ELECTORAL VIOLENCE PERSISTS, URGENT REFORMS NEEDED


ELECTORAL VIOLENCE PERSISTS, URGENT REFORMS NEEDED
Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Clientelism—the politics of patronage and spoils—persists in many developing countries. My own region, the ASEAN, hasn’t clearly built stronger institutions and modern political culture that can undercut and eliminate clientelism once and for all.
With clientelism goes the nightmares of electoral violence. My country the Philippines is among those emerging markets where electoral violence persists, and post-electoral violence still significantly high. Building a modern political culture has been a truly daunting task for many stakeholders, and I could say this as I was active in civil society for the longest part of my life and electoral reforms were ceaseless interventions by us civil society advocates for decades now.
Incidentally, international organizations such as the United Nations attached agencies are very highly engaged in cross-country electoral reforms. Below is a report on the reform recommendations of the United Nations Development Program or UNDP.
[Philippines, 10 July 2011]
Source: http://www.beta.undp.org/undp/en/home/presscenter/pressreleases/2011/06/29/new-undp-study-recommends-electoral-reforms-to-prevent-asia-electoral-violence-.html
New UNDP study recommends reforms to prevent Asia electoral violence
29 June 2011
Bangkok — Countries in Asia are still at risk of electoral violence which can be driven by real and perceived fraud, corruption, or patronage, according to a new study by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
“The mere suspicion or allegation of fraud is often enough, in democracies where there is a lack of confidence in authorities, for people to react violently,” says the study, a 20-page investigation of electoral processes in seven countries of South and South East Asia.
Understanding Electoral Violence in Asia studies electoral processes in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines and Thailand, drawing lessons and making policy-, legislative- and institutional-level recommendations to reduce the risk of electoral violence.
In a number of cases political parties and political party supporters were the main instigators of physical violence, says the report, citing several types of groups and organizations that play key roles in either preventing or perpetuating electoral violence.
The study points to the design of political systems, the mandate and powers of electoral laws and election monitoring as key preventive measures. The role of civic education, media and civil society in informing voters also helps to reduce the likelihood of election-related violence.
Another “contributing factor in election order or disorder is the state itself,” says the report. “In instances where security forces are seen to be partisan or corrupt there is a higher chance that they will be purveyors of violence rather than protectors of peace.”
In addition, when media is controlled by special interests it can have a “destructive role in promoting narrow interests, inflammatory political rhetoric and retarding democratic processes,” says the report.
Key to prevention of electoral violence is the strengthening of election credibility, the report concludes. “Political parties have a crucial role to play in countries where electoral fraud and violence have become institutionalized.”
Among the measures recommended to strengthen election credibility are strong oversight and enforcement powers for election commissions in, for example, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan, and wide-reaching dispute resolution mechanisms in, for example, Indonesia and Thailand.
Systems to track party political spending, for example in Nepal, should also be put in place, as well as ensuring perpetrators of electoral violence in, for example, the Philippines, are brought to justice.
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