Comparative Results

Comparative Results of the 2011 FDA Global Electoral Fairness Audits

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Definition of Terms:

Bar Chart 1:

Overall refers to the total score for the four sections of the audit: political content of media, electoral finance, candidate and party influence, and voter influence. Each section has the same weight.

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Political content of media refers to the political content of radio and television broadcasters, the printed press, and online news media such as news sites before, during, and after an election period. This content may entail news stories, editorials, articles, programs, and group analysis and discussion. It does not include electoral advertisements by candidates, parties, and third parties. Electoral advertisements by candidates and parties are included in candidate and party influence, and electoral advertisements by third parties are included in voter influence and electoral finance.

In the context of FDA electoral fairness audit, political content of media includes:

  • Registration requirements for television and radio broadcast companies and press companies.
  • Laws on the ownership concentration of media (or the lack of).
  • Laws on the political content of media before, during, and after a campaign period.
  • Laws on freedom of the press and broadcasters.
  • Laws on the regulation of broadcasters and the press.

The FDA defines “balance” in the media as equal political content of all registered political parties. This definition supports the premise that voters should have balanced information on all registered candidates and parties, and election outcomes reflect the will of the voting public. The FDA does not support the idea that incumbent or previously successful parties should be favored in media coverage in a current election as this could create bias based merely on past results, and potentially weaken the process of capturing the will of the people in the present. In addition, the FDA does not support unlimited freedom of broadcast and press media. The FDA believes there is a misleading connection between freedom of media and democracy. The purpose of democratic elections is to capture as accurately as possible the will of the people from districts. A broad and balanced electoral discourse supports the will of the people producing an informed electorate. The FDA concedes that if sufficient media ownership concentration laws existed to produce pluralistic media ownership and equitable coverage of all registered political parties, any imbalance in political content in the media could be canceled out.

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Candidate and party influence refers to the opportunity and ability of candidates and parties to campaign in the public domain for elected positions. This opportunity and ability occur before, during, and after an election period. Candidate and party influence may involve political content of media, electoral finance, and voter influence (as defined below). In the terms of the FDA electoral fairness audit, which focuses on electoral process, candidate and party influence includes:

  • Registrations requirements for candidates and parties.
  • Laws on candidates and parties access to media and reasonable opportunity to take advantage of the access.
  • Regulations on access to major debates.
  • Electoral complaints process for candidates and parties.
  • Laws on contributions to candidates and parties.
  • Procedures for formation of electoral lists and boundaries.
  • Procedures for the determination of elected winners in districts.
  • Regulations on the political content of public and private media.
  • Laws on the structure of state bodies and their relationship in terms of political power.
  • Length of the campaign period.
  • Rules on right of reply in the media for registered candidates and parties.

In the FDA electoral fairness audit, candidate and party influence only encompasses laws, regulations, procedures etc. that affect the electoral influence of candidates and parties. For example, candidate and party influence does not encompass laws on electoral complaints by voters nor does it encompass laws on voter assistance at polling booths.

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Electoral finance refers to electoral finance laws applied to registered candidates and parties before, during, and after an election period. Electoral finance also encompasses campaign finance which is restricted to the campaign period.

In the context of the FDA electoral fairness audit, electoral finance includes:

  • Caps on electoral contributions (or the lack of).
  • Caps on candidate and party electoral expenditures (or the lack of).
  • Procedures for financial disclosure and reporting of candidate and party electoral finances.
  1. Procedures for the handling of electoral contributions by registered candidates and parties.
  • Public electoral subsidies (or the lack of).
  • Laws on who can make electoral contributions.
  • Laws for third party electoral expenditure (or the lack of).
  • Rules for electoral deposits by registered candidates and parties.

Electoral finance does not include non-financial laws, regulations, procedures etc. such as laws on candidate and party access to media, political right laws like freedom of speech and assembly, rules on right of reply in the media, laws on the political content of media, and laws on voter assistance.

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Voter influence refers to the citizens who are eligible to vote and their opportunity to express through articles, letters to editors, blogs, advertisements, spoken word etc. their political voice in the public domain and to vote. Voter influence applies to before, during, and after an election period.

In the context of the FDA electoral fairness audit, which focuses on electoral process, voter influence includes:

  • Laws and regulations on freedom of speech and assembly.
  • Laws on the registration requirements for voters.
  • Laws on voter assistance at the polling booth.
  • Rules on right of reply by voters in the media.
  • Laws on the inclusion of minorities in the electoral process.
  • Caps on electoral contributions and candidate and party expenditures (or the lack of).
  • Caps on third party electoral expenditures (or the lack of).
  • Laws on electoral complaints to the election authority by voters.
  • Laws on the ownership concentration in the media (or the lack of).
  • Laws on the political content of the media.
  • Registration requirements for candidates and parties.

In the context of the FDA electoral fairness audit, voter influence may involve political content of media, candidate and party influence, and electoral finance. The involvement is contingent on the impact on voter influence. For example, no cap on contributions to candidates and parties will affect voter influence because no cap favors voters with more financial wealth, and thereby create inequity and imbalance in voter influence.

Electoral fairness refers to the impartiality and equitability of election law before, during, and after an election period. In the context of the Audit, electoral fairness involves concepts relating to political content in the media, candidate and party influence, electoral finance, and voter influence. In particular, this includes evaluating impartiality and balance of political content in the media, equitable opportunity and ability for registered candidates and parties to influence voters and government, equitable electoral finance laws, and equitable opportunity and ability for voters to voice political views and/or influence the outcome of an election.

Electoral fairness does not entail bias through for example legislation which gives a concrete electoral advantage to one registered party over another, or legislation that allows equitable access to media without facilitating equal opportunity to take advantage of equal access. In contrast, electoral fairness would include a broad, balanced diffusion of electoral propaganda by registered political parties during the campaign period, equal campaign finances (beyond equal expenditure limits) for all registered parties according to the number of candidates endorsed, and the registration of parties based on reasonable popular support (rather than financial deposit or unreasonable popular support).

Electoral fairness in any democratic process must include an equal playing field for registered parties and candidates, distinguishable by voters according to a clear political platform, and a broad and balanced political discourse in where information about electoral choices are clear and available to the voting public.

(Foundation for Democratic Advancement, 2012).