukele took office, journalists for the platform have reported receiving threats from government institutions, facing anonymous smear campaigns, and being blocked from accessing government events. Source.

    On El Salvador

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    • Global Freedom Score

      56 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      February 28, 2021
    • Type of Election

      Legislative
    • Internet Penetration

      46.41%
    • Population

      6.5 million
    • Election Year

      _2021-
  • Estonia

    header1 Country Overview

    Estonia has a score of 93 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects strong democratic institutions, wide respect for political rights and civil liberties, and a robust environment for internet freedom. The country is rated Free in Freedom in the World 2022, with a score of 94 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties, and Free in Freedom on the Net 2022, with an internet freedom score of 93 out of 100. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Estonia country reports in Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Note: This country received an abbreviated preelection assessment. For more information, please refer to the Election Vulnerability Index data and the annual country reports listed above.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    On Estonia

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    • Global Freedom Score

      94 100 free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      93 100 free
    • Date of Election

      March 5, 2023
    • Type of Election

      Parliamentary
    • Internet Penetration

      90.33%
    • Population

      1.3 million
    • Election Year

      _2023-
  • Ethiopia

    header1 Country Overview

    The parliamentary elections planned for June are understood as a test of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s stated commitment to democratization. It is the first election since Abiy, a former military officer, was appointed to replace Hailemariam Desalegn, who led an openly authoritarian state until he resigned in 2018 amid mass protests. The previous parliamentary elections, held in 2015, took place in a tightly controlled environment that featured voter intimidation and barriers to registration. All 547 seats in the parliament’s lower house were won by the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), a coalition of parties dominated by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), and its allies. In December 2019, rising tensions with the TPLF led to the dissolution of the EPRDF. Most coalition members came together to form the Prosperity Party, which is headed by Abiy; the TPLF refused to join. The federal government revoked the TPLF’s registration in January 2021, after Abiy accused the party of initiating the conflict between the central government and the Tigrayan forces. Over 45 parties are expected to campaign in the June elections; though all 547 seats were set to be contested, voting in some constituencies may not take place because of the Tigray conflict and other threats to security. 

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Several crises related to Ethiopia’s ethnicity-based federal structure threaten the stability of the elections, and potentially their credibility. The elections were originally set for August 2020 but postponed by the election board due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands of people have been killed in the Tigray conflict since it began in November 2020, though reports of the number of casualties are contested. Human rights groups allege that all sides perpetrated war crimes. Meanwhile, the federal government has imposed a counter-insurgency zone in western Oromia and some parts of southern Oromia, and imprisoned prominent Oromo politicians. 

    Freedom House has identified the following as key issues to watch ahead of election day: 

    • Internet shutdowns: The Ethiopian government frequently restricts the internet to accomplish its political aims or in response to unrest. Since January 2020, authorities have imposed connectivity restrictions in the Oromia counter-insurgency zone, nationwide amid mass protests over the death of an Oromo activist and singer, and in Tigray during the conflict. Demonstrations during or after the campaigning period or an escalation of the security situation could prompt the Abiy government to turn to connectivity restrictions.  
    • Arrests and prosecutions for online activities: Abiy presided over a relative opening of online free expression in Ethiopia early in his term, but that progress is increasingly at risk. During the Tigray crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, online journalists affiliated with the TPLF were arrested and charged in relation to reports made on social media. Several laws criminalize online speech, including an overly restrictive hate speech and disinformation law passed in February 2020. Journalists and online commentators alike risk arrest for their social media activities during the electoral period, particularly those aligned with Tigrayan and Oromo political movements.   
    • Influence operations: A degraded information space may make the online environment more vulnerable to coordinated manipulation aimed to sway online discourse during the elections. Online misinformation is rife, exacerbated by the Tigray conflict. Both pro- and antigovernment internet users share false or misleading content and accuse others of spreading disinformation. The TPLF reportedly coordinates party loyalists to shape the social media environment, while previous governments were known to employ online commentators. Disinformation campaigns ahead of the election may also impede voters’ access to reliable information. 
    • Blocking of platforms and websites: The government maintains the technical capability to block social media platforms and websites, and has done so during periods of unrest. After Amhara regional officials were assassinated in June 2019, Ethiopian authorities imposed an internet shutdown and later blocked social media platforms. Protests or instability during the electoral period could prompt similar restrictions. 

    Ethiopia has a score of 30 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects a history of elections marred by undemocratic practices and internet restrictions. The country is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2020, with a score of 24 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2020, with an internet freedom score of 29 out of 100. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Ethiopia country reports in Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net

    Download the preelection assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    News and Updates
    New Report

    Ethiopia’s overall score declined in the 2021 edition of Freedom in the World, reflecting mass arrests of high-profile politicians and increased violence between ethnic groups that has caused mass displacement. Read the Ethiopia report.

    Incident Alert

    Ethiopian authorities announced that the June 5 election would be postponed by approximately two to three weeks, citing logistical needs. Source.

    On Ethiopia

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    • Global Freedom Score

      21 100 not free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      26 100 not free
    • Date of Election

      June 5, 2021
    • Type of Election

      Parliamentary
    • Internet Penetration

      17.87%
    • Population

      114.9 million
    • Election Year

      _2021-
  • France

    header1 Country Overview

    The first round of the 2022 French presidential election will be held on April 10; should no candidate secure an absolute majority in one round, a second round will be held between the top two candidates on April 24. President Emmanuel Macron, a centrist who is expected to announce his reelection campaign in early 2022, won his first term in 2017 after defeating far-right opponent Marine Le Pen in a two-round contest. Macron will again face Le Pen as the nationalist hard-right movement remains potent, but they will also be joined on the ballot by far-right television commentator Éric Zemmour. Zemmour, known for his anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric and a past conviction for inciting racial hatred, has become increasingly popular even before officially announcing his candidacy in late November. Other candidates have also joined the race. Among them is Valérie Pécresse, head of the Île-de-France region and a Nicolas Sarkozy–era minister, who was nominated by the center-right Republicans as their presidential candidate in early December.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    French voters benefit from vibrant democratic processes and strong protections for civil liberties and political rights. However, successive governments have responded to deadly terrorist attacks in recent years by curtailing constitutional protections and empowering law enforcement to infringe upon personal freedoms. Anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment are rife throughout the country.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key digital interference issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Removal of online content: In an attempt to combat election-related disinformation, Parliament passed a law in November 2018 that empowers judges to order the removal of “fake news” within three months of an election. Judges have 48 hours to decide whether appealed content qualifies as false news after receiving a referral from an elected official or everyday citizen. Critics worry that the law, which was twice rejected by the Senate before ultimately passing, could lead to politically motivated takedowns during electoral campaigns.
    • Cyberattacks: Macron’s campaign team was targeted with multiple cyberattacks ahead of the 2017 presidential election. Thousands of internal emails and documents from the Macron-led En Marche! (Forward!) movement were leaked online that May, two days before the runoff, as part of a coordinated hacking attack meant to destabilize the race. In a separate incident that April, a hacking group linked to the Russian government reportedly targeted the campaign with a phishing operation. Similar cyberattacks during the 2022 contest could disrupt the political landscape.

    France has a score of 85 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects a robust democracy with a vibrant media sector and an open online environment, but that nevertheless struggles with police violence against protesters, migrants, and refugees, and antiterrorism legislation that diminishes due process. The country is rated Free in Freedom in the World 2021, with a score of 90 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties, and Free in Freedom on the Net 2021, with an internet freedom score of 78 out of 100. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the France country reports in Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net.

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    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    On France

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    • Global Freedom Score

      89 100 free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      76 100 free
    • Date of Election

      April 2022
    • Type of Election

      Presidential
    • Internet Penetration

      85.46%
    • Population

      64.9 million
    • Election Year

      _2022-
  • Georgia

    header1 Country Overview

    Georgia’s October election is expected to be highly competitive, despite recent democratic backsliding. It is the first election under a new, mixed proportional-majoritarian system, which is intended to reduce polarization and level the playing field for opposition parties. United National Movement (UNM), the former ruling party, is widely seen as the most serious challenger to the ruling Georgian Dream party.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Informal power plays a significant role in the Georgian political landscape as demonstrated by the influence of oligarchs, former prime minister Bidzina Ivanishvili’s continued leadership of Georgian Dream, and former president Mikheil Saakashvili’s control of the UNM. The impact of informal power is clearly seen in the media, which is highly partisan. The October vote is likely to feature many of the challenges reported in previous elections, including the misuse of administrative resources and various forms of vote buying and intimidation.

    Georgia has a score of 68 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. Georgia’s score reflects relatively well-administered elections; politicized institutions, including the media and judiciary; and inconsistent respect for the right to protest. The country is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2020, with a score of 61 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties; Free in Freedom on the Net 2019, with an internet freedom score of 75 out of 100; and as a transitional or hybrid regime in Nations in Transit 2020, with a score of 38 out of 100 for the country’s democratic progress. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Georgia country reports for Freedom in the World, Freedom on the Net, and Nations in Transit.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Influence operations: There is substantial evidence that the government and other domestic and foreign political actors have carried out online influence campaigns, particularly during politically sensitive moments. Ruling and opposition parties were involved in online influence campaigns during the 2018 presidential election. More recently, in April 2020, Facebook removed hundreds of Facebook and Instagram accounts, groups, and pages affiliated with the Georgian Dream and UNM. Several influence operations have been tied to the Russian government and pro-Russian actors. Influence campaigns are highly likely during the 2020 election, but the potentially broad range of sources makes their impact difficult to predict.
    • Cyberattacks: The Georgian government, private websites, the media, and financial institutions have been targeted by numerous high-profile cyberattacks from domestic and foreign sources in recent years. An attack in October 2019 that affected over 2,000 government and private websites was subsequently linked to Russia’s GRU. Despite the Georgian government’s efforts to combat hacking and other cybersecurity threats, digital security remains a potential flashpoint in the pre-election period.

    Download the preelection assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    News and Updates
    New Report

    Georgia’s net score did not change in the new edition of Freedom on the Net, but the report documented increases in the number of cyberattacks and in domestic content manipulation. Read the Georgia report.

    On Georgia

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    • Global Freedom Score

      58 100 partly free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      76 100 free
    • Date of Election

      October 31, 2020
    • Type of Election

      Parliamentary
    • Internet Penetration

      63.81%
    • Population

      4.0 million
    • Election Year

      _2020-
  • Germany

    header1 Country Overview

    Germany has a score of 89 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects a history of well-conducted elections and of upholding rights in law and practice, though women, long-term residents, and citizens with immigrant backgrounds are underrepresented politically. Germany’s online environment remains free, despite recent regulations on freedom of expression online that have resulted in controversial content removals. The country is rated Free in Freedom in the World 2021, with a score of 94 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties and Free in Freedom on the Net 2020, with an internet freedom score of 80 out of 100. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Germany country reports in Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Note: This country received an abbreviated preelection assessment. For more information, please refer to the Election Vulnerability Index data and the annual country reports listed above.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

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    • Global Freedom Score

      94 100 free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      77 100 free
    • Date of Election

      September 26, 2021
    • Type of Election

      Parliamentary
    • Internet Penetration

      89.31%
    • Population

      83.3 million
    • Election Year

      _2021-
  • Honduras

    header1 Country Overview

    Honduras has a score of 49 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects systematic violations of rule of law, media freedom, and free association by authorities. Elections are held routinely but are marred by irregularities and outsized influence of political and economic elites. These problems negatively impact the online environment as well. Political actors, including the government, use fake and automated social media accounts in an attempt to support or detract from political narratives and candidates, and digital journalists reporting on corruption and criminal activity face retribution for their work, including deadly violence. The country is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2021, with a score of 44 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties. To learn more about this annual Freedom House assessment, please visit the Honduras country report in Freedom in the World.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Note: This country received an abbreviated preelection assessment. For more information, please refer to the Election Vulnerability Index data and the annual country report listed above.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

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    • Global Freedom Score

      48 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      November 27, 2021
    • Type of Election

      General
    • Internet Penetration

      37.30%
    • Population

      9.9 million
    • Election Year

      _2021-
  • Hong Kong

    header1 Country Overview

    December’s Legislative Council (Legco) elections will be the first since prodemocracy candidates overwhelmingly won district council elections during antigovernment protests in 2019, dealing a blow to the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party. Beijing responded to the challenge to its rule by imposing a restrictive National Security Law (NSL) in June 2020 and major changes to the electoral system in March 2021. As a special administrative region within China, Hong Kong is led by a chief executive selected by a small committee of politically loyal elites, and a legislative body where a minority of members are chosen through direct elections. Under the new system, only 20 out of the 90 seats will be directly elected (compared with 35 of 70 previously), corporations and professional groups will elect 30 members, and the unelected Election Committee will send 40 of its members. All candidates must undergo a screening process conducted by Hong Kong national security police and a government-appointed body. These changes are intended to ensure the pro-Beijing camp consolidates control and make it likely that the opposition camp (comprised of prodemocracy and localist parties) will be eliminated during the screening process. The election was initially scheduled for September 2020 but postponed purportedly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, even though pandemic-related deaths were relatively low.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    The upcoming Legco election could be a catalyst for further restrictions on internet freedom and human rights in Hong Kong, as people may protest Beijing’s increased control over the territory in the run-up and aftermath of the polls. Hong Kong’s previously vibrant media and civil society face increasing restrictions after the passage of the NSL and a ban on demonstrations ostensibly due to public health. Several civil society organizations have been disbanded or face national security investigations under the NSL, and authorities charged 47 people with “conspiracy to commit subversion” for taking part in a primary election for prodemocracy candidates in July 2020. Authorities have jailed many prodemocracy activists, former Legco members, or district councilors and others fled into exile, significantly reducing the potential pool of candidates. Credible information about candidates, the elections, and the broader political environment may not be available, and self-censorship may impact debates, opinion polling, and electoral coverage.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key digital interference issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Cyberattacks: There have been numerous cyberattacks linked to the Chinese state, originating in China, or from unidentified actors on websites and platforms used by protesters and civil society in Hong Kong. Telegram and LIHKG.com, used by protesters to organize and communicate online, suffered massive distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks during the 2019 protests. The Amnesty International Hong Kong office, local universities, and Android and iOS users in Hong Kong were targeted by malware. Candidates, prodemocracy supporters, journalists, digital media sites, and civil society organizations face further cyberattacks to disrupt campaigning, information sharing about the elections, and the organization of protests. 
    • Arrests and prosecutions for online activity: The 2019 prodemocracy protests sparked an expansion of prosecution for online activity, a pattern that is likely to carry into the electoral period. Authorities prosecuted individuals using a range of provisions, including “conspiracy to commit a seditious act” and “conspiracy to incite others to commit arson.” Use of the NSL ahead of the election is particularly concerning, as it includes charges that could potentially impose life sentences for online activities. Several prodemocracy activists have already been arrested under the NSL on charges ranging from subversion and secession to “colluding with foreign forces” for pro-independence statements or calls for international sanctions against Hong Kong officials on Facebook and Twitter. A new electoral law passed in May 2021 criminalized inciting someone to spoil or leave blank their ballot; analysts worry the law could be used to target online organizing. Candidates, their supporters, and the general public discussing the elections or civil disobedience strategies related to the polls face a high risk of arrest for online activity. In May, the government announced plans for new bills on doxing and “fake news,” which may lead to further arrests for online activity.
    • Blocking websites: In January 2021, Hong Kong authorities blocked access to a website for the first time, justifying the move under the NSL. Since then, four more websites, all with Taiwan-based IP addresses, have been blocked, though two sites became accessible after three days. Some had clear links to the protest movement, such as the site of a Taiwanese church that raised donations for Hong Kong protesters, but the others were websites of Taiwan’s ruling party, a military recruitment platform, and the transitional justice commission. Websites—including news sites—or social media platforms are at risk of being blocked for hosting content that calls for protests during the electoral period, supports particular candidates, fundraises, or criticizes the electoral process and Hong Kong and Chinese governments.
    • Content removal: In February 2021, Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), the public broadcaster that has increasingly fallen under government control, removed of all its content older than one year on YouTube and Facebook, a significant erasure of news information produced for the public ahead of the election. In 2019, Apple removed an app from its app store that was used to track police movements during the protests under pressure from the government. Google removed a separate app related to the protests for violating its policy of “capitalizing on sensitive events.” Facebook has removed several popular pages run by prodemocracy and pro-police groups without explanation. The elections may trigger further removal of online media content and increased pressure on tech companies to remove content. 

    Hong Kong has a score of 48 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects a controlled electoral system, limitations on political organizing and assembly, and restrictions on free expression, both online and offline. The territory is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2021, with a score of 52 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties. Please visit the Hong Kong report in Freedom in the World to learn more about this annual assessment and the China Media Bulletin for ongoing monitoring of media and internet freedom in Hong Kong.

    Note: Hong Kong is a territory as opposed to an independent country. Freedom House sometimes assess territories separately if they meet certain criteria, including boundaries that are sufficiently stable to allow year-on-year comparisons.
     

    Download the preelection assessment PDF in English香港选前评估 Simplified Chinese, or 香港選前評估 Traditional Chinese.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    News and Updates
    In the news

    The upcoming election could spur new digital restrictions and rights violations in Hong Kong, and companies must act to help protect internet freedom. Read new Freedom House analysis in The Diplomat.

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    • Global Freedom Score

      42 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      December 19, 2021
    • Type of Election

      Legislative
    • Internet Penetration

      90.92%
    • Population

      7.5 million
    • Election Year

      _2021-
  • Hungary

    header1 Country Overview

    A broad opposition coalition, whose members range from the social-liberal Democratic Coalition to the far-right-turned-conservative Jobbik, will challenge Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s ruling Alliance of Young Democrats–Hungarian Civic Union (Fidesz) in Hungary’s upcoming parliamentary elections. The six-party United Opposition held primaries in September and October 2021, electing Péter Márki-Zay, the conservative mayor of Hódmezővásárhely, as their candidate for the premiership. The United Opposition is the largest and broadest coalition to oppose Fidesz in a national election, and coalesced amid a years-long trend of democratic backsliding in Hungary under Orbán.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    After taking power in 2010 elections, Fidesz pushed through constitutional and legal changes that have allowed it to consolidate control over the country’s independent institutions. These include electoral redistricting procedures that have favored its candidates; media laws that politicized registration processes; and changes to the court system that allowed Fidesz to more easily place allies on the benches. The Fidesz-led government has also moved to institute policies that hamper the operations of opposition groups, journalists, universities, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) who criticize it or whose perspectives it finds unfavorable. Reporting in 2021 identified Hungarian journalists, lawyers, and opposition figures as among the potential targets of surveillance using NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware. The reporting, including the revelation that three journalists had Pegasus spyware installed on their devices in 2019, raised concerns about domestic surveillance by the Hungarian government, which eventually admitted to using the spyware, though it did not confirm the targets.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key digital interference issues to watch for ahead of election day:

    • Information manipulation: The government has consolidated control over media outlets in recent years, including online outlets, increasing the likelihood that the upcoming election could be marred by online information manipulation. According to an investigation by journalists at hvg.hu, Facebook ad summaries showed 54.2 million forints' ($174,835) worth of spending during October 2021 on sponsored posts suggesting that former prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány wields influence over Márki-Zay, or that questioned his conservative credentials. The report attributed the spending to Fidesz politicians and other influential progovernment figures. Additionally, the government’s national consultations, or surveys that ask for citizens’ opinions on political issues, often contain charged partisan language or mischaracterizations of opposition parties’ positions. Separately, during the 2019 municipal elections, government-affiliated news outlets spread disinformation implying the opposition had made deals with Soros and the European Commission to allow more migrants to enter the country, a conspiracy theory the government had previously referenced in its national consultations. These efforts disrupt the information landscape, can hinder voters’ access to reliable information, and impact public discourse. 
    • Cyberattacks: Cyberattacks have already been documented in the lead-up to the 2022 elections. In September 2021, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks during the opposition’s primaries temporarily shut down the voting system, though access was eventually restored and citizens were given additional time to vote. Some members of the opposition accused Fidesz of involvement, while others speculated about involvement by the Chinese Communist Party. Orbán denied involvement, and the perpetrator remains unknown. Cyberattacks have also targeted Orbán’s government. In March 2020, the state-operated website for information on the COVID-19 pandemic experienced a DDoS attack, while a January 2021 cyberattack temporarily prevented access to a number of government websites. 

    Hungary has a score of 70 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects pressure on rule of law, the opposition, and free expression. The country is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2021, with a score of 69 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties; Free in Freedom on the Net 2021, with an internet freedom score of 70 out of 100; and as a transitional or hybrid regime in Nations in Transit 2021, with a score of 45 out of 100 for the country’s democratic progress. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Hungary country reports in Freedom in the World, Freedom on the Net, and Nations in Transit.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

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    • Global Freedom Score

      66 100 partly free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      69 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      April 3, 2022
    • Type of Election

      Parliamentary
    • Internet Penetration

      81.69%
    • Population

      9.8 million
    • Election Year

      _2022-
  • Iceland

    header1 Country Overview

    The assessment for this country will be published as soon as it becomes available.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Preelection assessment coming soon...

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    On Iceland

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    • Global Freedom Score

      94 100 free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      94 100 free
    • Date of Election

      June 1, 2024
    • Type of Election

      Presidential
    • Internet Penetration

      99.00%
    • Population

      0.4 million
    • Election Year

      _2024-
  • India

    header1 Country Overview

    The 2022 elections offer India’s opposition parties an opportunity to challenge the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its dominance of the central government—and by extension, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is expected to again seek the premiership in 2024. Voters in five battleground states—Goa, Manipur, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand—take to the polls to elect representatives to their respective state legislative assemblies in February and March 2022. State legislative assemblies across India will vote to select members of the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Parliament, throughout the spring and summer. In July 2022, an electoral college composed in part by members of the state legislative assemblies and the Rajya Sabha will vote to select a president, a largely ceremonial role now held by Ram Nath Kovind.  Four of the states with legislative elections in spring 2022 are governed by the BJP, and are expected to be fiercely contested by opposition parties, particularly in Uttar Pradesh, often considered a key indicator for national politics.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    While India is a multiparty democracy, the government led by Prime Minister Modi and the Hindu nationalist BJP has presided over discriminatory policies and a rise in persecution affecting the Muslim population. The constitution guarantees civil liberties including freedom of expression and freedom of religion, but harassment of journalists, nongovernmental organizations, and other government critics has increased significantly under Prime Minister Modi. Muslims, scheduled castes (Dalits), and scheduled tribes (Adivasis) remain economically and socially marginalized.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key digital interference issues to watch ahead of the election period: 

    • Internet shutdowns: India is a global leader in restricting internet connectivity. The frequency, geographic distribution, and duration of such restrictions have increased in recent years. Shutdowns are most often imposed during times of perceived unrest, such as protests, or as purported precautionary measures. For instance, authorities restricted connectivity in several states during the spring 2019 general election. State officials or local police could impose internet shutdowns during polls or alongside mass mobilizations relating to the elections, limiting free expression and cutting prospective voters off from critical information and discussion.
    • Website blocks and content removals: Government actors regularly order platforms to remove online content, and sometimes block websites outright. The scope of such restrictions has increased in recent years, and stands to grow further: regulations passed in February 2021 impose new obligations for large social media companies to moderate and censor online content at the government’s demand. The limitations sometimes touch on political speech, such as the orders issued to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to remove criticism of the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic in April 2021. Officials could seek to impose website blocks or order tech companies to remove content during the election period, potentially suppressing commentary about the elections, information about voting, or criticism of the government.
    • Information manipulation: Political parties—particularly the BJP and, to a lesser extent, the opposition Congress party—seek to manipulate online content. The BJP hosts networks of paid and volunteer commentators who seek to shift partisan narratives on social media, which are active during elections: for instance, pro-BJP Twitter users coordinated to spread misleading information that favored the BJP during the spring 2021 elections in West Bengal. Such partisan efforts to manipulate the online information space could limit voters’ access to reliable reporting or guidance about the elections.
    • Arrests and prosecutions: Journalists, activists, and ordinary social media users risk arrest and prosecution for online activities that officials deem objectionable, especially during major political events. Ahead of the spring 2019 elections, for example, Congress’s social media head was arrested for sharing a meme that called Prime Minister Modi a thief, while numerous online commentators were arrested throughout 2021 for social media posts criticizing the government’s response to the pandemic. Officials could arrest or prosecute journalists who report on elections online, impeding access to information, or could target candidates and party-linked figures, threatening the integrity of election outcomes. More generally, concerns about such restrictions could drive users to self-censor discussions about the polls.
    • Harassment: Journalists, politicians, activists, members of marginalized communities, and ordinary users who post reporting or views critical of the government often experience coordinated online abuse, frequently deploying misogynist and anti-Muslim language. Some harassment campaigns appear to be connected to BJP supporters or directly involve BJP officials. For instance, a January 2022 investigation found that BJP-linked networks used an app called Tek Fog to coordinate online abuse directed at women journalists through Twitter and Facebook posts, and by hijacking unused WhatsApp accounts. Targeted online harassment could drive internet users to avoid sharing content about the elections, further degrading online expression and access to reliable information.

    India has a score of 64 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects elections generally regarded as free and fair, a closing space for freedom of expression, rising violence and discrimination against Muslims, and an online environment marred by censorship and manipulation. The country is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2021, with a score of 67 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties; and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2021, with an internet freedom score of 49 out of 100. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the India country reports in Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

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    • Global Freedom Score

      66 100 partly free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      50 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      Spring & Summer 2022
    • Type of Election

      Presidential & Assembly
    • Internet Penetration

      32.54%
    • Population

      1.40 billion
    • Election Year

      _2022-
  • India

    header1 Country Overview

    India’s next general election, in which voters will select 543 of 545 members of the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament, is expected to be held in April or May of 2024, before the five-year tenure of the current Lok Sabha ends in June. President Droupadi Murmu will subsequently appoint the country’s prime minister from the party or coalition that achieves a majority in the Lok Sabha. Incumbent prime minister Narendra Modi, who leads the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is favored to win a third term. Over 25 opposition parties have formed a big-tent coalition, the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), with the aim of defeating Modi and the ruling government. Although the Indian National Congress (INC), the major national opposition party, is a member of INDIA, several prominent regional parties left the alliance in January.

    This assessment was last updated on February 12, 2024.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Opinion polls conducted throughout late 2023 project that voters are likely to award the governing BJP–led coalition a majority of Lok Sabha seats. In the most recent statewide elections, held in late 2023, the BJP won three of five state legislatures. The BJP and its coalition partners now lead 17 of India’s 27 states and 8 union territories. Modi himself remains enormously popular.

    The independent Election Commission of India, which administrates the balloting, is generally considered to be free from undue political interference. However, politicized decisions relating to citizenship, such as the forthcoming implementation of the discriminatory Citizenship (Amendment) Act and a long-controversial citizenship register in Assam, may undermine access to the balloting for marginalized groups, particularly Muslims.

    India has faced serious democratic backsliding in recent years. Prime Minister Modi has presided over the imposition of discriminatory policies and a rise in persecution affecting the Muslim population. Prominent critics of the BJP face increasing legal and extralegal retaliation for their statements. Rahul Gandhi, former leader of the INC, was initially disqualified from holding office in March 2023 as a result of a politicized defamation lawsuit; the Supreme Court intervened several months later to reverse his disqualification. Authorities have raided media outlets—including Indian news sites like Newslaundry and NewsClick, as well as international outlets like the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)—in apparent retaliation over their reporting and commentary on the government and Prime Minister Modi. Meanwhile, evidence continues to emerge that opposition politicians and journalists have been targeted with Pegasus spyware, though the government denies any role.
     
    Freedom House has identified the following as key digital interference issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Website blocks and content removals: Indian authorities frequently order the removal of online content about political or social issues, and sometimes block websites. Opposition politicians are sometimes targeted. For example, in March 2023, the government ordered Twitter to restrict over 120 accounts in India, many of which belonged to journalists, politicians, and activists who criticized an internet shutdown that month in Punjab or the government’s related effort to arrest Khalistani separatist Amritpal Singh. Indian authorities have asserted an increasing mandate to order large social media companies to moderate and censor online content at the government’s demand, particularly since the passage of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. Blocking websites or removing online content about politics, including criticism of the government, ahead of the election could limit people’s access to information about the balloting and candidates.
    • Information manipulation: Political parties manipulate online narratives in their favor, including by coordinating with social media volunteers and partnering with hyperlocal influencers. The BJP reportedly manages one of the most sophisticated apparatuses for such manipulation, known as the Information Technology (IT) Cell. During the 2019 Lok Sabha election, for example, researchers found that information manipulation on Facebook, including the use of bots and fake accounts, benefited the BJP. Similar manipulation efforts during recent state-level elections in late 2023 sought to paint candidates in a false light, as with a video altered to depict Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan criticizing the Madhya Pradesh government’s agricultural policy. Such efforts, including those using generative artificial intelligence (AI) services, may distort voters’ understanding of the issues at hand in the election and impede access to reliable information.
    • Internet shutdowns: Local law enforcement officials regularly restrict internet connectivity, citing the need to restrict protests, quell communal tensions, or stop the spread of disinformation. Shutdowns have occasionally been imposed during election periods, as in several states during the spring 2019 general election. Connectivity restrictions imposed during election periods limit people’s ability to express their views on or access information about voting online, along with widespread economic and social repercussions.
    • Arrests and prosecutions: Journalists, activists, and ordinary social media users often face arrest or prosecution over online activities that officials have deemed objectionable, including about political or social issues. Media professionals are especially at risk: in 2023 alone, journalists were arrested for reasons that included publishing a report on social media noting that a Haryana lawmaker had been accused in gambling case; posting a tweet that criticized the unabated ethnic violence in Manipur; and reporting on allegations of anti-Muslim bias in the Kerala police force for an online outlet. Such arrests during the electoral period impede access to information and press freedom, fuel self-censorship, and can threaten the integrity of election outcomes if candidates and party-linked figures are targeted.
    • Online harassment: People who criticize the government often experience online abuse, especially journalists, politicians, activists, and members of marginalized communities. Such attacks are often coordinated: for example, a YouTube journalist who investigated the violent misogynistic harassment directed at her over her reporting in 2023 found that it appeared to originate from a loose network of Facebook groups and YouTube channels. Online harassment campaigns can drive people to avoid expressing their views about political or social issues, limiting their participation in election-related discussions online.

    India has a score of 62 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects that elections are generally free and fair, though held in an environment in which freedom of expression is shrinking. The country is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2023, with a score of 66 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2023, with an internet freedom score of 50 out of 100. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the India country reports in Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

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    • Global Freedom Score

      66 100 partly free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      50 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      May 2024
    • Type of Election

      General
    • Internet Penetration

      48.70%
    • Population

      1.42 billion
    • Election Year

      _2024-
  • Indonesia

    header1 Country Overview

    On February 14, 2024, in the largest single-day election in the world, 205 million people will be eligible to cast ballots for Indonesia’s president and legislature, made up of the 575-member House of Representatives (DPR) and the 136-member House of Regional Representatives (DPD). Three candidates are vying to succeed term-limited president Joko Widodo (known as Jokowi): Prabowo Subianto, the current defense minister and former special forces commander, backed by the Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) Party; Ganjar Pranowo, the former governor of Central Java, backed by the ruling Indonesia Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P); and Anies Baswedan, the former governor of Jakarta, who was nominated by a coalition of three parties, including the National Democratic Party and the conservative Prosperous Justice Party. If no candidate for the presidency receives a simple majority of the vote, the two candidates with the largest vote shares will compete in a runoff election in June 2024.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    The upcoming election could play a decisive role in determining whether Indonesia will hold on to its democratic gains or face further backsliding. Although proposals floated by some senior officials to delay elections or allow Jokowi to seek a third term did not move forward, the outgoing president has sought other ways to cement his legacy. He stated publicly that he would meddle in the election to ensure a smooth transition of power. More recently, Jokowi has taken steps to ally himself with other elites and build his own political dynasty: his former rival and defense minister, Prabowo, announced Jokowi’s eldest son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, as his running mate in October. Thirty-six-year-old Gibran’s eligibility was determined earlier the same month by the constitutional court, which ruled that individuals already serving as elected officials are exempt from the minimum age requirement of forty. The court was headed by Jokowi’s brother-in-law, who was later dismissed for failing to recuse himself despite his conflict of interest.

    Prabowo, the frontrunner in the presidential race as of November 2023, has previously supported policies with authoritarian elements. During his 2014 campaign, he signaled his intent to roll back democratic reforms, including direct elections. After both his 2014 and 2019 losses, he refused to accept the election results, claiming the vote tallies were fraudulent. In 2019, these claims were amplified by supporters online and off, spurring protests in Jakarta that left ten dead and hundreds injured. Prabowo has also faced allegations of human rights violations under the Suharto regime, including the kidnapping and torture of pro-democracy activists in 1998. He has denied these allegations. 

    Indonesia has made impressive democratic gains since the fall of an authoritarian regime in 1998, enjoying significant political and media pluralism and undergoing multiple peaceful transfers of power. Significant challenges persist, including systemic corruption, discrimination and violence against minority groups, conflict in Papua, and the politicized use of defamation and blasphemy laws.

    Indonesia’s elections are generally considered free and fair, with limited irregularities reported during the 2019 elections. Elections are administered by the General Election Committee (KPU) and the General Election Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu), a separate body that oversees the conduct of elections and resolves electoral disputes between the KPU and candidates. Disputes that are filed with Bawaslu may then move to the constitutional court or other appropriate bodies for resolution.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key digital interference issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Influence operations: Recent elections in Indonesia have been marked by teams of “buzzers”—people and groups hired, including by state actors and political parties, to use networks of inauthentic accounts with large social media followings to spread narratives that favor a particular political campaign or issue, often incorporating false or misleading information. Previously, buzzers have also flooded the online space to mobilize support for and counter criticism of government policies, and to spread hate speech to exploit ethnic and religious tensions. The antigovernment hashtag #MahasiswaBergerak (“students on the move”) and progovernment hashtag #SayaBersamaJokowi (“I’m with Jokowi”) rose to prominence in April 2022 as students protested the potential postponement of the 2024 general elections; both hashtags may have been supported by automated accounts. Online information manipulation is expected to surge ahead of election day, which could increase political polarization, make it difficult for voters to access independent sources of information, and undermine public confidence in the electoral process.
    • Content removal: In January 2023, electoral authorities, the Ministry of Communications and Information, and a police cyber team formed a social media taskforce to monitor and request the removal of content deemed false, inflammatory, or polarizing ahead of the election. Free-expression advocates have criticized the taskforce’s lack of multi-stakeholder inclusion and called for transparency into both the criteria and the process for content takedown orders. Indonesian authorities have previously restricted access to online content critical of the government, and experts worry that the taskforce could limit access to speech protected under international human rights standards.
    • Website and social media blocks: Websites are frequently blocked for hosting what the government defines as “negative” content, a broad term used to describe material that is defamatory or that violates social or moral norms. Amid the violence that followed the 2019 elections, authorities also ordered service providers to block social media and communications platforms. Blocks on websites and social media platforms would limit people’s ability to report on conditions on the ground, share reliable news, and express their support for candidates during the pre- and post-election period.
    • Harassment and intimidation: Journalists in Indonesia regularly face harassment and intimidation in retaliation for their online activity, particularly for their critical reporting on government figures or corruption allegations. In 2019, for example, an online journalist was doxed after publishing an article that included a quote from a leader of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) calling for people to vote against incumbent president Jokowi. Similarly heightened levels of online harassment of journalists and government critics in 2024 could drive many to self-censor to avoid such attacks, restricting people’s ability to freely express their views and make their voices heard online.

    Indonesia has a score of 58 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects a history of elections that have been considered free and fair by international monitors; problems with due process, equal treatment, and physical security; a wide range of restrictions on online political and social content; and a legal environment that harshly punishes people for online activity. The country is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2023, with a score of 58 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties, and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2023, with an internet freedom score of 47 out of 100. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Indonesia country reports in Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    On Indonesia

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    • Global Freedom Score

      58 100 partly free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      47 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      February 14, 2024
    • Type of Election

      General
    • Internet Penetration

      77.00%
    • Population

      275.5 million
    • Election Year

      _2024-
  • Iran

    header1 Country Overview

    Iran’s presidential election will take place in a tightly controlled political environment. Political power ultimately lies in the hands of the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the undemocratic institutions under his control. The unelected Guardian Council vets all candidates and has the authority to disqualify those that are deemed insufficiently loyal to the clerical establishment. Approved candidates will not be announced until a month before the election. Voter turnout dipped to a record low in the February 2020 parliamentary elections, a sign of widespread disillusionment with the electoral system. President Hassan Rouhani will leave office amid a crippling economic crisis, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and continuing civil unrest, all of which may exacerbate voter apathy.  

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Despite the fact that Rouhani often employed more moderate rhetoric, he fell far short of fulfilling campaign promises to improve Iranians’ personal freedoms. Tens of thousands of websites are blocked, including content about human rights, criticism of the government, and religious expression. Access to major social media platforms remains restricted, including Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. During repeated mass protests, the government has restricted access to additional platforms and, at times, cut off internet traffic entirely. The state dominates the information landscape through state-run media, strict controls on reporting, and paid progovernment commentators. As a result, Iranians often struggle to access independent sources of information and tools for online campaigning, thus contributing to a restrictive preelection environment. 

    Freedom House has identified the following as key issues to watch ahead of election day:  

    • Blocking and filtering websites: There was evidence of election-related blocking and filtering during the 2016 midterm elections; the parliamentary monitoring platform Majlis Monitor was filtered shortly before the election. In the lead up to the 2013 elections, Iranians noticed that online posts or websites that contained certain words, such as candidates' names or slogans, were temporarily blocked or taken offline. Iran’s history of extensive blocking, including around elections, suggests that more sites could be blocked ahead of the vote. Websites and online platforms used for independently monitoring election results or fact-checking candidates could be targeted for censorship.  
    • Influence operations: Iranian authorities have been linked to numerous influence operations in recent years. In October 2020, the US government disrupted a disinformation campaign involving dozens of Iranian-backed websites posing as independent media outlets and targeting countries in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. In 2019, Twitter announced the removal of nearly 5000 accounts linked to the Iranian government for coordinated manipulation targeted at international and domestical audiences. While research on domestic operations remains scant, Iran's extensive foreign campaigns demonstrate the existence of a sophisticated covert influence apparatus that could also be deployed domestically. Iranian authorities regularly manipulate the domestic information environment in other ways, issuing coverage guidelines and pressuring journalists and the media to avoid “government red lines” when covering sensitive topics, including elections.  
    • Internet shutdowns: The state maintains legal and technical control over the internet backbone, facilitating any restrictions on internet connectivity. Authorities disrupted access for one week in response to massive antigovernment protests in November 2019. Shutdowns have continued intermittently; in February 2021, in Sistan and Baluchistan in February 2021, when the government suspended access in Sistan and Baluchistan amid protests. Protests before or after the June election could trigger similar restrictions by the authorities. Any sign or suspicion of public upheaval around the June election could trigger similar shutdowns by the authorities. 

    Iran has a score of 17 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects a tightly controlled electoral system and high levels of online censorship and propaganda. The country is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2020, with a score of 17 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2020, with an internet freedom score of 15 out of 100. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Iran country reports in Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net.

    Download the preelection assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    News and Updates
    New Report

    Iran recorded a score decline in the new edition of Freedom in the World due to the government’s restriction of information on a series of major events. At the same time, hard-line politicians cemented power in the February 2020 parliamentary elections, following the disqualification of many reformist and independent candidates. Read the Iran report.

    Perspective

    Authorities have responded to the threat of boycotts and protests by suppressing dissent on social media, underscoring the country's unfree electoral conditions. New Freedom House analysis looks at the regime's tightening control over online space.

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    • Global Freedom Score

      12 100 not free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      11 100 not free
    • Date of Election

      June 18, 2021
    • Type of Election

      Presidential
    • Internet Penetration

      73.26%
    • Population

      84.2 million
    • Election Year

      _2021-
  • Iran

    header1 Country Overview

    The Islamic Republic of Iran holds regular elections, but they fall short of democratic standards. Political power ultimately lies in the hands of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the undemocratic institutions under his control. In March, Iranians will vote to select the 290 members of the country’s parliament. A record number of people have registered to appear on the official ballot. However, the unelected Guardian Council vets all candidates and has the authority to disqualify those deemed insufficiently loyal to the clerical establishment. As of early January, the Council had disqualified around 30 percent of all candidates, including more than 20 incumbent lawmakers.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Voters will also select representatives for the Assembly of Experts, the 88-member body that chooses the Supreme Leader. Former president Hassan Rouhani as well as his more conservative successor President Ebrahim Raisi have both signaled intentions to run for the Assembly of Experts. While the Assembly of Experts typically wields little political influence, the body elected in 2024 – who would serve for the next eight years – could have the consequential responsibility of choosing Khamenei’s replacement given his advanced age. One of the top choices for the job is Khamenei’s second son, Mojtaba Khamenei, who would likely follow in the footsteps of his hardline father. To accede to Supreme Leader, he would need support from two thirds of the Assembly of Experts, and currently only half the seats are controlled by hardliners. 

    Voter turnout is expected to be low in 2024, although growing dissatisfaction with the regime could inspire more voters to turn out on election day. However, a change from the political status quo remains unlikely given Iran’s highly manufactured electoral processes, such as the Guardian Council’s practice of disqualifying many moderate or reformist candidates, benefit those aligned with the conservative establishment. In past elections, reformist candidates and parties have often boycotted the vote in protest of Iran’s fundamentally unfair election process. During this election, the political establishment is counting on low turnout and the marginalization of reformist candidates to further cement their control of the parliament and the Assembly of Experts. A reformist boycott could pave the way to an easy win for Khamenei’s hardline allies, but it would also further damage the regime’s claims of holding legitimate elections. 

    The election will take place amid ongoing economic challenges and social unrest, and will be the first vote since massive antigovernment protests broke out in September 2022 following the death in custody of Mahsa Amini.  The regime responded with disproportionate violence, internet shutdowns, and increased repression of women and Iran’s Kurdish population in the wake of the Mahsa Amini protests. Hundreds of demonstrators have been killed since September 2022, and the regime continues to carry out protest-related death sentences. 

    Freedom House has identified the following as key digital interference issues to watch ahead of election day:  

    • Information manipulation: The online media environment is tightly controlled by Iranian authorities. The national broadcaster, the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), serves as a vehicle for state-sponsored disinformation campaigns, which may impact the reliability of election-related information. The regime relies on its extensive cyber army to amplify progovernment disinformation, counter criticism, and smear political opponents, including during election periods. State-affiliated online outlets have already accused the opposition of participating in pre-election fraud and manipulation. Iranian authorities also issue guidelines and pressure the media to avoid “government red lines” when covering sensitive topics. Ahead of the June 2021 presidential election, several journalists received judicial warnings about election coverage, with some reporting harassment from security forces and the IRGC’s cyberunit.
    • Website blocking: Authorities operate a highly sophisticated online censorship system that restricts access to thousands of websites, particularly those of international news and information services, the political opposition, ethnic and religious minority groups in Iran, and human rights organizations. Websites promoting reformist candidates were blocked and filtered during the 2016 elections; the parliamentary monitoring platform Majlis Monitor was filtered shortly before the election. Iran’s history of extensive blocking, including around elections, suggests that more sites conducting fact-checking and independent election monitoring could be blocked ahead of the vote.
    • Arrests and prosecution for online activity: The Iranian regime routinely arrests journalists and social media users for their online activities, which will likely encourage self-censorship ahead of the vote. In September 2023, Majid Tavakoli, a prominent intellectual and staunch opponent of the regime, was sentenced to 5 years in prison with a subsequent 2-year social media ban on charges of spreading propaganda after his commentary supporting the political opposition was circulated on social media. Throughout 2023, multiple online journalists have been arrested, detained, or sentenced to prison for their critical reporting. Even journalists working with state-affiliated online news outlets have been summoned for investigation or arrested in recent months, signaling a growing crackdown on online journalism ahead of the elections.
    • Internet shutdowns: The state maintains legal and technical control over Iran’s internet backbone, facilitating restrictions on connectivity. Localized internet shutdowns are often used to immobilize protests and have been repeatedly used to hinder demonstrations in Iran’s predominantly Kurdish provinces since September 2022. While no internet shutdowns were reported during the June 2021 presidential election, any sign of public unrest around the March election could trigger restrictions by the regime.

    Iran has a score of 10 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects a significantly authoritarian environment where basic political rights are restricted and an online space rife with censorship and disinformation. The country is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2023, with a score of 14 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties; and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2023, with an internet freedom score of 16 out of 100. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Iran country reports in Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

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    • Global Freedom Score

      12 100 not free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      11 100 not free
    • Date of Election

      March 1, 2024
    • Type of Election

      Legislative
    • Internet Penetration

      78.60%
    • Population

      88.6 million
    • Election Year

      _2024-
  • Iraq

    header1 Country Overview

    Iraqis will elect 328 individuals to the Council of Representatives on October 10 amid a pandemic, economic crisis, and popular unrest. Widespread anti-government protests in October 2019 resulted in an agreement to hold early elections in June 2021. The government postponed the vote for four months ostensibly to allow the Independent High Electoral Commission more time to prepare. As of January 2021, 260 parties registered to take part. Among the 60 new entrants are numerous pro-reform parties established by some of the protest leaders. Iraq’s fragmented political field has been dominated by several coalitions. The four largest coalitions are all led by Shiite parties but feature some degree of sectarian diversity. Kurdish parties, Sunni-led coalitions, smaller parties, and independents also hold seats in the Council of Representatives, which elects the country’s president and prime minister. An activist-led boycott contributed to low voter turnout in the 2018 election. 

    header2 Preelection assessment

    The electoral environment is fraught with insecurity. Armed groups attack prodemocracy activists and journalists with impunity, resulting in calls to boycott the October 2021 elections, particularly among the new youth and activist-led political parties. Iraq remains a dangerous environment for journalists and activists, who frequently experience harassment, physical attacks, and criminal penalties in retribution for their online activities. While few websites are blocked, the Iraqi government often responds to civil unrest by disrupting access to the internet and social media. The pervasive intimidation of journalists and activists has resulted in high levels of self-censorship. Despite these risks, Iraq benefits from a relatively vibrant civil society and somewhat diverse media environment.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key digital interference issues to watch ahead of the election:

    • Network shutdowns: Iraqi authorities have resorted to network shutdowns during politically sensitive events. In October 2019, authorities responded to antigovernment protests with a week-long, near-total shutdown that impacted most of the country. Ahead of the 2018 elections, there were reports of localized shutdowns. Protests or calls for boycotts ahead of the 2021 vote could prompt similar restrictions. Access to the internet is critical in the days and months ahead of an election, as people often get their news and information about political parties online and through social media.
    • Social media blocks: The Iraqi government frequently blocks popular social media platforms during times of political unrest in an attempt to stifle online mobilization. During the 2019 protests, the government required ISPs to restrict access to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms. The blocks lasted much longer than the contemporaneous network shutdown, with some regions unable to access social media sites for 50 days. In July 2018, authorities instituted a two-week block of social media networks, including Facebook and Instagram, during nationwide demonstrations against high unemployment and a lack of public services. 
    • Information manipulation: Political parties, Iranian-backed groups, and powerful people with ties to the government spend large amounts of money to spread false or misleading information online, often with political or sectarian goals. In May 2020, Facebook removed 324 pages, 72 accounts, 5 groups, and 31 Instagram accounts that were tied to individuals associated with Kurdistan Regional Government intelligence services in Iraqi Kurdistan. The network used fake accounts to impersonate political parties and politicians and posted about local and political news including Kurdish government policies and criticism of non-Kurdish politicians. Additionally, the government frequently issues gag orders and reporting guidelines around politically sensitive events, such as the 2019 protests, the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Islamic State occupation in 2014. As political parties continue to campaign ahead of the elections, it will be important to watch for disinformation online or reporting guidelines directed by the government that could influence voters’ perceptions.
    • Harassment and violence: Journalists, activists, and social media users who publish or post content about corruption, criticism of the government, and taboo subjects are subject to harassment, intimidation, physical violence, kidnappings, and even assassinations, often by armed groups with government ties. In April 2020, a political organizer and government critic was intimidated and beaten by plainclothes intelligence officers after posting allegations to Facebook that a local health department was making a profit from face masks. In August 2020, unknown assailants killed Reham Yakob, an activist who led all-women protests and harshly criticized the government and pro-Iranian militias through social media. Additionally, women candidates have suffered harassment online and on social media, and in some cases, people have posted fake, salacious photographs and videos of them with the intent of harming their campaigns. The pattern of attacks and impunity for perpetrators has led to an increase in self-censorship and could silence journalists and activists online ahead of the election.

    Iraq has a score of 38 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects Iraq’s competitive elections, as well as rule of law deficits and frequent efforts to stifle political unrest online and offline. The country is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2021, with a score of 29 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties. Iraq will be covered by Freedom on the Net 2021 for the first time, and the country report and internet freedom score will be available in September 2021. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Iraq country report in Freedom in the World.

    Download the pre-election assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

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    • Global Freedom Score

      29 100 not free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      43 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      October 10, 2021
    • Type of Election

      Parliamentary
    • Internet Penetration

      68.59%
    • Population

      39.7 million
    • Election Year

      _2021-
  • Japan

    header1 Country Overview

    Japan has a score of 89 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects a robust democracy and strong respect for human rights online and offline, though progovernment commentators and political bots disrupt the online information environment. The country is rated Free in Freedom in the World 2021, with a score of 96 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties and Free in Freedom on the Net 2020, with an internet freedom score of 75 out of 100. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Japan country reports in Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Note: This country received an abbreviated preelection assessment. For more information, please refer to the Election Vulnerability Index data and the annual country reports listed above.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

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    • Global Freedom Score

      96 100 free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      77 100 free
    • Date of Election

      October 31, 2021
    • Type of Election

      General
    • Internet Penetration

      90.22%
    • Population

      126 million
    • Election Year

      _2021-
  • Jordan

    header1 Country Overview

    Jordan’s parliamentary elections will take place following a year of tumultuous anti-government protests, which were tamped down by the country’s COVID-19 restrictions. The upper house of parliament, the Senate, is appointed by the king, while the lower chamber, the House of Representatives, is up for election.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Candidates typically run as independents and are often tribal figures or businesspeople considered loyal to the monarchy. Despite the dissolution of the Jordanian chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood in July, its political arm, the Islamic Action Front (IAF), remains the country’s largest opposition party and will participate in the November elections. The IAF won 10 seats in the 2016 election after having boycotted the previous two votes.

    Jordanians regularly self-censor when speaking publicly on sensitive political topics and the monarchy. Organizers of the protest movement have been arrested and prosecuted over the past year. Journalists are sometimes targeted with harassment and assault in response to their reporting, and the government has pressured editors of news websites and online activists to delete articles and social media posts. Jordan’s COVID-19 response may further impact these rights ahead of the election, as emergency provisions have introduced new limits on free expression and movement. Recent attempts to amend the punitive Cybercrime Law to criminalize vaguely defined terms including rumors, false news, and hate speech also demonstrate the government’s continued pressure on free expression.

    Jordan has a score of 40 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerable in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. Jordan’s score reflects a broadly restrictive environment for free expression, assembly, and political engagement. The country is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2020, with a score of 37 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties, and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2020, with an internet freedom score of 49 out of 100. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Jordan country reports for Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Cyberattacks: Multiple politically consequential cyberattacks have occurred in recent years, including the hacking of social media accounts belonging to the deputy head of the teachers’ union in 2019 and the speaker of the House of Representatives in 2018. In July 2019, the official website of the Constitutional Court was compromised by an “international hacker.” This history of politically related cyberattacks suggests similar incidents may be seen during the electoral period.
    • Arrests and prosecutions: There are several laws, including criminal defamation and lèse-majesté, that can be used to punish nonviolent political and social expression ahead of the election, and the government sometimes issues gag orders that restrict reporting on sensitive subjects. Numerous activists and critics have faced charges of insulting the royal family and undermining the regime in the past year for social media posts that criticized Jordanian leadership.
    • Connectivity disruptions: Jordanian authorities may have interfered with internet access in the past. In July, NetBlocks reported that Facebook’s live-streaming service was restricted for a few hours during protests. Facebook Live allegedly experienced disruptions during demonstrations in December 2018 and January 2019 as well. These incidents may signal a willingness on the part of the government to repeat similar restrictions during politically tense moments or demonstrations related to the elections.

    Download the preelection assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    News and Updates
    New Report

    Freedom House released the new edition of Freedom on the Net, which found that internet freedom in Jordan improved slightly. Read the Jordan report.

    On Jordan

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    • Global Freedom Score

      33 100 not free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      47 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      November 10, 2020
    • Type of Election

      Parliamentary
    • Internet Penetration

      76.90%
    • Population

      10.4 million
    • Election Year

      _2020-
  • Kenya

    header1 Country Overview

    Five years after a highly contentious rerun election that resulted in the reelection of President Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenyan voters are set to choose Kenyatta’s successor in the August 2022 general elections. William Ruto, the current deputy president, and Raila Odinga, former prime minister and now opposition leader, are the frontrunners in the presidential race. Though Ruto was once widely considered Kenyatta’s likely successor, Kenyatta instead offered his support to rival-turned-ally Odinga in a power-sharing agreement that sparked concerns that Kenyatta would try to remain involved in government under an Odinga presidency. Ethnicity and tribalism are salient factors in Kenyan elections, and elections have historically been flashpoints of conflict, as in 2007 and 2017. The close competition and growing tensions between the leading presidential candidates suggest that the 2022 election could similarly spark electoral violence. In addition to electing a new president, voters will also be choosing candidates for the National Assembly, Senate, and local executive positions. 

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Kenya has held regular multiparty elections since 1992. Pervasive corruption and brutality by security forces remain serious problems. The judiciary is generally independent, as seen in 2017, when the Supreme Court annulled the initial election results and ordered a rerun to ensure free and fair elections. The country’s media and civil society sectors are vibrant, even as journalists and human rights defenders remain vulnerable to restrictive laws and intimidation. 

    Freedom House has identified the following as key digital interference issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Information manipulation and disinformation: The Kenyan online information landscape is manipulated by state and nonstate actors who pay users, especially bloggers with significant clout, to share distorted information on politically sensitive topics. Such tactics have increased since the last election cycle in 2017. Ahead of the election, coordinated Twitter accounts are already amplifying content aimed at discrediting both candidates. In January 2022, for example, bloggers allied with Ruto posted a slideshow containing pictures of politicians who Odinga allegedly betrayed during his political career.  Political parties, campaigns, and candidates are likely to further mobilize supporters and coordinated networks to spread narratives discrediting opponents, reducing the reliability of the online media space and increasing the potential for violence sparked by misinformation and hate speech.
    • Harassment and violence: Intimidation and harassment are increasing concerns in Kenya’s online environment. During the last election cycle, women candidates in legislative and local elections faced online intimidation accompanied by sexual harassment and violence. Police officers also destroyed journalists’ phones to suppress reporting on election-related human rights violations. The climate for online speech may become more dangerous for politicians and journalists, who may face online and offline harms as a result of their election-related posts.
    • Arrests and prosecutions: Bloggers and social media users continue to be arrested or summoned for questioning. During the 2017 election season, numerous bloggers were arrested for posting alleged hate speech. More recently, in April 2021, human rights defender Mutemi Wa Kiama was arrested for making social media posts calling on the IMF to halt loans to the Kenyan government, and in August 2020, Charles Gichuki was arrested for launching a website to track corruption during the Kenyatta regime. Bloggers and online journalists may be arrested or prosecuted for posting election-related content, and those who are not allied with a candidate may choose to self-censor instead.   

    Kenya has a score of 55 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects competitive elections, an independent judiciary, and an online environment marred by disinformation and online manipulation. The country is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2022, with a score of 48 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2021, with an internet freedom score of 66 out of 100. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Kenya country reports in Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    On Kenya

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    • Global Freedom Score

      52 100 partly free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      66 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      August 9, 2022
    • Type of Election

      General
    • Internet Penetration

      31.28%
    • Population

      53.5 million
    • Election Year

      _2022-
  • Kyrgyzstan

    header1 Country Overview

    Kyrgyzstan’s upcoming elections are the first national contest since a protracted political crisis, as well as constitutional amendments that effectively changed the country from a parliamentary to presidential system. Two days after the October 2020 parliamentary elections, the Central Election Commission unilaterally annulled the election amid allegations of vote buying, intimidation, and misuse of administrative resources. Opposition parties had failed to pass the threshold necessary to gain seats in the October election; the parties that performed well were linked to then-president Sooronbay Jeenbekov and Raimbek Matraimov, a former government official and subject of recent, largescale money-laundering case. Mass protests opposing the results continued after the annulment, prompting the resignation of Jeenbekov and the dissolution of the government. The parliament subsequently postponed new elections, instead extending its own mandate in a process that lacked a clear legal basis. Sadyr Japarov, a formerly imprisoned nationalist-populist politician with links to organized crime, briefly assumed the position of prime minister and acting president before being winning the January 2021 presidential election. Japrov’s controversial ascent to the newly empowered presidency may signal a return to strongman rule and a diminished role for the parliament.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    The upcoming vote takes place in a climate of heightened volatility and restrictions on civic space. Over 600 people were injured in post-election clashes between the police, Japarov supporters, and the opposition, leading to the brief imposition of martial law in Bishkek. Journalists who covered the elections and ensuing protests were also intimidated, detained, and attacked for their work. Last year, the government proposed problematic reporting requirements for nongovernmental organizations and a law “On Information Manipulation,” which would allow the government to block websites and shut down social media networks for disseminating “false or uncredible information.” Though neither measure was enacted, they set the stage for future efforts to curb expression and civic engagement in the country.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key digital interference issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Information manipulation: The persistent manipulation of online news and social media compromises the information space, a key component of a resilient electoral environment. Owners of news sites, some of which are owned by politicians or powerful business interests, sometimes exert editorial pressure to push their own political interests. Individuals are often secretly paid to influence online discussions about politicians and political issues. Networks of fake accounts supporting Jeenbekov, former president Almazbek Atambayev, Matraimov, and Japarov been identified in recent years. After the corruption scandal that embroiled Matraimov, analysts found that approximately 80 percent of social media profiles publicly supporting him were fake. Pro-Japarov commentators were identified during his bid for power in October 2020 and hundreds of fake accounts supporting Jeenbekov were removed from Facebook in December 2020. 
    • Arrests for online activity: Numerous vague laws facilitate the arrest of social media users and online journalists. In 2019, Aftandil Zhorobekov, the administrator of a Facebook group devoted to discussions of arbitrary governance in Kyrgyzstan, was arrested on apparently politically motivated charges related to calling for mass protests and inciting national hatred. The proposed “On Information Manipulation” further demonstrates the political appetite for quelling protected speech online. 
    • Harassment and violence: While average users are not subject to a significant level of harassment or violence for their online activities, some isolated incidents occur, often involving contributors to online media outlets. The violence directed at journalists during the October protests underscores this risk. Investigations into powerful politicians and coverage of protests or election-related controversies ahead of the election could prompt similar offline violence and harassment.
    • Cyberattacks: Politically motivated cyberattacks are a significant problem, and put the safety and work of journalists, critics, and activists at risk. In March 2020, a Telegram group planning a demonstration was compromised and deleted. The previous year, most independent news and fact-checking sites were disabled by DDoS attacks following the publication of the Matraimov investigation. Critical activists and journalists also report attempts to break into their social media accounts.
    • Internet shutdowns: Kyrgyzstani authorities occasionally disrupt internet connectivity during politically sensitive moments. Notably, mobile and broadband internet were throttled as protests broke out following the October election. Connectivity was disrupted locally the previous year when clashes broke out surrounding the arrest of Atambayev. Similar restrictions during election-related demonstrations could restrict access to information and provide the government with cover if it instituted a violent crackdown on protesters.

    Kyrgyzstan has a score of 44 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects problematic elections, significant levels of corruption, and weak rule of law, including a politicized judiciary. The country is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2020, with a score of 39 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties; Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2020, with an internet freedom score of 56 out of 100; and as a consolidated authoritarian regime in Nations in Transit 2020, with a score of 16 out of 100 for the country’s democratic progress. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Kyrgyzstan country reports in Freedom in the World, Freedom on the Net, and Nations in Transit.

    Download the preelection assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    News and Updates
    New Report

    In the 2021 edition of Freedom in the World, Kyrgyzstan’s status was downgraded from Partly Free to Not Free after fraudulent parliamentary elections trigged a political crisis that enabled a nationalist firebrand to seize the levers of state power. Read the Kyrgyzstan report.

    On Kyrgyzstan

    See all data, scores & information on this country or territory.

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    • Global Freedom Score

      27 100 not free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      52 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      November 28, 2021
    • Type of Election

      Parliamentary
    • Internet Penetration

      42%
    • Population

      6.6 million
    • Election Year

      _2021-
  • Lebanon

    header1 Country Overview

    After more than a year of political deadlock, Lebanon’s next parliamentary election is due in March 2022. This election, which will determine who holds the National Assembly’s 128 seats, comes amid an economic crisis and ongoing political and sectarian unrest. Major establishment parties—which are formed along sectarian lines—have together held over 90 seats since the 2018 poll. Prime Minister Najib Mikati announced a new cabinet in September 2021, which observers considered too weak to address the country’s crises. Instead, the announcement was perceived as an attempt to provide a preelectoral boost for incumbent parties. The establishment will face an opposition bloc emboldened by public mistrust in the government, anger over economic woes, and mounting calls for reform.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Voters contend with a political system that ensures representation for officially recognized religious communities but limits competition and impedes the rise of cross-communal or civic parties. Individuals enjoy some civil liberties but also face pervasive corruption and major weaknesses in the rule of law, which could influence their ability to choose next March. This will be the first election since months long mass protests, prompted by economic stagnation, corruption, and sectarianism, began in October 2019. The subsequent political crisis was made worse by new corruption and mismanagement revelations that followed the August 2020 Beirut port explosion. Supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, the country’s two main Shiite parties, called for the dismissal of the judge investigating the explosion in an October 2021 demonstration, which turned violent when they were fired upon. Furthermore, the economic crisis has led to food and fuel shortages as well as rolling blackouts that could cause internet outages, potentially impeding voters’ ability to access accurate information. 

    Freedom House has identified the following as key digital interference issues to watch ahead of the election:

    • Information manipulation: Lebanese media outlets are highly partisan and are controlled by politico-sectarian actors who seek to advance a particular political or religious message. Elite, politically active families own several prominent outlets, while Hezbollah also maintains significant media holdings. Politicians have been known to offer bribes to the country’s few independent outlets and journalists, particularly during electoral periods. Accessing reliable information is also made more difficult by the rise of online disinformation. For example, the armed wing of Hezbollah has orchestrated defamation campaigns against its opponents and has sought to disseminate and promote sectarian and partisan content online. Though bots have not been extensively documented in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia–based bots may have amplified the “Hassan Diab Is a Thief” hashtag popular in early 2020, when then prime minister Diab formed his cabinet. As the electoral campaign progresses, elites and political parties may disseminate more disinformation meant to influence voter perception.
    • Harassment and violence: Political parties and armed groups have been known to target critics through online harassment and intimidation campaigns, sometimes leading to offline attacks. A number of online users have received threats from Hezbollah supporters via the social media application Clubhouse or have been targeted directly for criticizing the militia. In March 2021, journalist Mariam Seifeddine was violently assaulted and her family received death threats; Seifeddine attributed the incident to her widely published criticism of Hezbollah. A month before, political activist and prominent Hezbollah critic Loqman Slim was assassinated, allegedly for criticizing political parties and militias including Hezbollah. Slim was active on social media and was frequently quoted by news outlets. This pattern of harassment, intimidation, and physical attack has led to increased self-censorship, a trend that may persist as the election approaches. 
    • Forced removal of online content: Security officials frequently pressure individuals and internet service providers to remove online comments, mainly those criticizing government officials or the army. In March 2021, the Cybercrimes Bureau summoned Ragheb al-Shoufi for Facebook posts that were deemed insulting by a former interior minister. He was released after being asked to delete the posts and sign a pledge promising to refrain from similar activity in the future. In October 2020, Saeed Abdullah was arrested and detained for 47 days for Facebook posts criticizing the government. He was charged with insulting the president and insulting religion and was forced to delete content. Government officials may seek to remove more online content ahead of the polls.

    Lebanon has a score of 51 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects a fractured media environment, high levels of self-censorship, and the use of legal and extralegal measures to silence online users. The country is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2021, with a score of 43 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties, and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2021, with an internet freedom score of 51 out of 100. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Lebanon country report in Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    On Lebanon

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    • Global Freedom Score

      43 100 partly free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      50 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      May 15, 2022
    • Type of Election

      Parliamentary
    • Internet Penetration

      78.20%
    • Population

      6.8 million
    • Election Year

      _2022-
  • Mexico

    header1 Country Overview

    Mexican citizens will take to the polls on June 6 to elect all 500 members of the Chamber of Deputies, as well as 15 governors and thousands of local positions. The vote is seen as a test of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s popularity and that of his National Regeneration Movement (MORENA). It will also determine whether he can retain control of the Chamber after his party secured a majority with the help of its coalition allies in the 2018 elections. The three main opposition parties, the National Action Party (PAN), the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), and the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), have formed an unlikely and ideologically incongruous alliance known as Go for Mexico (Va por México) in an effort to wrench the majority away from the current left-wing populist government.  

    header2 Preelection assessment

    The 2018 election was seen as a repudiation of the incumbent political establishment and was marred by unprecedented levels of election-related violence, as well as allegations of illegal campaign financing, vote buying, and the misuse of public funds. Paired with budget cuts to the National Electoral Institute (INE) and accusations that Obrador’s government has sought to lessen electoral oversight and roll back government transparency, these issues raise concern about the administration of the upcoming election. The COVID-19 crisis has further complicated the electoral environment, as the country finds itself with the world’s third-highest death toll. Mismanagement of the pandemic response sparked antigovernment protests in the months leading up to the election, which were further fueled by a recent economic recession, record-high homicide rates, and dissatisfaction with Obrador’s public comments on gender-based violence. 

    Freedom House has identified the following as key issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Harassment and violence: Mexico is the most dangerous country in the Western hemisphere for journalists, and reporters for online and offline platforms regularly face threats and sometimes deadly violence in retribution for their work. Those who cover organized criminal groups or sensitive political topics are particularly at risk, including journalists attacked in connection with their reporting on the 2018 election. Obrador’s frequent anti-press rhetoric has also contributed to a threatening environment in which critics often face harassment on social media. Political tensions ahead of the election could exacerbate existing trends of intimidation and violence in response to online speech. 
    • Cyberattacks: Technical attacks, including malware infections and DDoS attacks, have been deployed during recent elections and been used regularly to suppress freedom of expression for journalists and activists. The National Action Party website was targeted with a DDoS attack two weeks ahead of the 2018 election after publishing content that was critical of Obrador. On election day, predictive polling website, Oraculus, was rendered inaccessible to the public due to a cyberattack. Cyberattacks against journalists and activists are regularly paired with the use of spyware software Pegasus, which provides attackers full access to victims’ devices. The targeting of activists, journalists, and political figures could increase self-censorship and lessen critical engagement during the election period, when maintaining accurate reporting and robust civil society is most crucial.   
    • Influence operations: Supporters of President Obrador have historically used automated bot accounts to target critical journalists and everyday users with smear campaigns. Other political parties have also been found to instrumentalize fake accounts and partisan bots in the most recent elections. Bots have been used for political purposes in the country as far back as at least 2010, and may continue to impact online discourse in Mexico’s increasingly digital pre-election context. 

    Mexico has a score of 61 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects extreme violence from organized crime, severe rule of law deficits, government corruption, and a highly dangerous atmosphere for online and offline journalists, all within a relatively robust political and electoral environment. The country is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2020, with a score of 62 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties, and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2020, with an internet freedom score of 61 out of 100. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Mexico country reports in Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net.

    Download the preelection assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    News and Updates
    New Report

    The new edition of Freedom in the World found that the Mexican government obstructed efforts to address gender-based violence and continued to grapple with entrenched corruption. Read the Mexico report.

    On Mexico

    See all data, scores & information on this country or territory.

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    • Global Freedom Score

      60 100 partly free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      62 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      June 6, 2021
    • Type of Election

      Legislative
    • Internet Penetration

      67.14%
    • Population

      127.8 million
    • Election Year

      _2021-
  • Mexico

    header1 Country Overview

    The assessment for this country will be published as soon as it becomes available.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Preelection assessment coming soon...

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    On Mexico

    See all data, scores & information on this country or territory.

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    • Global Freedom Score

      60 100 partly free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      62 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      June 2, 2024
    • Type of Election

      General
    • Internet Penetration

      78.60%
    • Population

      127.5 million
    • Election Year

      _2024-
  • Moldova

    header1 Country Overview

    Moldovans will vote this November in the country’s second presidential elections since the country switched back to a direct electoral system in 2016. Igor Dodon of the Socialist Party (PSRM) is running for reelection against former prime minister Maia Sandu of the Action and Solidarity Party (PAS), and other, less-popular candidates. The PSRM and PAS were recently allied in an unlikely coalition government, which was formed in 2019 to remove the oligarchic regime built by the Democratic Party of Moldova (PDM) since it came to power in 2015. PDM leader and oligarch Vladimir Plahotnuic fled the country after stepping down.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Despite the removal of Plahotniuc’s kleptocratic government, Moldovan democracy remains characterized by corruption, a politicized judiciary, and limited transparency. Oligarchic influence affects the electoral environment through the poorly regulated media sphere, where ownership and control is concentrated, reporting is highly partisan, and journalists self-censor. TV is the dominant source of news, so partisan manipulation of traditional media marks the overall information environment. Moldova’s highly politicized relationship with Russia and Europe is also reflected in the media sphere. The November vote is likely to feature many of the issues seen in past elections, including vote buying, misuse of public resources, and tension around voting access for residents of Transnistria, a breakaway territory.

    Moldova has a score of 65 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerable in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. Moldova’s score reflects weak institutions and rule of law. The country is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2020, with a score of 60 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties, and as a transitional or hybrid regime in Nations in Transit 2020, with a score of 35 out of 100 for the country’s democratic progress. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Moldova country reports for Freedom in the World and Nations in Transit.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • False or misleading information: Propaganda and disinformation have been observed in past elections and should be expected during the 2020 electoral period, both from domestic and foreign sources. A study by the Center for Media, Data and Society found that misinformation often originates from the mainstream media and official channels, such as government officials or influential business people, rather than inauthentic websites. A number of the accounts that Facebook removed for spreading false and misleading information ahead of the 2019 parliamentary elections belonged to government officials. The significant number of Russian-speakers in the country also increases the potential reach of Russian-language misinformation.
    • Influence operations: A 2019 report by the Oxford Internet Institute identified online manipulation campaigns by government agencies and political parties. So-called “cyber troopers” took to Facebook and Instagram to support particular narratives, attack the political opposition, and stoke division. Various influence operations have also targeted discourse about Moldova’s relationship with Russia and Europe. Inauthentic accounts on Facebook and Instagram that originated in Moldova engaged in manipulative tactics during the 2019 parliamentary elections, and Russian-backed online media manipulation has also been reported. Similar domestic and foreign online influence campaigns are likely during the 2020 electoral period.
    • Cyberattacks: Cyberattacks are a frequent concern for civil society and electoral bodies. During the 2019 parliamentary elections, the Central Electoral Commission was targeted with DDos attacks, apparently in an attempt to interfere with the publication of preliminary election results. Election-related cyberattacks are likely in 2020, given the overall prevalence of digital security threats and their deployment during past elections.

    Download the preelection assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    On Moldova

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    • Global Freedom Score

      62 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      November 1, 2020
    • Type of Election

      Presidential
    • Internet Penetration

      73.56%
    • Population

      3.5 million
    • Election Year

      _2020-
  • Morocco

    header1 Country Overview

    Moroccans will head to the polls in September to vote in legislative, municipal, and regional elections. This marks the third general election since the 2011 constitutional reforms, which require the king to name a prime minister from the largest party in Parliament, among other constitutional changes. Many major policy decisions and key cabinet positions remain under the purview of King Mohammed VI. The Justice and Development Party (PJD) has led a fragile coalition since the 2011 elections. Other parties include the center-right Istiqlal Party, the center-left Socialist Union of Popular Forces, and several parties aligned to the royal palace. Despite the 2011 reforms, the palace has often intervened to weaken the PJD, its coalition, and its ability to govern.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Among the key issues in the election are the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the related economic crisis, and the recent decision to normalize relations with Israel. Nonetheless, the perceived ineffectiveness of elected officials has contributed to a strong sense of apathy among voters; turnout in the 2016 election reached a record low. Grassroots activism, such as the Hirak Rif movement against inequality that began in the Rif region, has been met with harsh repression of free expression and civic organizing online and offline. Space for independent media has also shrunk in recent years, and many outlets have been shuttered by harsh licensing laws and advertising restrictions. Surveillance, arrests, and pressure on journalists has deepened self-censorship, especially when reporting on protests, corruption, the monarchy, and other politically sensitive issues.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key digital interference issues to watch ahead of the election:

    • Online content manipulation: Morocco’s online information environment is distorted by influential actors, sometimes through surreptitious means. Facebook’s 2021 report on coordinated inauthentic behavior noted the removal of 385 accounts, 6 pages, and 40 Instagram accounts that were used to comment on progovernment stories from various outlets. The accounts criticized popular dissidents, domestic human rights organizations, and people who voiced opposition to the king. They also praised the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many news outlets are either tied to the government or political elites, who informally pressure advertisers to financially support outlets that promote their interests and box out those that are more critical of the government or royal family. The proliferation of progovernment information online has led to a biased media environment that may impact how voters obtain information online ahead of the elections.
    • Harassment of journalists and critics: Journalists, activists, and critics of the royal family are frequently harassed and intimidated on social media. In 2020, online news outlets with close ties to government intelligence services published a smear campaign about Soulaiman Raissouni, a journalist and newspaper editor, who was later arrested. In 2017, Nasser Zefzafi, a prominent leader of the Hirak Rif movement who is currently serving a 20-year prison sentence for his involvement in the protests, was the subject of defamatory articles published by progovernment news sites. This atmosphere of intimidation and harassment could impact independent outlets and journalists ahead of the elections.

    Morocco has a score of 42 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects Morocco’s multiparty electoral system and a trend of censorship and restrictions on media freedom. The country is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2021, with a score of 37 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2020, with an internet freedom score of 52 out of 100. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Morocco country reports in Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net.  

    Download the preelection assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    On Morocco

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    • Global Freedom Score

      37 100 partly free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      53 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      September 8, 2021
    • Type of Election

      Parliamentary
    • Internet Penetration

      68.79%
    • Population

      36 million
    • Election Year

      _2021-
  • Myanmar

    header1 Country Overview

    Myanmar held its first open and competitive elections in 2015. After decades of military rule, Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) handily defeated the military-linked Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). Suu Kyi is barred from the presidency under citizenship rules but serves as de facto leader and heads several key portfolios. Under the constitution, the military controls 25 percent of legislative seats and oversees the country’s ministries of defense, home affairs, and border affairs.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    General elections scheduled for November 2020 will see the NLD again face the USDP, as well as numerous ethnic parties. Harassment, prosecution, and surveillance of the media and civil society contribute to a tenuous electoral environment, as well as doubts over the independence of the election commission, the reliability of voter rolls, and early voting procedures. Buddhist nationalism features prominently in Burmese politics, and the country’s citizenship and electoral laws disenfranchise many members of ethnic minorities, including the predominantly Muslim Rohingyas. Over 700,000 Rohingya refugees fled to neighboring Bangladesh in response to the military’s ethnic cleansing campaign in 2017. Ongoing conflict between the military and various ethnic armed organizations remains a threat to peaceful election administration in several areas of the country. Internet penetration stands at approximately 35 percent, leaving many voters reliant on progovernment television and radio outlets for news and information and exacerbating the digital divide, particularly in rural areas.

    Myanmar has a score of 35 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. Myanmar’s score reflects limits on free expression and ongoing conflict and human rights abuses against religious and ethnic minorities. It is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2020, with a score of 30 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties, and Not Free in Freedom on the Net, with an internet freedom score of 36 out of 100. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Myanmar country reports in Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Hate speech and violence: The internet is an important vector for violence and hatred against Myanmar’s marginalized groups. Investigators concluded that false rumors and incendiary speech shared on social media, notably Facebook, played a role in the atrocities against the Rohingya. Political leaders, the military, and religious extremists may continue to stoke hatred and violence online in the lead-up to the election, heightening tensions in Myanmar.
    • Shutdowns: A partial internet shutdown in villages in Rakhine and Chin states has been in place for over a year. The shutdown hinders residents’ access to electoral resources, and may signal a willingness on the part of the government to extend similar shutdowns to other parts of the country during a political crisis.
    • Influence operations: The military has a record of surreptitiously manipulating online discourses in Myanmar. An influence campaign by the military was reported around the 2018 by-elections, while nearly 700 military officers allegedly participated in a multi-year Facebook operation. The prevalence of information campaigns in past years suggests they are likely to occur during the 2020 election.
    • Censorship: Having previously refrained from blocking online content, in March 2020 the government ordered service providers to restrict access to several independent and regional news outlets known for reporting on developments in conflict areas. The dramatic escalation in censorship in an election year demonstrates that the governing authorities may not be shy to enact more censorial tactics to secure the election.
    • Arrests and intimidation: Activists, online journalists, and members of civil society face criminal charges for their online activities, particularly when criticizing the government, public officials, and the military. Violence and intimidation are especially common in relation to politically sensitive issues, such as the Rohingya crisis.

    Download the preelection assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    News and Updates
    Incident Alert

    Burmese election officials said the vote would go ahead as scheduled, following a request from the USDP to postpone it due a spike in COVID-19 cases. The rise in cases draws attention to the logistical challenges the pandemic poses for sound election administration. Read more.

    Incident Alert

    Two political parties accused the UEC of censoring their campaign speeches before being broadcast on state TV and radio. The UEC allegedly removed politically sensitive topics related to ethnicity, socioeconomic issues, and government policy. Read more.

    Incident Alert

    The government deemed journalism a “nonessential business,” meaning journalists are subject to COVID-19 movement restrictions in many parts of the country, including Yangon. This restriction potentially limits journalists’ ability to report on developments during the electoral period. Read more.

    New Report

    Freedom House released the new edition of Freedom on the Net, which found that internet freedom in Myanmar declined dramatically as the government ramped up censorship ahead of the elections. Read the Myanmar report.

    Incident Alert

    A study released by Burma Human Rights Network reported 39 cases of hate speech and disinformation, some of which were shared over 2,000 times on various social media platforms, ahead of the elections. Anti-Muslim hate speech and disinformation featured prominently in these posts. Read more.

    Incident Alert

    Myanmar’s government allegedly issued a directive to extend the mobile internet service restrictions in Rakhine and Chin states until the end of the year. The restriction was originally set to end on October 31st. Read more.

    Incident Alert

    The Union Election Commission removed the Union Democratic Party from the list of registered political parties due to alleged violation of party registration laws, preventing any of the party’s candidates from contesting the election. Read more.

    On Myanmar

    See all data, scores & information on this country or territory.

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    • Global Freedom Score

      9 100 not free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      10 100 not free
    • Date of Election

      November 8, 2020
    • Type of Election

      General
    • Internet Penetration

      34.84%
    • Population

      54.0 million
    • Election Year

      _2020-
  • Nicaragua

    header1 Country Overview

    Incumbent presidential candidate Daniel Ortega and his allies launched an intensive assault on the opposition in the run-up to November’s general election. Empowered by the total control of Ortega’s ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) across government branches, the regime has arrested prospective candidates and opposition figures, dissolved competitive parties, limited international election observation, and empowered the National Police – known for their politicized and repressive tactics – with oversight of campaign activities. Under Nicaragua’s electoral system, a candidate can win the presidency with as low as a 35 percent plurality of the vote. The low vote threshold provides Ortega with a path to victory over the fragmented and stifled opposition. Alongside the presidency, all 92 seats of the National Assembly will be contested.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Ortega is running for a fourth consecutive and fifth overall term (he served one term from 1985-90). Since returning to office in 2007, he has overseen a period of democratic deterioration. Constitutional reforms passed by a majority-FSLN National Assembly in 2014 removed term limits, paving the way for Ortega’s reelection to a third consecutive term during deeply flawed elections in 2016. Ortega’s wife, Rosario Murillo, joined him as vice president in his third term and his children have been appointed to prominent positions in government. Mass antigovernment protests in 2018 were met with state violence that left at least 325 dead and ushered in a breakdown of the rule of law that has yet to recover. Independent media face censorship, violence and harassment, and legal penalties. Dozens of journalists have fled since 2018. In late 2020, congress passed two laws preventing “traitors” and those receiving foreign funding from running for public office. The former was used in June to arrest several presidential hopefuls. Separately, Cristina Chamorro, a prominent challenger to Ortega and the daughter of former President Violeta Chamorro, was placed under house arrest mere hours after announcing her intention to run as the presidential candidate for Citizen's Alliance, one of two main opposition coalitions. 

    Freedom House has identified the following as key digital interference issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Removal of online content: Progovernment media outlets sometimes use copyright and Digital Millennium Copyright Act complaints as means of removing unwanted online content. Independent media are routinely barred from state events, including press conferences, and instead rely on footage from progovernment sources to provide comprehensive news coverage. In response, members of the government-aligned media leverage copyright complaints that trigger the removal of independent – and often critical – online content. Forced removal may further inhibit users’ already limited access to accurate and independent information ahead of the election.
    • Information manipulation: The Nicaraguan regime uses multiple strategies to manipulate the digital information sphere. Projects to artificially amplify progovernment narratives have been in progress since at least 2018, when Murillo reportedly first ordered the creation of “troll factories.” An operation exposed in early 2021 involves over 100 employees from various public institutions who were hired to post and comment on social media in defense of the regime. The initiative is housed in the Nicaraguan Post Office, though similar cells operate in other public buildings, and is directed by government officials. Officials also control online information through editorial pressure, directly threatening independent outlets and limiting their access to official information by barring them from state events. Manipulation of online information ahead of the election compounds existing barriers to accessing reliable information. 
    • Harassment and violence: Critical online reporters and outlets are frequently harassed, surveilled, and violently targeted by security forces and unknown actors in retaliation for their work. Journalists risk doxing, smear campaigns, and retribution against their family members. Everyday users are also at risk of intimidation and physical assault. In addition to causing direct harm to individuals, an escalation of these tactics ahead of the election day could encourage further self-censorship about political issues.
    • Arrests and prosecutions: Online speech is punishable using multiple laws, including a cybercrimes law passed in 2020. The new Special Cybercrimes Law introduces punitive measures explicitly for online speech, including multi-year prison sentences for publishing “fake news” on social media or through news outlets. Authorities also levy unrelated charges in apparent retribution for digital activities. In July 2020, TikTok user Kevin Monzón was arrested and detained for five days for ostensibly threatening another person with a firearm. Analysts suspect his detention was related to antigovernment videos that police had previously warned him against posting. These new and politicized avenues of arrest raise the risk of legal repercussions for those who speak out during the electoral period.
    • Cyberattacks: Independent news outlets have been targeted with DDoS attacks during recent political events. Confidencial and La Prensa suffered simultaneous DDoS attacks during the 2018 protests. The perpetrators behind the attacks remain unknown, but press freedom advocates suggested that the goal was to stifle independent condemnation of the government. La Prensa also suffered a DDoS attack in May 2019, effectively slowing the site and preventing updates for more than 24 hours. Amid the ongoing crackdown on dissent, cyberattacks could be used to disrupt and silence remaining critical voices.    

    Nicaragua has a score of 36 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects an increasingly restricted political space where free expression is suppressed online and offline, independent media and civil society face physical and digital violence and harassment, and government corruption is unchecked. The country is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2021, with a score of 30 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties. Nicaragua will be covered by Freedom on the Net 2021 for the first time, and the country report and internet freedom score will be available in September 2021. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Nicaragua country report in Freedom in the World.

    Download the pre-election assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    On Nicaragua

    See all data, scores & information on this country or territory.

    See More
    • Global Freedom Score

      19 100 not free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      42 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      November 7, 2021
    • Type of Election

      General
    • Internet Penetration

      38.85%
    • Population

      6.6 million
    • Election Year

      _2021-
  • Nigeria

    header1 Country Overview

    Nigeria will host one of its most high-stakes elections in decades on February 25, 2023. The country’s citizens will elect their new president, vice-president, and all 469 members of the Senate and House of Representatives. President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressive Congress (APC) will be leaving office after eight years due to term limits, and public polls had not yet indicated a clear leader in the presidential race as of January. Separately on March 11, Nigerians will vote for state governors in 28 states and the legislatures of all 36 states of the federation. 

    header2 Preelection assessment

    If successful—namely, if held without undue or violent interference—the 2023 election will be the first time during its 63 years of independence that Nigeria has secured three consecutive peaceful transitions of power. This marks an important indicator of how Nigerian democracy has progressed incrementally since 1999, when the military last ruled. An aborted election, or one fraught with violence and malpractice, would be a huge blow to Nigeria, already reeling from serious security threats, polarization, and economic challenges. It would also weaken Nigeria’s stature within the region, particularly its authority to take a stance against unconstitutional takeovers of powers elsewhere. 

    While peaceful and credible elections have never been a foregone conclusion in Nigeria, the 2023 election faces some unique threats. The biggest among them are the violent activities of several non-state armed groups who have publicly expressed a wish to scupper the country’s vulnerable democracy. For instance, militant groups have attacked local offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) throughout the country. Boko Haram, which has attempted to disrupt past elections and has expanded its operations since the last electoral cycle, remains a threat. Others – including the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and militant gangs known as “bandits” – have emerged with concerning sophistication and lethality. Previous Nigerian elections have triggered violence and widespread social unrest, as when over 800 people were killed in the aftermath of the 2011 general election. In 2023, this risk is heightened by the ruling APC’s selection of presidential and vice-presidential candidates drawn from the same faith, as well as the spread of false and misleading information on social media. 

    Conversely, new election reforms may bolster election preparedness, infrastructure, and transparency. The Electoral Act, which was enacted in February 2022, bolsters the INEC’s capacity for oversight and digitizes some components of polling, among other changes.

    Freedom House has identified the following key digital issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Information manipulation: False and misleading information surged online during the 2019 national election. Some internet users spread narratives that portrayed candidates as biased against specific ethnic and religious communities. Others sought to undermine candidates through allegations of corruption or, in the case of one popular fabrication about President Buhari, of being an impersonator hired to replace the candidate. Political officials sometimes spread those narratives further, and both the APC and the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) reportedly engaged networks of online commentators to spread favorable narratives throughout the 2019 election season. Similar influence operations may emerge ahead of the polling in February, with the potential to shape how people vote or to incite violence. Fact-checkers have identified concerning false claims circulating on social media, including misinformation alleging that the APC candidate Bola Tinubu called for supporters to seize ballot boxes and that PDP presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar traded bribes for endorsements. Groups like the Nigeria Fact Check Coalition and the Centre for Democracy and Development-West Africa have mobilized to counter the harms of election disinformation.
    • Blocking of platforms and websites: The government sometimes blocks online content and social media platforms for political aims. Authorities ordered Twitter blocked between June 2021 and January 2022 after the platform removed a tweet by President Buhari that seemed to threaten violence against Biafran secessionists. The government has also blocked websites associated with the #EndSARS movement against police brutality and sites promoting Biafran independence. Protests or political instability during the electoral period could prompt similar restrictions, limiting people’s access to reliable information about the election and independent commentary about candidates.  
    • Arrests and prosecutions for online activities: Bloggers and online commentators are occasionally arrested for their commentary on political leaders. For example, security forces arrested the founder of news site EaglesForeSight in May 2022 after the outlet republished an article detailing fraud allegations against the governor of Ogun State. Online journalists and other commentators reporting on the election may face similar retribution, limiting oversight of campaigning and undermining voters’ access to election-related information. 

    Nigeria has a score of 51 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects unprecedented insecurity throughout the country, including militant violence in northern states and civil unrest in the south, as well as restrictions on free assembly and online expression. The country is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2022, with a score of 43 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties, and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2022, with a score of 57 out of 100. Scores and ratings for Nigeria in the Freedom in the World 2023 report, covering the 2022 calendar year, will be released in the spring of 2023. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Nigeria country reports for Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    On Nigeria

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    • Global Freedom Score

      43 100 partly free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      60 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      February 25, 2023
    • Type of Election

      General
    • Internet Penetration

      40.40%
    • Population

      211.4 million
    • Election Year

      _2023-
  • Pakistan

    header1 Country Overview

    Pakistan’s next general election, in which voters will select all 342 National Assembly members, is currently scheduled for October 2023. Significant uncertainties remain ahead of the vote, including questions over the timing of the election itself, amid an escalating confrontation between former prime minister Imran Khan and Pakistan’s powerful military establishment. Tensions increased when paramilitary officers arrested Khan in May, prompting violent clashes between Khan’s supporters and the authorities. Within days of his arrest, the Supreme Court ordered Khan’s release on procedural grounds. In the weeks that followed, dozens of prominent officials quit Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, some after being arrested and others citing pressure from the military.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    The incumbent coalition government is led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League–Nawaz (PML-N). The coalition assumed power after the National Assembly removed Khan from office in an April 2022 no-confidence vote. Khan has blamed the military for his ouster and pressured the coalition government to hold early elections. As part of those efforts, the provincial governments of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa dissolved their assemblies in early 2023, with the aim of triggering snap elections to communicate the PTI’s strength in those provinces. As of early July, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had repeatedly delayed the provincial elections, despite a Supreme Court order mandating that they be held within 90 days of the assemblies’ dissolution per the constitution.

    Khan’s eligibility to run in October 2023 is also unclear. In October 2022, the ECP barred Khan from public office for five years after a corruption investigation; Khan has contested the decision. The Islamabad High Court issued an arrest warrant for Khan in February 2023 over the case that prompted the ECP’s decision. The ruling coalition, meanwhile, is openly considering whether to ban the PTI entirely, citing the violent May protests.

    The ongoing political crisis is a manifestation of the intense political dysfunction and partisanship that have affected Pakistan in recent years. Pakistan holds regular elections under a competitive multiparty political system, and electoral laws are considered largely fair. However, the PTI, the PML-N, and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) have leveraged relationships with the military and the judiciary to manipulate the campaign environment in the past. During the most recent general election in 2018, experts identified widespread prepoll rigging as candidates were improperly disqualified and journalists reporting on the vote faced censorship, intimidation, and physical violence. The ECP was criticized for its failure to counter electoral manipulation efforts and for the collapse of its vote-tallying system on polling day.

    Security concerns also cast a shadow over the October 2023 election. The army could use its power to politically intervene ahead of the ballot. The potential for election-related violence remains high: Khan survived an assassination attempt in November 2022, while the May 2023 protests were marred by violence on the part of protesters and the use of excessive force by security officers. Separately, attacks by Islamist militants on religious minorities and other perceived opponents may further undermine the election environment, particularly given the resurgence of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key digital interference issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Internet shutdowns: Pakistani authorities frequently cite security concerns to disrupt telecommunications services during protests, elections, or other politically charged events. The Sharif government restricted connectivity across Pakistan for several days in May 2023 after Khan’s arrest, deploying a tactic that Khan himself had used to stifle the opposition while in office. Similarly, authorities cut internet service in several major cities amid widespread protests over Khan’s removal from office in May 2022. Such restrictions limit access to voting information, impede discussions about the election, and hinder Pakistanis as they conduct their everyday business.
    • Information manipulation: Pakistan’s political parties have weaponized the information space to galvanize supporters and undermine opponents. Mainstream parties maintain social media wings and employ looser networks that spread disinformation to attack their opponents and boost party narratives. These networks have been mobilized during the ongoing political crisis. After losing the April 2022 no-confidence vote, Khan thanked “social media warriors” who spread his allegations that the United States facilitated his ouster, a claim he later appeared to walk back. Meanwhile, PML-N officials alleged that automated accounts and impersonators manipulated criticism of the no-confidence vote. The coalition government has also mulled using communications regulators to target purportedly antimilitary social media activities. Information manipulation during the electoral period may further distort the already tumultuous online environment, obstructing access to reliable information about the polls.
    • Arrests and prosecutions: Authorities routinely pursue politically motivated prosecutions of political opponents and journalists for their online activities. For example, in February 2023, a court sentenced a PTI supporter to three years’ imprisonment over Twitter posts criticizing the military. Also in February, Federal Investigation Agency officers arrested journalist Imran Riaz Khan; in a video disseminated via social media, Riaz Khan had questioned a former army chief over claims that the military would distance itself from politics. Riaz Khan was again arrested in May 2023 but subsequently disappeared; his whereabouts remained unknown as of early July. Online journalists and other commentators reporting on the election or engaging with election-related topics may face retribution, undermining voters’ access to poll-related information.
    • Harassment and violence: Pakistan’s internet users face intimidation, blackmail, and violence in response to their online activities. In particular, women journalists—especially those who cover politically sensitive events—are often harassed and intimidated for their online reporting. Politicians have contributed to such hostility. For example, PTI officials have alternately downplayed or fueled targeted online threats of physical violence by their supporters. These coordinated online attacks, from both state and nonstate actors, may be lodged against women, LGBT+ people, religious minorities, and opposition parties during the fraught election period, potentially curtailing online discussion about the vote.
    • Website blocks and content removal: Pakistani authorities regularly block access to websites and pressure social media companies to remove content, including about political and social issues. For example, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) briefly restricted access to Wikipedia in February 2023 after the platform refused to remove content the PTA deemed “sacrilegious.” During the 2018 election, the PTA blocked the website of the left-leaning Awami Workers Party. Such restrictions limit access to independent commentary about the election, criticism of political parties, and information about voting. However, the extent to which such restrictions have been imposed during the political crisis and election period is unclear because the PTA’s operations are opaque.

    Pakistan has a score of 35 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects a political system vulnerable to military influence and restrictions on civil rights alongside a restricted environment for online expression. The country is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2023, with a score of 37 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties, and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2022, with an internet freedom score of 26 out of 100. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Pakistan country reports in Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    On Pakistan

    See all data, scores & information on this country or territory.

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    • Global Freedom Score

      37 100 partly free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      26 100 not free
    • Date of Election

      February 8, 2024
    • Type of Election

      General
    • Internet Penetration

      36.70%
    • Population

      235.8 million
    • Election Year

      _2024-
  • Peru

    header1 Country Overview

    Peru’s April election is seen as a test of stability following a political crisis that saw three presidents hold office over the course of one week in November 2020. The vote will determine the country’s fifth president in under five years and all 130 members of Congress. A highly fragmented political landscape consisting of generally unpopular political parties and a large, ideologically diverse candidate pool set expectations that the presidential election will progress to a runoff on June 6.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Peru has a history of generally credible and competitive elections, but an ongoing power struggle between the legislative and executive branches has disrupted the political landscape. Congress impeached President Martín Vizcarra in November 2020 over unproven allegations that he had received bribes during his time as governor. As president of Congress, Manuel Merino succeeded to power for five days before resigning under public pressure. The impeachment and Merino’s ascension prompted mass protests by Peruvians who viewed the impeachment as overtly political; demonstrations were further fueled by the killing of two protesters by the police. Congressman Francisco Sagasti was subsequently installed as interim president. Disillusionment with Peruvian governance will not be the only challenge to the country’s general elections; insufficient regulation of campaign financing, inadequate representation of indigenous groups, an alarmingly disproportionate level of deaths from COVID-19, and widespread corruption allegations against top officials may further chip away at public trust in the electoral landscape.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key digital interference issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Harassment and violence for online activity: Digital journalists and online commentators sometimes receive death threats for reporting on links between the government and organized crime groups or for satirizing politicians. Political figures have instigated online harassment. In April 2019, a Congressman accused a news site director of being responsible for the suicide of a former president via a series of tweets. Intimidation by state and nonstate actors often leads to self-censorship, which could reduce the prevalence of critical and independent information ahead of the election. 
    • Laws criminalizing online activity: Peruvian law assigns criminal penalties and civil liabilities for a number of online activities, and sentences for defamation can be harsher for internet-related offenses. Though laws criminalizing online activity are rarely used in Peru, at least one investigative journalist was recently charged with defamation. The ongoing existence of these laws could contribute to self-censorship during electoral periods. 
    • Cyberattacks: Government institutions have succumbed to politicized cyberattacks in recent years. In November 2020, five days after Vizcarra’s removal, Anonymous hacked and temporarily shut down the website of the Peruvian Congress, reportedly in retaliation for police violence against protesters. Cyberattacks in Peru also have a history of tangible political repercussions. In July 2014, information taken from the Council of Minister’s network and shared online by a group known as “LulzSecPeru” helped launch a no-confidence vote against top Cabinet ministers. Reports of cyberattacks ahead of the election could disrupt the political landscape, impact the electoral administration, or undermine trust in the electoral process.

    Peru has a score of 75 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects unequal access to political processes for ethnic and cultural minorities, rule of law deficits, and a lack of government transparency regarding defense and security policies within a relatively vibrant, though tumultuous, political and electoral environment. The country is rated Free in Freedom in the World 2020, with a score of 72 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties. To learn more about annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Peru country reports in Freedom in the World

    Download the preelection assessment PDF.