【Ritsumeikan-ANU Public Lecture】Election Observation: Its Role in Measuring and Promoting Electoral Integrity

Election Observation: Its Role in Measuring and Promoting Electoral Integrity
Dr. Kerryn Baker
(Australian National University)

On May 18, 2023, Dr. Kerryn Baker at the Australian National University (ANU) gave a presentation on ANU’s election observation in Papua New Guinea (PNG) at Ritsumeikan University. She explained that election observation is not only crucial to ensure elections are held fair and square, but it is also a valuable method to study electoral integrity. International election observations are vital as they increase the quality of the electoral processes by deterring government and local actors from committing fraud and increasing public faith in the electoral system. Dr. Baker also argued that it is crucial to pragmatically combine universal and contextual knowledge of electoral integrity to measure the quality of elections in a given country.

After defining electoral integrity and stressing the importance of election observation, Dr. Baker explained the ANU’s research-based approach to election observation of national elections in PNG developed by Prof. Nicole Haley. The ANU approach is characterized as long-term (ANU has been involved in election observation in PNG for decades), large-scale, and involving multiple methods—observation of the campaign before, during, and after the polling, interviews with key election officials, and surveys of citizens before and after the polling. It also recruits local citizen observers who have connections with election officials and are more knowledgeable about local cultures than international observers. The ANU’s unique approach to election observation in PNG found that the quality of elections varies across regions; some regions are filled with more electoral fraud and manipulations than others. Moreover, electoral integrity in PNG has gotten worse over time as more people report that it is unsafe to vote.

To conclude the presentation, Dr. Baker argued that ANU’s long-term and large-scale research with multiple methods is crucial in analyzing electoral integrity, even though such a research project tends to be expensive and time-consuming. She also emphasized that it is essential to incorporate citizen observers as they bring in local knowledge. Moreover, citizen observers are more valuable than international election observers in increasing the quality of elections, as the mere presence of international observers does not always deter election fraud. Dr. Baker argued that international observers are still crucial, but their roles must be clarified.

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(Written by Daichi Morishige, a PhD student at Ritsumeikan University)