The integrity of every electoral process is crucial to a free, fair, and transparent election and the results declared by the electoral commission of every country where democracy is fully practiced.
Electoral integrity is a global standard used to govern the actions, processes, and conduct of elections. These elements, actions, processes, and conduct of stakeholders are often agreed on by all parties.
If any stakeholder fails to live by the rules governing the elections, it affects people’s trust in the systems, and the results of such an election become suspicious and may be rejected by any of the parties on the grounds of being flawed even if that is not the case.
It is this very evil and the likely negative impact on countries around the world that calls for good electoral laws to guide actions, processes, and conduct of all parties have become more necessary than ever.
For an election to be deemed free, fair, reliable, and transparent, it implies all have accepted integrity issues covering the electoral process as haven been met.
Election transparency integrates with accountability, the accuracy of the officers and administrators, the ethical standards and measures put in place to help truly build integrity infested electoral systems rather than a biased system and an institution that has shadows and dark clouds hovering around each and every process and the decisions taken.
Election Administration as a key to Election Integrity
Get the election administration policy flawed and it may result in serious lapses throughout the process because every action, decision, process emanates from the electoral policy that guides the election administration.
This means the body or electoral commission of the country must have a good policy on elections in place which is updated to meet the changing needs of the country and not the political capital gains, whims and caprices of an incumbent government.
The policy helps in also building an electoral system and processes that all political parties, international partners, civil society organizations and citizens see as clean, fair, and transparent.
When any stakeholder raises questions about the electoral administration, processes, and related issues, an open-minded electoral commissioner and commission must probe it in the best interest of the citizenry and the issue solved to clear any doubts in the minds of all and sundry. The courts also need to bring their knowledge, experience, and legal judgment to bear toward building a strong electoral institution that will gain the trust of all.
The reality is that elections are technical matters and demand a robust administration that is firm, not manipulated in any way, and experienced inside out as there is no room for trial and error. This helps the institution stay afloat and on top of issues.
Any small form of control officers and or manipulation of the process and can be catastrophic to peace and stability.
In many instances across Africa and Asia, this has created sad memories. The use of nondemocratic processes by very often the government to win an election is a sign of the absence of integrity.
The political administration can put in place well thought of plans, strategies, and best practices to either make the election administration process an inch up with integrity or several inches down in favour of one political party or the government of the day.
Should election administrators become suspected of condoning with some groups, political parties, or actors to tilt the will of the people, they are seen as being in bed with the government of the day or a particular party or a foreign interest with so much influence on a local election.
When the integrity of the electoral commission is being questioned often by the opposition, it must be a cause to worry for anyone holding such a position if he or she is not acting in favour of the government.
Political processes, institutions, and staff become better after a series of elections and reforms aimed at building a robust electoral system that hinges on the integrity of the processes and the staff at all levels.
When the opposition fears the government in power is trying to manipulate the processes, and with valid reasons to back their claims, it creates a lack of trust in the system and its managers.
An inexperienced electoral commissioner can be a weak link in building trustworthy electoral processes. The 1998 Cambodian elections is a typical example of how a weak inexperienced officer at the top of such an important process was taken advantage of by the government in power.
This means some electoral commissioners may be appointed to for the motive of taking advantage of their inexperience. Such untested persons can easily be taken advantage of by the very seasoned politicians and parties.without the occupant really knowing.
As stated by Dr. Andreas Schedler,
Inexperienced commissions can also be suspect. The persons may be unknown or untested. The inexperience of a new election policy or management body can be taken advantage of by seasoned politicians and parties. For example, in the 1998 Cambodian elections.
A partisan electoral commission is dangerous to the integrity of any electoral commission. The appointment of the electoral commission should not be the sole duty of the government of the day because the electoral commissioner will not supervise a government’s election but an election with key stakeholders including the opposition parties having an interest. A country with a multi-stakeholder decision on such matters would often have a more well-respected commission.
In leadership, it is very difficult to have followers complain if they were made part of the decision-making process. A committee of experts cutting across the political divide, CSOs and other stakeholders is better positioned to appoint a “clean” electoral commissioner and other top staff than a government in power.
This will provide a more neutral administration for elections who can lead and organize a credible election and block attempts by the incumbent to engage or use the appointed officers to discriminate against other political parties when the country in question is going into an election.
Build electoral processes on integrity, build a trusted one, or walk out and give room for experienced and skilled persons who can deliver. Countries break into pieces due to a lack of knowledge, experience, and integrity of their electoral commission. The integrity of every electoral process starts with leadership.
Source: Wisdom Hammond | Leadership expert and freelancer