Sunday, 3 January 2016

Challenges in Mexican elections

by Miguel Angel Lara Otaola
University of Sussex (

The issue of integrity has long been of concern in Mexico, given many decades when clientelism and corruption were widely used to influence elections and their outcomes. In recent years, reforms have been introduced and have managed to strengthen significantly the transparency of the electoral process and stamp out malpractices. Nevertheless, some concerns still remain about these issues. For example, following the July 2012 presidential elections, the losing candidate for PRD, López Obrador, claimed there had been widespread irregularities by PRI, involving the distribution of store credit cards to buy votes. These claims were dismissed by the country’s Electoral Tribunal as no significant evidence was presented but nevertheless a shadow of doubt remained amongst certain sectors of the population.
To explore the integrity of elections, the Electoral Integrity Project coordinated the Perceptions of Electoral Integrity Mexico Study (PEI-Mexico 1.0). This was conducted after June 7 2015, when Mexico held federal and local level elections in 17 out of 32 states in the country[1]. The study was organized by researchers at the Universities of Sydney and Harvard, in association with Nicolás Loza and Irma Méndez, both professors and researchers in FLACSO México.
This study gathered expert perceptions about whether elections meet internationally recognised standards. The survey asked national and international election experts to monitor the quality of the elections based on 49 indicators grouped into eleven stages, ranging from electoral laws to the impartiality of electoral authorities. The survey was sent one month after the elections and covers the 17 contests in the following states: Baja California Sur, Campeche, Chiapas, Colima, Distrito Federal, Estado de Mexico, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán, Morelos, Nuevo León, Querétaro, San Luis Potosí, Sonora, Tabasco and Yucatan.  In total 734 expert respondents were contacted, generating 292 completed replies. The average response rate was 37.5% overall.

Moderate integrity and varied state performance
The results show that experts rated the quality of state elections in Mexico as moderate (53 points out of 100). This is lower than the Mexican presidential elections in July 2012 (scoring 62 points) but identical to the score in the June 2015 Congressional elections. Figure 1 shows the absolute PEI index results for the 2015 state elections in Mexico.
Yet significant differences are found amongst the states. While Queretaro, Jalisco and Baja California obtain scores close to 60, Estado de Mexico, Morelos, San Luis Potosi and Tabasco score under 50, with Chiapas obtaining only 37. Figure 2 shows the ranking of PEI scores for all 17 states.  This variation may be explained by the many political, economic and social differences between states.

Figure 1. Perceptions of Electoral Integrity (PEI) Mexico subnational election (absolute values)

Figure 2. PEI Ranking in 17 Mexican states.

Note: Scores on the PEI 100-point index by state in the 7 June 2015 elections. Source: PEI-Mexico 1.0 N.292.

Threats from violence and organized crime
One issue of concern in Mexico is the increase of violence associated with drug related activities in the country (Aguirre and Herrera, 2013; Shirk and Wallman, 2015). The general issue was monitored by the statement “Some voters were threatened with violence.” The results in Figure 3 show that the perceived threat of violence was indeed correlated with the overall quality of the state elections.

Figure 3.  Perceived threat of violence and electoral integrity in 17 Mexican states.
Source: PEI-Mexico 1.0 N.281.

But violence can arise from multiple causes and actors. To monitor the issue in more detail, the PEI-Mexico survey included a battery of 6 items on the topic. These questions ask in particular about the influence of organised crime on a number of issues such as candidate selection, threats to candidates, campaign finance, voter turnout, voter’s choice and on its role defining results in cities that concentrate half or more of the state’s population.

In general, out of the six issues, Table 1 shows that organised crime’s greatest influence was seen to lie in financing political candidates. In addition, the states of Distrito Federal, Estado de Mexico, Guerrero, and Michoacán are seen to be slightly more affected by the influence of organised crime. In comparison, we can see that organised crime is thought to have no influence in elections states like  Campeche, Yucatan and Queretaro.

Table 1.  PEI survey – influence of organised crime in 17 states

Note: Respondents were asked to give their opinion on a five point scale ranging from 1 or “strongly disagree” to 5 or “strongly agree”.  Higher marks mean that organised crime is believed to have a greater influence on elections.
Source: PEI-Mexico 1.0 N.281.

The PEI-Mexico subnational index compares the integrity of the 2015 elections in Mexico across 17 states and allows systematic research on issues such as voter registration, vote count, electoral procedures, campaign finance and campaign media, amongst others. All the data is free and can be downloaded from


Aguirre, J., & Herrera, H. (2013). Institutional weakness and organized crime in Mexico: The case of Michoacán. Trends in Organized Crime, 16(2), 221-238.

Eisenstadt, T.A. 2004. Courting democracy in Mexico: party strategies and electoral institutions. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Greene, Kenneth F. 2007. Why Dominant Parties Lose: Mexico's Democratization in Comparative Perspective. New York: Cambridge University Press

Instituto Nacional Electoral- INE, (2015) “Numeralia Proceso Electoral 2014-2015” Available from: (Accessed 9 December 2015)

Norris, Pippa; Martinez i Coma, Ferran; Gromping, Max; Nai, Alessandro, 2015, "Perceptions of Electoral Integrity, Version 3.5",, Harvard Dataverse, V1

Norris, Pippa; Martinez i Coma, Ferran; Nai, Alessandro, 2015; Gromping, Max "Perceptions of Electoral Integrity-Mexico, (PEI-Mexico 1.0)”,, Harvard Dataverse, V1

Shirk, David, Wallman, & Joel. (2015). Understanding Mexico’s Drug Violence.59(8), 1348-1376.

Simpser, Alberto. 2012. ‘Does electoral manipulation discourage voter turnout? Evidence from Mexico.’ Journal of Politics 74(3): 782–795.

Zamudio, Pedro (2015) “La casilla única: reto para las instituciones” Available from: (Accessed 9 December 2015)

[1] Elections for 16 states were held on 7 June, 2015 while local elections for Chiapas were held on 19 July, 2015.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

The 2017 elections in Kenya - new hope for electoral integrity?

By Ferran Martínez i Coma

Kenya’s electoral integrity has been on the spot in the last two contests. The 2007 election spiraled into violence that left about 1000 dead and almost half a million internally displaced.

Luckily the 2013 election was not violent, yet it was marred by many problems. In fact, as the graphic shows, the elections obtained a very mixed score on the electoral integrity sub-indexes. While the ‘laws’ section was very much praised among the experts – the recent Kenya’s constitution is considered one of the most progressive –, they indicated there were serious problems to do with campaign finance and voter registration.


Following the 2013 elections, political and civil society actors resolved to improve the integrity of the forthcoming 2017 election. A host of actions, policies, activities and events are being organized to share knowledge, discuss strategies and prepare for the 2017 election. The Electoral Integrity Project (EIP) was invited by the Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF) to present its comparative work on electoral integrity in Africa and around the world, and to participate in their stakeholder meeting on “Enhancing integrity and public confidence in electoral processes” on 5 November. I travelled to Nairobi to represent EIP here, and also presented EIP’s work on Money, Politics and Transparency at a workshop on “The risks of campaign financing” organized by Strathmore University and the Institute for Ethics, Governance and Law at Griffith University on Tuesday 10 November.

The meeting on November 5th, co-organized by HSF and the Institute for Education in Democracy, was designed to have two program sessions. During the morning session, I presented the report Electoral Integrity in Africa, which was followed by a productive debate that focused on two distinct issues – concrete methodological and substantive feedback on the report, and issues of electoral integrity in Kenya.

To facilitate an open and in-depth debate, the afternoon discussion session of the meeting followed the World Café methodology, in which all participants had their say on a wide range of topics related to the forthcoming elections, including transparency, technology, staff capacity, external forces, legal framework and communications. World Café is a structured conversational process that focuses on exploring and thinking creatively about questions or themes, as opposed to scenarios where discussion is directed towards a predetermined answer or solution. The process also provides an open forum for discussion that aims to equalize the power relationships between participants in order to understand and learn from multiple points of view. This was useful given that the meeting included participants from members of political parties and stakeholders involved in the organization of the elections, to representatives of Kenyans in the diaspora and other citizens’ organizations.

The exercise took the rest of the day and proved to be very productive since the different stakeholders (political party representatives, IEBC members, NGOs and think tanks, etc.), provided different proposals to deal with problems that Kenyan elections have faced in the recent years. This excellent initiative resulted in ‘take home points’ which summarized the contributions of participants and reflected general principles but also a number of concrete measures. Here I would like to that the opportunity to explicitly thank Uta Staschewski, who is the HSF Resident Representative in Kenya and Ethiopia, and her excellent team.

At Monday’s workshop on “The risks of campaign financing” at Strathmore University I presented EIP’s recent work on campaign finance issues in a comparative perspective. The meeting was addressed to stakeholders of the electoral process in Kenya, where campaign finance is a very serious problem, as the above graph shows. The talk addressed three questions: What do Political Finance Regimes look like globally?; What causes countries to regulate and what triggers landmark political finance reforms?; and ‘What works’, what fails, and why – when countries regulate and implement reforms? To answer such questions I relied on an extensive and detailed forthcoming research leaded by Pippa Norris and Andrea Abel van Es, and their forthcoming book Checkbooks Elections? I first explained why campaign finance regulation (CFR) is important, relying on IDEA’s definitions and placing it in the general context of electoral integrity. To demonstrate that CFR is a global problem, I presented original data on the performance of the finance indicators around the world, spoke about current upheaval in Argentina, France, Mexico, Spain, UK, India and Indonesia, and presented worldwide public opinion data on perceptions of campaign finance and spoke about general problems when regulating money in politics. As in the previous event, the audience was engaged and some concrete measures were suggested in order to improve (or at least change) the current state of the funding. For example, it was suggested the possibility of studying deductions in the income tax by donating to political parties. As last January, Professor Charles Sampford and Dr. Peter Odhiambo organized an excellent event.

We will continue to pay attention to the Kenyan elections as well as our cooperation and our work with HSF and other stakeholders. We hope to explore future venues of cooperation in the future.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Elecciones en España: ¿Quién gana y quién pierde con los CERA?

Publicado por primera vez en Piedras de Papel (
  • El censo de residentes ausentes podría ser una circunscripción electoral tan grande como Valencia, la tercera en tamaño
  • El ejercicio del derecho al voto se ha reducido a menos del 5% desde su reforma, menos de la sexta parte que en el pasado
Ferran Martínez i Coma

Circunscripciones donde el censo de residentes en el exterior es más numeroso

Durante estos días –y hasta el 21 de noviembre- los españoles residentes en el extranjero pueden pedir el voto. Antes de solicitarlo, sin embargo, deben estar registrados en sus respectivos consulados o embajadas y deben haberlo hecho antes del 1 de agosto. Si no es así, no podrán votar. Los que pueden votar están incluidos en el Censo de Españoles Residentes Ausentes, también conocido como CERA.

La Delegación Provincial del Censo, enviará las papeletas a los CERA a partir del 30 de noviembre. Y los que puedan (y quieran) votar, lo harán en urna en el consulado entre el 16 y 18 de diciembre (esto es entre miércoles y viernes) o por correo, enviándolo al consulado hasta el 15 de diciembre. Los CERA no son un asunto menor. En este momento, rozan los 2 millones y representan el 5% del censo. Desde 1996 se han triplicado. Si, como en otros países, los residentes en el extranjero fueran una circunscripción electoral, serian la tercera más importante, después de Madrid y Barcelona, a la par que Valencia, que dispone 16 escaños.

Sin embargo, en España votamos en nuestra circunscripción, que es la provincia. Así las cosas, las preguntas de este post son muy simples. ¿En que provincias hay más (y menos) CERA? Y, ¿hay algún partido que sale beneficiado (o perjudicado) por el voto CERA?

Como todavía no disponemos del número de CERA para las elecciones generales, para responder la primera pregunta, utilizo el número de los CERA de las últimas elecciones europeas – que está disponible en la web del Ministerio del Interior. Lo hago así por dos motivos: es lo más cercano en el tiempo y el número, aunque mayor que respecto a las europeas, no será tan distinto como en otras ocasiones.

El gráfico de apertura muestra las provincias con mayor proporción de CERA: las cuatro gallegas –el caso de Ourense es espectacular pues 1 de cada 4 de sus electores reside en el extranjero-, seguidas de Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Asturias, todas ellas por encima del 10% y Zamora, que lo roza. León, Salamanca, Las Palmas y Soria tienen entre un 9 y un 7% de los votos que se deciden fuera de la provincia.

El ranking no sorprende: tanto la emigración gallega como la asturiana fue muy importante y no es raro encontrarse con centros de dichas comunidades en América Latina (de hecho, viendo la gráfica, no sorprende que en la Argentina a los españoles todavía nos llamen ‘gallegos’). También sabemos que los canarios en Venezuela son un grupo considerable.

Entre los andaluces, los granadinos son los que más votantes CERA tienen (algo más de un 5%) mientras que en Huelva no llegan al 1,5%. Los catalanes tampoco tienen, proporcionalmente, muchos censados en el CERA: mientras que en Lleida casi son el 5%, en Barcelona algo más del 3% y Girona y Tarragona algo menos. La comunidad autónoma con menor porcentaje de CERA es, sin duda, Castilla la Mancha, donde Albacete 1,8% y Ciudad Real con un 1,18% son los puntos máximos y mínimos de la región, respectivamente.

La segunda pregunta de este post es política. ¿Hay algún partido que sale beneficiado (o perjudicado) por el voto CERA? Tal y como mostramos en Aragón es nuestro Ohio, tradicionalmente el partido más beneficiado ha sido el PSOE. El PSOE consigue una mayor proporción de votos entre los CERA que entre los residentes en todas y en cada una de las elecciones generales con la excepción de 2004, que es el PP quien consigue mejores resultados (lo que puede ser indicativo tanto de la mala campaña de este partido como de la gestión del 11-M). Como también mostramos en el libro, la emergencia de una nueva emigración española en estos últimos años, junto a la la aparición de nuevos competidores políticos, podría haber puesto fin a este patrón: en las elecciones autonómicas celebradas en la pasada primavera, el primer partido en votos CERA fue Podemos.

Ya explique aquí que el voto rogado se impuso en 2011 por el PP, PSOE, CiU y BNG y que la intención era la de aumentar las garantías del proceso. Sin embargo, no se nos explicó que garantías se habían vulnerado en procesos anteriores. Tampoco se nos contó, por ejemplo, que en Suiza siguen utilizando nuestro anterior sistema (¿es que a los suizos les importan menos las garantías que a los españoles?) y no parecen tener demasiados problemas.

Gracias a la reforma, la participación de los CERA pasó del 31,7% en 2008 al 4,95% en 2011. Vistos los resultados, todos los grupos políticos quieren cambiar el sistema. ¿Todos? No. El PP es la excepción y tiene mayoría absoluta. Si suponemos que todos los partidos quieren maximizar sus votos; que los analistas del PP miran la serie de datos histórica de las generales; y que los emigrados durante esta legislatura probablemente no sean los más proclives a votar por ellos, es probable que la estrategia del PP sea la más razonable. O tal vez no, desconocemos el futuro, pero mirando los datos anteriores sí podemos ver cuántos escaños cambiaron en el pasado debido a los CERA.

Este ejercicio se puede hacer para las elecciones de 2011 –pero en esas la participación de los CERA cayó en picado debido a la reforma explicada anteriormente. Así que lo hago con los datos de 2008 para las 6 provincias con mayor proporción de CERA y que tienen mayor peso electoral. Resultado: los CERA no tuvieron peso significativo, entendido como el cambio de un escaño de un partido a otro. Tanto en Lugo como en Ourense, con pocos escaños en juego (4) los CERA no influyeron en su distribución. Pero tampoco lo hicieron en Pontevedra (7), A Coruña (8), Santa Cruz de Tenerife (7) o Asturias (8). Lo he hecho también para Madrid (35), Barcelona (31), Valencia (16), Alicante (12), Sevilla (12), Málaga (10), Murcia (10), Cádiz (9), Baleares (8) y Vizcaya (8). Los resultados no varían. Esto no quiere decir que los CERA no sean nunca determinantes. Pero en 2008 tanto en las provincias más grandes, como las que tienen una mayor proporción de CERA, los residentes en el extranjero no cambiaron el resultado final. Dicho de otro modo: si los CERA de dichas provincias no hubieran votado, los resultados habrían sido los mismos.

Responder la pregunta a futuro es imposible por la cantidad de variables que desconocemos. Si se quieren simular posibles resultados hay que hacer demasiados supuestos: tanto en lo que respecta la participación, como en lo que se refiere a la distribución de los votos. Si las encuestas están en lo cierto, y estas elecciones son más competidas, en principio el PSOE tendría una ventaja comparada con el PP… pero tampoco conocemos qué éxito tendrán Podemos y Ciudadanos entre los nuevos votantes CERA el 20-D (los resultados de las autonómicas auguran que alto), ni si se distribuyen de forma homogénea entre las provincias. Tampoco sabemos si los CERA son votantes más fieles que los residentes. En resumen, es complejo.

En conclusión: 1) desde una perspectiva histórica, el PSOE ha sido el vencedor entre los CERA, aunque esta posición está ahora en entredicho; 2) el peso de los CERA es variable en función de la provincia; 3) en las provincias más grandes y con mayor proporción de CERA, estos no han determinado escaños. Así las cosas, no se entiende muy bien la decisión del PP. Si en el año con mayor participación de los CERA éstos no determinaron ningún escaño, ¿por qué el PP se empeña en no cambiar la situación absurda a todas luces? Lo único que está consiguiendo el PP es enfadar a muchos residentes en el exterior. Algunos volverán a casa en el futuro. Y la simpatía a los partidos es un valor clave a la hora de votar.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Brazil in crisis

By Jeffrey Karp

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff is being threatened with impeachment over a series of serious corruption scandals to do with the alleged misuse of funds during her 2014 re-election campaign. As the political drama unfolded, Professor Jeffrey Karp represented the Electoral Integrity Project at the September 2015 Day of Research of the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies.

Karp provided the keynote at this year's September 15th session themed 'Political Reform and Participation'. Guiding the roundtable discussions were questions such as 'What political reform is being demanded by society at large?' and 'What political reforms can increase the quality of democracy in Brazil?'.

Professor Jeff Karp reports.

In the 1970s, in the aftermath of the Watergate, scholars debated whether political scandals could undermine faith and trust in government and political institutions. No one doubts that scandals can have adverse affects for politicians and political leaders. But it was once widely believed that the political system benefited from a ‘‘reservoir of institutional goodwill’’ which was assumed to be distinct from how citizens view incumbents and the specific actions or decisions that are made in the institutions in which they reside. Now there is little doubt that scandals, which are becoming a recurring feature of political life in both advanced and emerging democracies, can undermine confidence in the political system.

Brazil faces a political crisis that has implicated nearly half of the members of Congress and six different political parties. The scandal, dubbed “Operation Carwash” is a huge money laundering scheme, that involves the state-owned oil company Petrobras. It holds a near monopoly on petrol sales controlling one of the biggest oil deposits discovered in the world in this century and producing 2.5 million barrels of oil per day. Dozens of senior politicians have allegedly received kickbacks from oil contracts as part of a scheme to buy votes. Illicit donations are assumed to have funded Rousseff’s 2014 reelection campaign. Meanwhile the country is suffering from a severe economic crisis. The economy has gone into the worst recession in 25 years and unemployment is at a five year high.

It remains to be seen whether Rousseff, who has not yet completed a year of her second term, will survive. Her approval ratings have fallen to a dismal 9%. When I visited the Chamber of Deputies last month, members of Congress were openly debating whether to impeach the President. Impeachment would be the first since 1992. However, two-thirds of the legislators in the lower house would need to support an impeachment vote for it to pass along with 54 Senators. The chances of impeachment depend on whether the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, or PMDB, Brazil’s largest party and a member of Rousseff's ruling coalition, turns on the President. The Speaker of the House, Eduardo Cunha, who left the PMDB in July, has also been implicated in the scandal. He is accused of taking as much as $40 million in bribes for himself and his allies and hiding the funds in his Swiss bank account. Brazil’s main opposition parties have publicly demanded his resignation.

In early October the Federal Accounts Court ruled that Rousseff's government's accounting practices were illegal, and the Brazilian electoral court, the TSE, has decided to probe the alleged illegalities of her re-election campaign. Whilst a ruling will not necessarily lead to sanctions, it will pave the way for a legal and political battle, which could result in new elections if Rousseff's 2014 win is declared invalid. These are uncertain times for Brazil's political elite. 

Visit our website to read more about EIP's work on regulating money in politics.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

A Short History of the Future of Elections

The following remarks on the future of elections sketch the ambitious scope of an exciting Sydney/Berlin research project launched last week at the the University of Sydney

We live in times shaped by the conviction that periodic ‘free and fair’ elections are the heart and soul of democracy. Since 1945, when only a dozen parliamentary democracies were left on our planet, elections have come to be seen widely as the best way of forming good governments, sometimes even as a ‘timeless’ and non-negotiable feature of political life. Article 21 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in December 1948, famously set the standard: ‘The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage’.

This is the global orthodoxy. Yet all’s not well in the house of elections; public fractiousness and political dissent are brewing. There are signs of rising citizen disaffection with mainstream ‘catch-all’ parties accused of failing to be all good things to all voters. Support for populist parties is rising. Experiments with ‘anti-political’, direct-action social networks are flourishing. In some quarters, voting is judged a worthless waste of time, money and energy. And more than a few democracies are shaped by what can be called the Philippines syndrome: a strangely contradictory trend marked by elections that come wrapped in intense media coverage and great public excitement mixed with bitter disappointment about the sidelining of elected governments by big banks, big money and the outsourcing of state functions to cross-border power chains. The feeling that elections are pointless manipulations by the rich and powerful finds its nadir in the whole phenomenon of ‘electoral despotism’ in Russia, China, central Asia and elsewhere: the use by oligarchs of periodic elections as an instrument for consolidating arbitrary power.

Pressured by such developments, the passion and purpose that fuelled the historic post-1789 struggles for ‘one person, one vote’ seem to be dying, or dead. So it comes as an odd surprise that our times are equally marked by organised refusals to let hollowed-out elections get the upper hand. There are not only signs of renewed interest in making elections ‘free and fair’; many efforts are under way to multiply their forms and invest them with new meaning.

The trends take our world of global politics into the future, towards the unknown. Since 1945, a whole new anthropology of electoral practices has taken root in such ‘non-Western’ contexts as India, Sierra Leone, Bhutan, Taiwan and Iran. The political geography of elections is changing. Global communications enable diaspora voting. National elections are witnessed by regional and global publics. Elections are exported, by force of arms. Voting in cross-border settings is spreading; it now shapes the life of organisations such as the IOC, WTO, European Parliament, Tibetan Administration and the Antarctica Treaty System.

Alternative sites of elected and un-elected representation are meanwhile multiplying; monitory democracy gains ground at the expense of old-fashioned parliamentary democracy. The contours of elections are also being reshaped by crowd sourcing, election monitoring, integrity projects and the growth of micro-parties and ‘liquid’ party procedures. In more than a few global contexts, efforts to extend votes to the dead and the unborn and to the world of living species and inanimate things are also on the political agenda.

These various efforts to counter feelings of the worthlessness of voting (‘elections without democracy’) can be interpreted as experiments in breathing new life back into the spirit and substance of elections. They raise fundamental questions of global political importance: in spite of their declining importance in determining who gets what, when and how, do elections with integrity have a future? Do they still matter and, if so, is their rejuvenation, against formidable odds, now among the vital political imperatives of our age? Or are elections slowly losing their grip on democracy? Are they perhaps in terminal decline, or (as David van Reybrouck and others contend) destructive of the spirit and substance of democracy? Is the universal belief in the universality of ‘free and fair’ elections a mid-20th-century delusion, a worn-out dogma now urgently in need of replacement by fresh visions and new democratic innovations fit for our times?

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Effective electoral reform - What works?

Do capacity building workshops for EMBs improve skills for polling workers? Do electoral observers deter fraud? Do campaign finance reforms prevent corruption? The international community is spending almost half a billion dollars a year on programs seeking to strengthen elections – but no consensus exists about the effectiveness of alternative types of interventions.

International experts gathered on 2nd September 2015 in San Francisco to identify “What works? Strengthening Electoral Integrity”. The Electoral Integrity Project workshop, held the day before the American Political Science Association’s annual meeting, brought together more than one hundred academics and practitioners in the field of electoral governance and democratization. The event was generously co-sponsored with International IDEA.

“The challenge is to identify the most effective strategies with credible evidence, scientific rigor, and practical uses.” Pippa Norris, Director EIP Project

Elections have now spread globally to all but a handful of countries worldwide. Yet widespread problems harm democratic governance, such as gerrymandering, inaccurate electoral registers, ballot-box stuffing and miscounts, voter intimidation and security defects. Malpractices can undermine faith in the legitimacy of elected authorities, erode public satisfaction with democracy, weaken and electoral turnout. Citizens, groups and opposition parties have fought to protect electoral rights. The international community and domestic stakeholders have invested considerable efforts to strengthen electoral integrity, as a critical component of democratic governance.

But what are the most effective types of strategic interventions?

To address this question, the workshop featured almost three-dozen papers. Research addressed interventions implemented throughout the electoral cycle, from legal reforms, ballot designs, biometric voter registration, and automated redistricting practices, to domestic and international observation initiatives, the transparency of EMBs, technical assistance, and regulating political finance and political advertising. Studies examined diverse cases, from Ireland and Britain to Tunisia, Pakistan, Indonesia, Croatia, Ghana, Malawi and Brazil.

Bridging the gap between academia and the field
During lunchtime, roundtable discussions brought together academics and practitioners. This innovative session created a platform for exchanging ideas and experiences. Leading practitioners included David Carroll (Carter Center), Annette Fath-Lihic (International IDEA), Denis Kadima (Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa), Vasu Mohan (IFES), Seema Shah (International IDEA), Massimo Tommasoli (International IDEA), and Chad Vickery (IFES).

The meeting concluded that collaboration between practitioners and academics needs to be strengthened. Careful assessment of any election project requires the rich practical awareness generated by field experience, and the theoretical knowledge and scientific evidence that guide academic work. Both provide an evaluation framework that is policy relevant, theoretically innovative, and empirically implementable.

Participants agreed on the fundamental necessity of replication to account for context-specific factors – be they cultural, social, political, institutional, economical – that otherwise undermine the generalizability of empirical findings. Related to this, participants also spoke of the need for a long-term approach that integrates past experiences, as well as both field and textbook knowledge. Tools for effective evaluations need to be part of the program design from the outset. Participants concluded that challenges to effective evaluation include partisan interference in assessments, lack of political will, ethical problems in field experiments, organizational resistance to (data) transparency, and conflicting stakeholder and donor priorities.

Looking ahead
Workshop papers are in the process of being reviewed by the organizers with a view to produce an edited book, planned to be published in 2016. The event was the seventh in a series of EIP workshops held since 2012 in Madrid, Harvard, Chicago, Manchester, Montreal, and Sydney, building an international network of scholars and practitioners working on electoral integrity.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Electoral Integrity across Regime Types - Highlights from the ECPR general conference in Montreal

Margarita Zavadskaya is a PhD candidate at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy (

Holly Ann Garnett is a PhD candidate at McGill University in Montreal, Canada (

Two weeks ago, the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) general conference crossed the Atlantic and came to Montreal for four days of exciting panels, round-tables, lectures and discussions. A section of four panels on “The Hidden Challenges of Electoral Integrity” was organized by 2014 visitors to the Electoral Integrity Project (EIP) in Sydney, Margarita Zavadskaya (EUI) and Holly Ann Garnett (McGill). The section was sponsored by the EIP and featured 18 researchers from 4 continents.

The selection of panels touched upon the effects of specific types of electoral malpractice across political regimes. Presenters employed diverse methods, from in-depth case studies and QCA, to survey data analysis and cross-national quantitative techniques. Topics included the gaps between legal framework and electoral performance, the relationship between different types of party systems and electoral rules and the (perceived) quality of elections and electoral process in East Europe and post-Soviet countries, Latin America and South-East Asia. Two related research questions emerged as key to better understanding the challenges of electoral integrity: What are the greatest challenges to electoral integrity faced by various regimes types? What are the causes and consequences of electoral integrity or malpractice in various regime types?

In a panel on electoral integrity in authoritarian regimes, Lee Morgenbesser (Griffith University) provided a systematic overview of the main functions of “authoritarian elections” in South-East Asia and its policy implications. Samuele Dominioni (Science Po) raised the critical question of autocrat’s learning from one election to another through the mechanisms of diffusion. In a similar vein, Margarita Zavadskaya (EUI) used large-N analysis show how electoral malpractice may support or undermine electoral authoritarianism. These papers emphasized that electoral integrity and malpractice can have diverse and unintended consequences for authoritarian regimes.

In established democracies, on the other hand, electoral malpractice can look quite different. In these countries, our examination of fraud is often far more microscopic, as evidenced in Tomáš Lebeda’s paper (Palacký University) on the rate of invalid voting in the Czech Republic. However, there remain substantial threats to electoral integrity. For example, Michael Pal (Ottawa) focused on recent legal reforms aimed to prevent voter fraud in Canada and Australia. Pal’s paper sparked a discussion about the political will for voter suppression in some established democracies, described as a battle to manipulate the shape of the electorate.

This section highlighted that the importance placed on different components of electoral integrity may differ between regimes, countries, and even individuals. In fact, Alessandro Nai (University of Sydney) and Camille Reynolds (Université de Lausanne) addressed the personality and values as an individual-level determinant of perceptions of electoral integrity. Similarly, Marcus Spittler (WZB Berlin Social Science Center) considered the differences between voters’ and experts’ perception of electoral integrity.

These papers sparked many interesting questions about the various components that make up the concept of electoral integrity and how they can reflect different problems across regime types, regions, countries and individuals. The conference sparked many interesting discussions and facilitated future collaborations on electoral integrity across regime types.