2021 Democracy and Human Rights Mapping

Supporting Elections Effectively: Principles and Practice of Electoral Assistance

Sead Alihodžić, Therese Pearce Laanela, Antonio Spinelli, Peter Wolf

Watch the seminar with Therese Pearce Laanela, Sead Alihodžić, Thomas Carothers, Staffan Smedby, and moderator Helena Lindholm.

As part of its democracy support, Sweden regularly assists countries to conduct parliamentary, presidential and local elections. An international community of Election Assistance (EA) practitioners has over decades developed norms and principles for the support to free and fair elections. When properly applied, these principles contribute to more effective election processes. A new EBA study has mapped these principles, while systematically gathering and presenting wider knowledge gained by this community of practitioners.

Given the ongoing wave of autocratization, however, there is an urgent need to update the principles. The influence of new technologies, the role of money in politics, the deliberate undermining of elections and other developments pose new challenges that require addressing. Revitalised arenas for knowledge exchange and the renewal of EA principles are called for.

The report recommends the following:

  • Revitalize international arenas for knowledge exchange on EA;
  • Invest in regional organisations. They are better positioned than others to support free and fair elections in their member countries;
  • Renew internationally agreed principles to deal with current challenges connected to democratic backsliding.