2021 Democracy and Human Rights Analysis, Mapping

Supporting Elections Effectively: Principles and Practice of Electoral Assistance

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

As part of its democracy support, Sweden regularly assists countries that conduct parliamentary, presidential and local elections. An international community of Election Assistance (EA) practitioners has over decades built 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 the principles, and systematically assembled the 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, deliberate undermining of elections and other challenges need to be dealt with. Revitalised arenas for knowledge exchange and for 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 backlashes.