What does a credible election mean?
THE conduct of free and fair elections is at the heart of the democratic process. But when an election is conducted in a non-inclusive way, it leads to the loss of confidence with the results, escalates structural disparities and inequalities which stimulates violence and sometimes leads to the civil war. Hence, it is important to conduct a free, fair and credible election.
But what are the characteristics of a credible election? Although there is no standard definition of a credible election, there are some aspects of a credible election. The first and foremost feature of a credible election is that it must have the reflection of the will of the people. Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures. In the 5th January election as there was unopposed elections in 153 constituencies, more than 50% voters could not be able to exercise their voting rights; hence the election doesn't reflect the will of the people.
The second important criterion of a credible election is that it must be participated by all qualified political parties. The UN in its principles declared that “political contestants (parties, candidates and supporters of positions on referenda) have vested interests in the electoral process through their rights to be elected and to participate directly in government.” In the 5th January election only 12 political parties out of 41 took part; hence less than 50% registered political parties are taking part.
The third fundamental ingredient of a credible election is that the electoral process must be trusted by the citizens. “Building the public's trust in the election process is of the utmost importance to election management bodies around the world”. The credibility of an election largely depends on the actual and perceived integrity of the electoral process. More specifically, if citizens believe the electoral process is defective, dishonest, or less than free and fair, they may not accept the outcome.
Ensuring fair competition among the political parties and candidates is another attributes of a credible election. It is evident that there is no fair competition even among the parties which are participating in the 10th parliamentary election as there was “compromise” among the parties. On 14th December, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said her party had reached a compromise and withdrawn their candidatures from some seats after liaising with other parties participated in the polls-time government. She also proposed “walkover” to the BNP in some constituencies if it had joined the “all-party polls-time government.”
Another characteristic of a credible election is the acceptable voter turnout. The 5th January election left a very low turnout throughout the country. In the last two elections held in 2001 and 2008 the turnout 74.37% and 85.93% respectively. Moreover, the usual enthusiasm and festive mood from voters and other citizens were not found this time.
The writer is an international election expert, currently working as Director, Election Working Group; This article is the views of the writer himself; E-mail: [email protected]