Flawed and failed elections around the world last year were manipulated through vote rigging and corruption, intimidation, and violence, according to new evidence from the Electoral Integrity Project:
Political finance is often a major problem. Malpractices undermine civic engagement, political accountability, and faith in democracy. These problems arise despite the fact that each year the international community invests about half a billion U.S. dollars to improve elections. The EIP assesses which elections across the world meet international standards. The EIP is an independent research project based at the University of Sydney and Harvard University, directed by Professor Pippa Norris.
Long-standing democracies such as Norway, Germany and the Netherlands were among the highest in electoral integrity, but several newer democracies also ranked highly, including Estonia, Costa Rica, and Slovenia, according to the Electoral Integrity Project’s latest report. By contrast, during 2015 failed contests in Ethiopia, Burundi and Togo were among the worst rated.
- The report found that the most widespread problems concerned money and media. Experts rated around two-thirds (68%) of all elections last year as having ‘failed’ standards of campaign finance. Similarly, 38% of all elections were rated as ‘failed’ in the quality of their media coverage.
- Electoral integrity was undermined by societal constraints such as deep-rooted poverty and a legacy of conflict. It was strengthened by international linkage (e.g. membership of regional organizations), and the design of political institutions (including proportional electoral systems and impartial electoral management bodies).
- Overall, across all issues, last year experts rated one in six elections (8/54) as failing to meet international standards of electoral integrity, (ranked below 40 on the 100-point PEI Index). This included contests with many malpractices in Ethiopia, Burundi, Togo, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Belarus, and Uzbekistan, and Haiti. These elections typically saw fraud, protests, and conflict. Ethiopia, ranked worst, is a key example, where the ruling party, the People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, won all seats in May 2015, amid repression, intimidation, and censorship.
- Another nine elections were deeply flawed in electoral integrity last year, (rated 40-50 on the PEI index). This included contests in Zambia, Tanzania, Sudan, Egypt, Guinea, Guatemala, Venezuela, Turkey and Kazakhstan.
- Even some long-established democracies had elections with some problems. This includes the May 2015 UK general election (ranked 39th worldwide), the worst performance in Western Europe. In the United States, the 2012 Presidential election and the 2014 Congressional elections were ranked worst of any long-established democracy, especially on campaign finance and electoral registration.
- By contrast, however, experts ranked nine elections very highly in meeting international standards of electoral integrity, including in Denmark (ranked 1st), Finland, Estonia, Switzerland, Poland, Portugal, Israel, and Canada.
- Experts also rated elections positively in some developing countries and newer democracies, including in Benin, Croatia, and Lesotho.
- Some notable gains also occurred last year, although contests had room for further improvements, including in Nigeria and Myanmar.