New Policy Report: Democratic Diffusion

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  • New Policy Report

Democratic diffusion: How Regional Organizations Strengthen Electoral Integrity

By Ferran Martinez i Coma, Alessandro Nai and Pippa Norris

Washington DC: Organization of American States, December 2016

Regional intergovernmental organizations have played an active role in promoting international principles of electoral integrity within their sphere of influence. Observer missions seek to strengthen the transparency of election procedures, to monitor the implementation of internationally-agreed standards and principles, and to recommend reforms.

A growing research literature has examined the role and impact of election monitoring. The deterrence effects associated with monitors has been widely studied, but less is known about the positive impact of the recommendations for legal and procedural reforms which missions advocate.

Evidence and methods

To examine this issue, in July 2015 EIP launched a new research projectled by Dr Ferran Martinez i Coma, in partnership with the Organization of American States.

Many elections are monitored by international observers. To examine the impact of this activity,  EIP analyzed reports published by the Organization of American States (OAS) for Electoral Observer Missions conducted from 1999-2015 in 25 countries and 71 national elections. From the reports, over 1000 recommendations were identified and classified.

Top-line results:

  • Half of the OAS recommendations were either fully or partially implemented;
  • Implementation rates differed among countries, varying from below 10% in
  • Dominica and Bahamas to over 70% in El Salvador and Ecuador.
  • Recommendations needing resources were more likely to be implemented than those requiring formal legal changes.
  • On average, recommendations took four years to be implemented.
  • Aid-dependent countries saw the highest implementation rate.
“At a time when there is widespread concern about the state of democracy, and problem of electoral fraud and vote rigging,” said Professor Pippa Norris (Harvard and Sydney Universities), “It is reassuring to know that electoral assistance is having a positive impact on the region. The OAS is to be congratulated for its work.”

The policy report presenting the full results, “Democratic Diffusion: How regional organizations strengthen electoral integrity”, is available for download in English and in Spanish.