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Promoting electoral integrity through aid: Analysis and advice for donors

Despite increased donor spending on electoral integrity, elections in democratising countries often suffer from irregularities, intimidation, and corruption. Based on an analysis of new indicators, we suggest that practitioners should target electoral assistance to low-income societies; structure risk assessment around an understanding of informal norms, institutions, and power relations; and develop novel interventions around information provision to target the most stubborn forms of electoral misconduct.

13 August 2018
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Promoting electoral integrity through aid: Analysis and advice for donors

Main points

  • Donor-funded electoral assistance is found to improve electoral integrity – but the gains on average are rather small and short-lived. To improve aid effectiveness, donors should consider targeting electoral assistance programmes to low-income societies and to societies that do not currently benefit from election support programmes. Decisions about aid allocation, however, should also be based on a thorough consideration of context-specific factors that may hinder the effectiveness of election-aid support.
  • On average, only about 32% of the integrity levels achieved in a given electoral contest are automatically carried over to the next contest. As gains in integrity are not very “sticky,” practitioners should explore ways to increase the sustainability of investments. In particular, when making decisions about electoral aid, they should pay close attention to the informal power dynamics and relations that can undermine the sustainability of donor-led electoral reforms. This can be done by structuring traditional political economy analysis (and other risk assessment tools) more consistently around the notion of informal norms, institutions, and the overall distribution of power.
  • On average, certain types of electoral malpractice (e.g., ballot stuffing, flawed vote-counting, or other technical irregularities taking place on polling day) are found to be less resistant to the effects of election-support aid. Practitioners should undertake a comprehensive analysis of which kind of corrupt practices may be least impervious to reform within a given setting. Targeting the more amenable forms of misconduct will improve the cost-effectiveness of aid spending. At the same time, donors should consider imaginative approaches to address the most stubborn forms of misconduct (e.g., electoral violence, boycotts, voter registry fraud, vote buying, and other non-technical irregularities taking place in the run-up to the poll).

Cite this publication

Uberti , L.; Jackson, D.; (2018) Promoting electoral integrity through aid: Analysis and advice for donors. Bergen: U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, Chr. Michelsen Institute (U4 Issue 2018:5)

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About the authors

Luca J. Uberti

Dr. Luca J. Uberti is Alexander Nash Fellow at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London (UK), and is also affiliated with the UCL Centre for Comparative Studies of Emerging Economies. Luca’s research is in the area of political economy, institutional economics, and development, with a particular focus on the causes and consequences of corruption in emerging economies. His work has appeared in Journal of Development Studies, Development and Change, and Economic Systems, among other outlets. He has also provided policy advice to USAID and Kosovo’s Ministry of Trade and Industry.

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Dr. David Jackson leads U4’s thematic work on informal contexts of corruption. His research explores how an understanding of social norms, patron-client politics, and nonstate actors can lead to anti-corruption interventions that are better suited to context. He is the author of various book chapters and journal articles on governance issues and holds degrees from Oxford University, the Hertie School of Governance, and the Freie Universität Berlin.


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This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International licence (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)