a global ranking rates the US as the weakest of liberal democracies – global problems

A disappointing slide for the US after an election riddled with misinformation. Credit: Aaron Burson/Unsplash.
  • Opinion
  • Inter Press Service

Elections are an essential part of democracy. They empower citizens to hold their governments accountable for their actions and bring peaceful transitions to power. Unfortunately, elections often do not live up to these ideals. They can be marred by issues such as voter intimidation, low turnout, fake news and the underrepresentation of women and minority candidates.

Our new research report provides a global assessment of the quality of national elections around the world from 2012-21, based on nearly 500 elections in 170 countries. The US is the lowest-ranked liberal democracy on the list. It ranks just 15th in America’s 29 states, behind Costa Rica, Brazil, Trinidad & Tobago, and others, and 75th overall.

Why is the United States so low?

There were claims by former President Donald Trump about widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election. These claims were unfounded, but they still caused the US election rankings to plummet.

Elections with contested results rank lower in our rankings because an important part of democracy is the peaceful transfer of power through accepted results, rather than violence and violence. Trump’s comments sparked post-election violence as his supporters stormed the Capitol, casting doubt on the legitimacy of the outcome across much of America.

This illustrates that electoral integrity isn’t just about drafting laws — it also relies on candidates and supporters acting responsibly during the election process.

However, the problems with the US election run much deeper than this one event. Our report shows that the way electoral boundaries are set up in the US is a major concern. There’s a long history of gerrymandering, where political districts are cunningly drafted by lawmakers so that populations who are more likely to vote for them are included in a particular constituency — as was seen recently in North Carolina.

Voter registration and the polls is another problem. Some US states have recently introduced laws that make voting more difficult, such as requiring ID, raising concerns about the effect that will have on voter turnout. We already know that the cost, time and complexity of completing the ID process, in addition to the additional difficulties for those with high residential mobility or insecure housing situations, make it even less likely that underrepresented groups will participate in elections.

Nordics top, concerns over Russia

The Scandinavian countries Finland, Sweden and Denmark topped our ranking. Finland is often described as a country with a pluralistic media landscape, which helps. It also provides government funding to help political parties and candidates participate in elections. A recent report from the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights found a “high level of confidence in all aspects of the electoral process”.

Cape Verde has the highest quality of electoral integrity in Africa. Taiwan, Canada and New Zealand rank first for their respective continents.

Electoral integrity in Russia continued to decline after the 2021 parliamentary elections. A pre-election report warned of intimidation and violence against journalists, and the media “largely promotes the policies of the current government”. Only Belarus scores lower in Europe.

Globally, electoral integrity is lowest in the Comoros, the Central African Republic and Syria.

Money Matters

How politicians and political parties receive and spend money turned out to be the weakest part of the general election process. There are all kinds of threats to the integrity of elections that revolve around campaign money. For example, where campaign money comes from can influence a candidate’s ideology or policy on important issues. It is also often the case that the candidate who spends the most money wins, so that unequal opportunities are often a regular part of an election.

It helps if parties and candidates have to publish transparent financial statements. But in an age where “dark money” can be more easily transferred across borders, it can be very difficult to trace where donations really come from.

There are also solutions to many of the other problems, such as automatic voter registration, independence for electoral authorities, financing of election officials, and election observation.

Democracy may have to be defended in battle, as we are currently seeing in Ukraine. But it also needs to be defended before it comes to full-scale conflict, through discussion, protest, clicktivism and calls for electoral reform.The conversation

Toby James, professor of politics and public policy, University of East Anglia and Holly Ann Garnett, assistant professor of political science, Royal Military College of Canada

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

© Inter Press Service (2022) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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