Electoral integrity makes governance legitimate | Magdy Martinez-Soliman

25 Oct 2013

woman in Pakistan conducts polling training Zameer Akhtar conducts a polling training as part of a programme to improve the credibility and reliability of elections. (Photo: Tehseen Oweis/UNDP Pakistan)

In 2002, UNDP published a Human Development Report titled “Deepening democracy in a fragmented world.” The central message of the report was that “effective governance is central to human development, and lasting solutions need to be firmly grounded in democratic politics in the broadest sense.”

A functioning democracy allows all people to participate in decisions that affect their lives and hold their leaders to account. Democratic elections are still one of the most powerful and effective means to ensure such political accountability and are central to our human development approach.

From countries emerging from conflict to peaceful, established democracies the ultimate aim of national authorities should be to conduct elections that are a legitimate and sovereign expression of the people’s will. The Sixth Global Electoral Organization (GEO) Conference, which I attended in Korea last week, highlighted the importance of sustainable electoral processes for strengthening democracy by looking at the integrity and inclusion of electoral processes; the central issue of  the capacity and professional development of electoral management bodies; and the challenge of cost-effectiveness in electoral processes.

Integrity is key to a credible electoral process. Electoral integrity is more than the mere absence of political manipulation and fraud, however. It includes a commitment to  design and align the electoral legal framework, rules and practices with international human rights and electoral commitments. It also includes a full commitment to transparency, inclusivity, professionalism, honesty and a full and genuine engagement with key electoral stakeholders – electoral contestants, the legislature, voters, the media, civil society, the security sector, etc. – in order to arrive at an electoral outcome acceptable to all. 

The GEO Conference followed a series of important debates at the UN in New York, where Member States reiterated the importance of a strong post-2015 development agenda, which will build on the foundations laid by the MDGs, complete unfinished business and respond to new challenges, reaffirming the importance of promoting human rights, good governance, the rule of law, and transparency and accountability at all levels. Electoral processes remain key to honor these commitments. 

A modern election is as much a societal exercise as it is an administrative one. Economic, social and political opportunities are tied to the larger goals of sustainable democratic and human development. We cannot achieve this unless we also reduce poverty, address issues of corruption, guarantee access to justice for all and ensure economic empowerment alongside political empowerment.

Talk to us: How can we ensure an inclusive process and address women’s political and electoral participation?

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