Monday, December 22, 2008

Election Rule Tinkering in Tajikistan?

IFES reports that a modest proposal for election reform has been prepared for consideration by the Majlisi Oli. The recommended rule changes address party representation on electoral commissions and election observation. Governing parties in many post-Soviet states have effectively managed the balloting process in their favor by controlling the institutions that administer elections and adjudicate disputes.

Unfortunately, guaranteeing wider representation on election commissions does not prevent fraud. For example, as an observer in Ukraine's 2004 presidential election, I witnessed an unbalanced electoral commission admit questionable ballots favoring Viktor Yanukovych while denying analogous ballots favoring Viktor Yushchenko. The commission included members representing minor candidates from the first round of balloting who were "covert" supporters of Yanukovych. Membership rules allowed politicians to load commissions in their favor by sponsoring or co-opting minor candidates. Expanding committee membership can facilitate other forms of manipulation and fraud as political actors adapt to the rules and their incentives. However, improving representation on electoral commissions is an important step forward.

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