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The status of electoral integrity in Africa

The status of electoral integrity in Africa

On 22 June, the Electoral Integrity Project (EIP), in partnership with the Hanns Seidel Foundation, launched a report titled Electoral Integrity in Africa.

The report is the first by the EIP to present findings of the study of electoral integrity in a specific region, in this case, Africa, a continent of great diversity whose elections are under-studied in comparison with Europe or America. 

“The purpose of the report is twofold,” explains Dr Ferran Martínez i Coma, Research Associate at the Electoral Integrity Project and co-author of the report.

“First, it aims to present the African results of the perceptions of electoral integrity expert surveys, and second, to analyse important elements at play in shaping the integrity of African elections. Much attention has been placed on polling day and the immediate administration of elections, but many other elements of the electoral cycle are key to the integrity of the elections.”

The report notes an increasing trend in democracies and even non-democracies holding elections. But what determines whether elections have integrity, when and why do they fail and what adjustments are necessary to ensure their success? The report provides new, comprehensive analyses of recent elections in African countries. It covers 49 different indicators of electoral integrity in national executive and legislative elections of 28 countries from July 2012 to December 2014. 

Some of the findings of the report are:

  1. The degree of threats to electoral integrity is more severe in Africa when compared to the rest of the world; 
  2. The types of problems in Africa are similar to those found in the rest of the world. Put simply, there is no African electoral exceptionalism; 
  3. The report highlights the fact that elections can fail long before election day, so attention should be paid to the electoral dynamics and institutional quality over the entire election cycle not just election day;
  4. State resources for elections are important, but not determinant; 

Speaking at the launch, Judge Johann Kriegler, former South African Constitutional Court Judge, highlighted the importance of such research and emphasized the importance of the rule of law in society as an influence on electoral integrity.

The launch event formed part of an expert conference entitled “Electoral Integrity Conference 2015 - Detecting and Deterring Electoral Fraud and Malpractice in Africa: The Role of Political Parties”, which took place between 22 and 24 June 2015 in Cape Town. 

The conference brought together 30 electoral experts - politicians, practitioners, and academics - to discuss how political parties in Africa can contribute to promoting electoral integrity on the continent as well as to evaluate recent elections with a view to identifying emerging patterns of electoral fraud and malpractice in Africa.