Global Spread of Democracy Risks Being Undermined by Weak Electoral Processes and Unrestrained Campaign Finance, Warns Global Commission

Eminent panel of former world leaders and experts identifies unrestrained campaign financing as one of five major challenges to democratic progress and elections with integrity around the world

LONDON, Sept. 14, 2012 /CNW/ - Urgent national and international action is needed to protect and promote the integrity of elections, says a new report from the high-level Global Commission on Elections, Democracy and Security.

The report, Deepening Democracy: a Strategy for Improving the Integrity of Elections Worldwide, finds that all but 11 countries have held national elections already this century. But some were deeply flawed, providing nothing but a "false veneer of legitimacy" to autocratic governments.

The Commission emphasises that elections conducted with integrity not only promote democratic values and human rights, but also help to improve governance, fight corruption, empower minority groups and deliver services to the poor.

If not conducted fairly, elections can undermine democracy, worsen divisions, trigger conflicts and fail to deliver improvements in the lives of people.

The Commission of former world leaders, Nobel Prize winners and leading academics identifies five major threats to electoral integrity, including the growing issue of "uncontrolled, undisclosed, illegal and opaque political finance", which affects mature and developing democracies alike.

The Commission cautions: "The rise of uncontrolled political finance threatens to hollow out democracy everywhere and rob democracy of its unique strengths".

Noting repeated failures within the international community to support elections with integrity, the report provides a comprehensive series of recommendations to strengthen electoral processes and norms.  Specific measures include:

  • National Electoral Management Bodies (EMBs) should create a global certification process to evaluate and grade EMBs on their professionalism, independence and competence, including a code of conduct

  • Urgent attention must be given to address the growing threat to democracy posed by financing of political campaigns, parties and candidates by transnational organised crime

  • Domestic election observers should commit to global standards through the Global Network of Domestic Election Monitors

  • A new transnational civil society organization - "Electoral Integrity International" - should be created to bring global attention to countries that succeed or fail in organizing elections with integrity

  • Governments and donors need to prioritise funding and political engagement throughout the entire electoral cycle of countries with problematic elections, supporting necessary dialogue and citizen participation as well as technical improvements

  • Regional organisations must create and communicate "red lines" of egregious electoral malpractice that would trigger immediate multilateral condemnation and sanction if crossed

Kofi Annan, Chair of the Commission, says: "Elections are the indispensable root of democracy. When elections have been free and fair, they can be a powerful catalyst for better governance, greater security and human development. But in the absence of credible elections, citizens have no recourse to peaceful political change. The risk of conflict increases, while corruption, intimidation, and fraud go unchecked, rotting the entire political system slowly from within."

Former Mexican President Dr Ernesto Zedillo comments: "As much as we see vibrant democracies in the world, we also see vulnerabilities in electoral systems - some countries that are trying to be democratic are suffering great failures in electoral processes.  Democracy is becoming a universal value but you cannot have a strong democracy if you do not have the rules, institutions, practices and culture to conduct electoral processes."

Louise Arbour, President and CEO of International Crisis Group, also notes: "The challenges in ensuring elections with integrity are not unique to emerging or transitioning democracies - even Western countries with a long history of democratic institutions can display serious shortcomings. As elections spread across the world we must do everything it takes to have real, meaningful elections - what we call elections with integrity."

Notes to Editors and live webcast at 09:00 GMT at  http://www.global-commission.org/notes-to-editors

SOURCE: Global Commission on Elections, Democracy and Security

For further information:

Georgina Mallory, Georgina.Mallory@portland-communications.com, +44-(0)207-822-1763

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