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IFES Announces International Recipients of 2017 Democracy Award and Baxter Award


The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) will honor His Excellency Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS) with its 2017 Charles T. Manatt Democracy Award and Tamar Zhvania, chairwoman of the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Georgia, with its 2017 Joe C. Baxter Award. The honorees will receive the awards at a special ceremony to be held on October 2 in Washington, D.C. The ceremony will be co-chaired by IFES Board Director and Connecticut State Treasurer Denise Nappier and IFES Board Director and Foley & Lardner LLP partner Cleta Mitchell. Cook Political Report Editor and Publisher Charlie Cook will emcee the ceremony.

“Secretary Luis Almagro’s efforts to stand up for freedom and democratic rights in Venezuela under an authoritarian regime are remarkable,” said IFES President and CEO Bill Sweeney. “Equally impressive is Tamar Zvhania’s commitment to excellence in election administration in Georgia, which was evident in the successful implementation of recent parliamentary elections and Georgia’s ongoing democratic transition,” added Sweeney.

Almagro was elected secretary general of the OAS on March 18, 2015, with the support of 33 of 34 member states, and one abstention. Upon taking leadership of the OAS, he announced that one of the central themes of his mandate will be “more rights for more people,” and that he would work to bring the OAS closer to the new realities in the hemisphere and contribute to ensuring more democracy, security and prosperity for all. A career diplomat, Almagro was foreign minister of Uruguay from 2010 to March 1, 2015, and has extensive regional and international experience. In addition, he was elected senator in the national elections in Uruguay in October 2014. Almagro has been an outspoken critic of Nicolas Maduro’s oppressive regime in Venezuela and has continuously denounced human rights violations and shed light on the economic crisis in the country.

Zhvania has been the chairperson of the CEC in Georgia since September 2013. Under her leadership, the CEC has conducted credible elections and continued to professionalize its election management efforts. She was appointed with the endorsement from major political forces, as well as from civil society groups. IFES has partnered with the CEC on the development of a gender policy, an electoral integrity management plan, and on electoral security measures.

“I am truly honored and humbled to accept this award from such a prestigious institution. It recognizes, at a difficult time in our hemisphere, that we at the OAS are working every day to defend and promote democracy and to ensure more rights for more people. I am also grateful to accept this award on behalf of all of those making sacrifices to defend freedom in Venezuela, who are bravely confronting the dictatorship. The people are determined to fight for their rights and recover democracy through peaceful means. They fight for Venezuela but also for the values and principles that unite this hemisphere,” said Almagro.

“I am excited to be nominated by the IFES for the Joe C. Baxter Award. Great achievements are nurtured with the cooperation of many minds with a common vision working toward a common goal. I would like to express my sincere gratitude toward my election administration colleagues in Georgia, as together we managed to achieve special accomplishments. This success would not be possible without the support of the international community,” said Zhvania.

The Charles T. Manatt Democracy Awards are presented each year to a Democrat, a Republican and a member of the international community who demonstrate the dedication to democracy and human rights embodied by the award’s namesake, former IFES Board of Directors Chairman Charles T. Manatt.

Past international recipients include disability rights advocate Nay Lin Soe of Myanmar (2016); former Chairman of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission Professor Attahiru Jega (2015); Venezuelan opposition leader Maria Corina Machado (2014); former President of the Federal Electoral Institute of Mexico Dr. Leonardo Valdés Zurita (2013); Kenyan gender advocate Maimuna Mwidau (2012); South African Judge Johann Kriegler (2011); and former Lebanese Minister of Interior and Municipalities His Excellency Ziad Baroud (2010).

The annual Joe C. Baxter Award recognizes the contributions of election professionals whose skills, dedication and sacrifices to the field of election administration epitomize the mission of IFES and embody the spirit of former IFES Senior Adviser for Election Administration Joe C. Baxter.

Past recipients include former President of Tunisia’s Independent High Authority for Elections Chafik Sarsar (2016); Australian election management expert Michael Maley (2015); former Chief Electoral Commissioner and Chairman of the National Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone Dr. Christiana Thorpe (2014); Professor of Political Science and Government at Aarhus University in Denmark Jørgen Elklit (2013); former Chairman of the Philippine Commission on Elections Christian Monsod (2012); Argentine campaign finance expert Dr. Delia Ferreira Rubio (2011); former Chairman of the Electoral Commission of Ghana Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan (2010); and Spanish elections expert Dr. Rafael López-Pintor (2009).


As the global leader in democracy promotion, IFES advances good governance and democratic rights by providing technical assistance to election officials; empowering the underrepresented to participate in the political process; and applying field-based research to improve the electoral cycle. Since 1987, IFES has worked in over 145 countries, from developing democracies, to mature democracies. For more information, visit


Daniela Colaiacovo,, +1 (202) 350-6802