Electoral violence in Asia

from NAMFREL Election Monitor Vol.2, No.16

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has recently released a report entitled "Understanding Electoral Violence in Asia," focusing on the nature of electoral violence in the region, as well as the factors that prevent or perpetuate it. The report presents analysis of case studies commissioned by UNDP in seven countries: Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand, and the Philippines.

In the report, electoral violence is defined as:

"Any acts or threats of coercion, intimidation, or physical harm perpetrated to affect an electoral process, or that arise in the context of electoral competition. When perpetrated to affect an electoral process, violence may be employed to influence the process of elections
— such as efforts to delay, disrupt or derail a poll — or to influence the outcomes: the determination of winners in competitive races for political office, or securing the approval or disapproval of referendum questions."

The report dissects the causes and enablers of electoral violence in the region, and identifies the actors vital to its prevention or perpetuation: electoral management bodies, political parties, political party supporters, law enforcement agencies & security forces, illicit armed groups, extremist groups, and youth & student movements.

The UNDP has also identified factors that could prevent electoral violence: institutional design, the legal system, electoral dispute resolution, election observation & monitoring, among others.

For the Philippines, the report calls attention to the country's weak party system, "that favours political dynasties composed of families and close allies. Parties are often reduced to coalitions of prevailing elites instead of offering inclusive, responsive and responsible representation of civic interests. Unable to command party discipline, leaders and government functionaries are induced to gather legislative and local support through patronage, privilege, pork barrelling and other forms of rent-seeking that can easily spill over into electoral violence." The report also calls attention to the proliferation of hired thugs and private armies responsible for killings, physical attacks, and intimidation, and the ways by which the government tries to prevent further violence by identifying election hot spots and imposing gun ban.

The paper presents the following recommendations for the Philippines:
There is a need to professionalize Comelec by removing political appointees, raising salaries, promoting
staffers on merit and training Comelec personnel.
Comelec should be given the necessary capability to enforce election laws and prosecute violators.
The government should ensure that the perpetrators of electoral violence are brought to justice, be they
civilians, politicians or government authorities.
The government must take proactive steps to dismantle and disarm the private militias that proliferate
across the country.
The government should implement measures to improve governance and reduce graft and corruption at
all levels. Much electoral violence is rooted in struggles for illegal racketeering and patronage
opportunities to which government offices provide access.
The House Bill 3655, An Act Strengthening the Political Party System, Appropriating Funds Therefor, and
for other Purposes, should be passed immediately to make political parties more competitive and robust.
Once the bill is passed, the Commission on Audit should examine the financial reports of the accredited parties on their use of state subsidies
According to UNDP, cases of electoral violence cited in the report (which includes the Maguindanao massacre of 2009), "serve as reminders that in order for elections to be successful and non-violent, the goal of democratic development must go beyond the electoral event. Instead, seeing elections as a test of democratic development, rather than a goal in themselves, provides a better conceptualization of the processes that are needed to ensure free, fair and peaceful elections.”

Read the UNDP report here: http://bit.ly/nIGdJj