A UNC professor will have a hand in shaping election laws for what could be the first truly democratic elections in the history of Egypt and Tunisia.
Andrew Reynolds, associate professor of political science and chairman of the curriculum of international and area studies, will be advising the two north African nations — both of which recently underwent popular uprisings — on their elections and electoral systems.
He has yet to set a date to travel to either country for his work, which will be in conjunction with the National Endowment for Democracy, the National Security Council and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems.
While abroad, Reynolds will work with governmental and civil figures to develop an understanding of what is needed for their elections.
“It’s fascinating because if Tunisia gets it right, it serves as a beacon for other North African countries like Egypt,” he said.
He had originally only planned on working with Tunisia’s new government, but was enlisted to help Egypt after former president Hosni Mubarak stepped down.
Reynolds has worked in more than 20 countries in his 20 years as an electoral and constitutional design consultant including Afghanistan, Iraq and Burma.
“My work is just one piece of the puzzle. Having free elections is just one piece of the puzzle,” he said. “The Tunisian elections should be as inclusive as possible.
“For years the ballot was occupied by one regime. The goal is to get all these groups a chance to be voted for.”
Jonathan Weiler, director of undergraduate studies in the global studies department, said Reynolds is qualified for the job.
“Andy’s been consulting with governments about constitution design for years and has real expertise, so he’s definitely a great fit for this job.”
As a veteran in the field, Reynolds is more excited than nervous about his trip, but notes that each country has a different history and offers a new experience.
“I’ve learned a lot through pure hands-on experience,” he said. “I was in Pakistan and Burma recently, and you learn a lot more when you’re on the ground.
“Obviously, they don’t want foreign countries coming in telling them what to do, but in regards to all the countries I’ve traveled to, I’ve been asked to come and help, so I’m always welcomed.”
Dr. Ron Strauss, executive associate provost and chief international officer, said Reynold’s work reflected well on both Reynolds and on the University.
“He is remarkable. He does such great work in such a variety of places promoting free elections, education, democracy — how could we be anything less than ecstatic?”
In 1990, after graduating from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, Reynolds moved to South Africa to observe the country’s electoral system and study at the University of Cape Town.
He was then invited to work with the United Nations and has worked as an election and constitution consultant for more than 15 years.
When he isn’t helping write constitutions, Reynolds hopes to provide the tools his students need.
“Our legacy is giving our students the capacity to achieve things in the rest of the world,” he said.
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