Effective Electoral Assistance

Executive summary

by Jacques P. Bernard


Jacques P. Bernard



††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† March 26, 2007





Rather than talking about Effective Electoral Assistance on a theoretical level, I will use the three elections I organized in Haiti during 2006 as a case study to illustrate the benefits of electoral assistance and to also point out some areas of needed improvement.


A review of the electoral process of many countries, including Haiti , points out two central weaknesses:

  • The lack of effective overall management
  • The need to reduce the cost of elections


The Events


Three rounds of elections were organized in 2006:

  • February 7, 2006:Presidential and legislative elections
  • April 21, 2006:2nd round of legislative elections
  • December 3, 2006:Municipal and local elections


The Actors


The major actors involved in the process are:

1- The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP)

2-Mission des Nations Unies de Stabilization en Haiti (MINUSTAH)

3-United Nations Office for Projects Services (UNOPS)

4-United Nations Development Program (UNDP)

5-Organization of American States (OAS)

6-United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

7-Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)

8-European Union (EU)


There were also some minor actors:

9-Elections Canada

10-Caribbean Community (CARICOM)

11-Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF)


Innovations and Partnersí Tasks


In addition to handling eleven partners, no less than eight major innovations were introduced:


Previous Elections

2006 Elections



Voting cards (no picture, no fingerprint)

Identification card (with picture and matching fingerprint)



Electoral lists (no picture)

Electoral lists (with pictures)




13,000 polling booths spread throughout the country

850 voting centers with 10,000 polling booths



Individual report results done by hand

Candidate names pre-printed on vote- count report.



Logistics: Take days to gather all 13,000 reports

All reports sealed in plastic to prevent fraud, then gathered within 48 hours



Results tabulation done at 140 communal electoral bureaus by hand

Results tabulation done in a central location and computerized using a double blind-entry system.



No internet publication

Partial and final results, as well as individual polling station results, are published on the internet



No legal recourse for losing candidates

Legal recourse at the local level plus a court of appeal.




Needless to say, it was a management nightmare to handle as many variables as these and make the process efficient and economically feasible. Despite a massive injection of technical electoral assistance, the task of organizing elections proved almost impossible.Eighteen months went by and close to one-half of the $73 million allocated for these elections was spent, with no indication that the country was any closer to elections.The donors' community as well as civil society and the government of Haiti were looking for a way out.It was then that the decision was made to bring in a professional manager with the proper authority to coordinate all electoral activities.


I was chosen to carry out this mission and took over the helm in October 2005. Three and a half months later, a first round of presidential and legislative elections was successfully organized on February 7, 2006, followed by a second round of legislative elections on April 21, 2006 and finally, the municipal and local elections on December 3, 2006.


What was lacking that had prevented elections from taking place after eighteen months of electoral assistance and close to $35 million in expenditures?


An evaluation of the situation revealed that the major roadblock was a lack of coordination and integration among the partners.While each partner was involved in implementing one or more technical aspects of the electoral process, there was no overall management of the entire process.So the first order of the day was to integrate the different teams.Each technical aspect of the process included members of every partner and benchmarks were established with specific deadlines.


A daily 8:00 a.m. meeting was implemented to monitor each teamís production and very often teams had to work overtime to reach their goals.I tend to view elections as a production line where the line needs to remain balanced--that is unfinished tasks will delay subsequent tasks.


If there was a major weakness in the electoral process, it was lack of managerial expertise, which leads to inefficiency and increased cost.My own calculation shows that these elections should have cost around $50 million rather than upwards of $73 million.


Indeed,inefficiencies and delays in the electoral process tend to have negative impacts at two different levels.On one hand, as the date of elections keeps changing, it tends to de-motivate voters and deny to elected officials the popular legitimacy to implement reforms. (The electoral council had postponed the elections four times prior to my arrival.) One the other hand, the resulting increase in expenditures could potentially make the financial cost of democracy prohibitive to poor countries.The donors' community does not have, nor can it afford, an open-ended commitment to finance elections at any cost.


My conclusion is that the electoral process should be viewedmore as a business endeavor where every dollar spent is optimized and the production time reduced within acceptable quality parameters.Maybe there should be more business professionals involved in the electoral process.Only then, I believe, could poor countries that are the most in need of democracy afford it.