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PH and perceptions of electoral integrity

You want to know how the latest (2013) Philippine election compares with other countries in terms of “electoral integrity” (defined as adhering to international standards and global norms governing the appropriate conduct of elections)? Comes now the Electoral Integrity Project, an independent academic study with a research team based at the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Its just-released report (Feb. 15), titled “The Year in Elections 2014,” tells us what we want to know.

The report presents the results of a rolling survey of expert evaluations for all national legislative and presidential elections held in independent nation-states (population greater than 100,000) between July 1, 2012, and Dec. 31, 2014. There were 127 elections during that period, involving 107 countries (some countries had more than one election in that period). And the performance of each country for each election was measured by 49 indicators grouped into 11 subdimensions corresponding to the components of the electoral cycle. Countries were ranked according to their overall PEI (perceptions of electoral integrity) index (100 being the best score). But since the data are made available, one can presumably rank them according to each component (e.g., electoral laws, electoral procedures, district boundaries, voter registration, party and candidate registration, media coverage, campaign finance, voting process, vote count, results, electoral authorities).

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Everything being transparent, we go to the $64 question: How did the 2013 Philippine election compare?

Of the 127 elections held worldwide in that 30-month period, the Philippine 2013 election ranked 91st, with a PEI index of 58.8 out of a possible 100. The top scorer was the Norwegian 2013 elections with an index of 86.6. But the surprising thing was that Lithuania, the Czech Republic, and Costa Rica (Yes! A Latin American country!) came after Norway and before Sweden and Germany, who were fifth and sixth.

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If it is any comfort to us, the US 2012 presidential election ranked 42nd, and its congressional election in 2014 ranked 45th. The United States, among the western democracies, showed the lowest PEI index, lower even than Italy, for heaven’s sake. Brazil and Chile also had higher scores than the United States. So much for using it as a model of electoral integrity. But what brought the United States so low? It had its lowest scores in electoral laws, district boundaries, voter registration and campaign financing.

But back to the Philippines. Among the 107 countries that were surveyed—in other words, if we get the PEI by country, instead of by elections (so that we combine multiple elections)—where would the Philippines be? We would rank 76th out of the 107. Among the Asean countries that had elections during the period, Indonesia was 52nd, and Thailand was 71st, with PEI indices of 65 and 61, respectively. Better than us. But we can derive some comfort from the fact that Malaysia was 94th and Cambodia was 101st, with PEI indices of 48 and 45.

What countries are “worse” than us (with lower PEI indices)? Here’s the complete list: Macedonia, Malawi, Venezuela, Azerbaijan, Jordan, Swaziland, Iraq, Mauritania, Armenia, Guinea, Algeria, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Madagascar, Turkmenistan, Togo, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Angola, Egypt, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Afghanistan, Belarus, Cambodia, Congo, Tajikistan, Syrian Arab Republic, Bahrain, Djibouti, and Equatorial Guinea. You will say either “Thank God we are better than these countries” or “My God, we really are at the bottom of the barrel!”

I cannot resist pointing out that Venezuela is among those below us. That’s the country where Smartmatic (the firm that is running our elections) got its start, and where it claims to have run 10 elections. What a record. By the way, it also claims to have eight US elections (presumably local) under its belt. And the 2010 and 2013 Philippine elections. It might be interesting to dig deeper into the data of the Electoral Integrity Project.

Let us summarize: As far as the PEI is concerned, the Philippines ranks 91st among 127 elections conducted worldwide between

July 1, 2012 and Dec. 31, 2014. It ranks 76th among 107 countries that conducted elections during that period. With respect to regional PEI indices, the Philippines’ index, at 59, makes it much closer to South Asia (59), North Africa (59), and East and South Africa (58) than to East Asia and the Pacific where it belongs (67).

Are we happy with that performance? No? Then let’s do something about it. I have some suggestions:

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  1. Let us clamor for the return of Gus Lagman to the Commission on Elections. For those with short memories, he was the only Comelec commissioner with IT experience, and he was kicked out (by P-Noy, unfortunately), allegedly because then Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and also then Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes did not like him. Well, JPE and Brillantes are now out. So get Lagman back in!
  1. Fill in the other Comelec vacancies as soon as possible, with professionals, not political hacks, preferably good managers. Those seats have been vacant for over a month now.
  1. Insist that the Automated Election Law’s safeguards against computerized cheating be followed. I don’t know why the House and the Senate seem so lackadaisical about these aspects, and why the Comelec is no better. Without those safeguards, garbage in, garbage out.
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TAGS: Commission on Elections, electoral integrity, Electoral Integrity Project, Gus Lagman, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government, University of Sydney
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