New research from a University of East Anglia (UEA) elections expert finds election quality has increased in many countries, despite widespread concerns about democratic backsliding around the world.
The Electoral Integrity Project (EIP) is directed by UEA’s Prof Toby James and Dr Holly Ann Garnett of the Royal Military College of Canada at Queen’s University. The project conducts The Electoral Integrity Global Report, which publishes data on the quality of elections worldwide each year based on expert perceptions.
The newly published 2022 report found no evidence of an overall decline in the quality of elections worldwide since 2012, and an increase in election quality in many countries. Key points include:
- Denmark was reported as to having the highest-quality elections internationally
- Despite president-hopeful Raila Odinga’s contestation of the election results, Kenya continued an upward trend in electoral integrity
- Despite the protests from Jair Bolsonaro supporters, the 2022 presidential election in Brazil saw general stability in terms of electoral integrity across the board
- The 2022 midterm elections in the United States showed an improvement from the 2020 presidential election
On a 100-point scale, elections with the highest levels of electoral integrity are once again in Western Europe, with Nordic countries Denmark (87) and Sweden (81) having some of the top-rated elections of 2022, alongside Austria (83) and Slovenia (80).
Elections with the lowest levels of electoral integrity included contests in countries from Sub-Saharan Africa, with the Republic of Congo (27), Angola (31) and Equatorial Guinea (16) having some of the lowest-rated elections. These countries particularly struggled with electoral laws, the voting process, and/or the performance of electoral authorities.
Outside of Africa, contests in Serbia (38) and Turkmenistan (23) were also included in the bottom five elections of 2022.
Regional variation continues, with the Nordic countries and Western Europe demonstrating consistently high in electoral integrity, while regions like Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Sub-Saharan Africa showcase a range of challenges and opportunities for improvement of electoral processes.
The Index indicators of the integrity of campaign environment were the lowest-scoring stages of the electoral cycle, with campaign finance and campaign media again at the bottom. Conversely, the election procedures, vote count and results were found to be the highest quality.
Prof Toby James said: “We certainly should not be complacent about the quality of elections.
“The Global Electoral Integrity Report shows, however, a story of democratic resilience as much as backsliding.
“The efforts of electoral officials, legislators and the international community to protect election quality in many countries should be noted and applauded.”
Dr Garnett said: "Some of the key challenges for electoral integrity remain those related to the campaign environment, with campaign finance and media among the lowest overall.
“Further work is needed to level the playing field and address concerns about the quality of information voters receive to make their deliberations."
Read the full Electoral Integrity Global Report 2023.
The third annual Virtual Election Integrity Conference is running 3rd-7th July 2023, co-hosted by UEA's Prof Toby James, and you can register now on their website and see the event schedule.