LONDON (TrustLaw) – International action to protect and promote the integrity of national elections is urgently required, a panel of former world leaders, academics and Nobel Prize winners said in a report published on Friday.
The report by the Global Commission on Elections, Democracy and Security, chaired by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, found that although national elections have taken place in all but 11 countries in the world since 2000, many of them lacked integrity.
It defined an election with integrity as an election based on universal suffrage, which was professional, impartial and transparent in the way it is prepared and executed.
“Where elections lack integrity, politicians, officials and institutions are not accountable to the public, which is denied equal opportunity to participate in and influence the political process,” the report, said.
One of the major threats to the integrity of elections outlined in the report was the issue of campaign financing.
“We believe that one of the biggest threats against democracy, both in developing and developed countries, has to do with the question of political financing,” Ernesto Zedillo, former president of Mexico and vice chair of the commission said at a conference to launch the report.
Zedillo said that it was “unacceptable” that special interests could control political systems and electoral processes and he called for an international debate on political financing otherwise “democracies will continue to weaken”.
While the report highlighted the controversial Citizens United ruling in the United States which effectively removed barriers to corporate and union funding of political campaigns, it also cited the use of illicit funds by drug traffickers in Costa Rica to influence the island’s elections.
Other challenges to holding elections with integrity that the report identified included the lack of an independent election body, a breakdown in the rule of law and barriers to universal and equal participation in the electoral process.
The report also recommended that a civil society watchdog called Electoral Integrity International be set up to pressurise countries to promote the integrity of the electoral process.
“Such an organization could be to electoral malpractice what Transparency International is to corruption,” the report said.
The organisation would be independent and not attached to a government so would be able to “name and shame”, Annan told the conference.