elections

Fact Checkers Unite to Set the Record Straight: The Redcheq Alliance and Information Integrity in Colombia’s Regional Elections, 2019

Author
Alexis Bernigaud
Focus Area(s)
Country of Reform
Abstract

During Colombia’s 2016 peace agreement referendum and its 2018 election, misinformation and disinformation circulated widely. As the country’s 2019 elections approached, Dora Montero, president of Consejo de Redacción (Editorial Board)—an association that promoted investigative journalism and operated an online fact-checking program called ColombiaCheck—realized it was especially difficult to correct factual errors at the regional and local levels, and she was determined to do something about that problem. Montero and her group assembled a network of journalists who detected and countered false claims during the 2018 campaign. Montero’s team organized workshops on fact checking for local journalists; forged alliances with local and national radio, TV, and print media; and collaborated with universities and civic leaders to produce and distribute articles that presented the facts. During the 2019 campaign, the alliance, named RedCheq, produced 141 articles that clarified and corrected political statements, social media posts, photos, and videos. This case focuses on the challenges associated with improving the integrity of election-related information at the subnational level. This case is part of a series on combatting false information, including both misinformation (unintentional), disinformation (intentional), and fake news, one form of disinformation

Alexis Bernigaud drafted this case study based on interviews conducted with journalists and civic leaders in Colombia from January through May 2023. Case published July 2023.

Colombia’s National Civil Registry Launches an Antidisinformation Initiative, 2018−2019

Author
Alexis Berniguad
Focus Area(s)
Country of Reform
Translations
Abstract

When a wave of online misinformation jeopardized the integrity of primary elections in Colombia, Juan Carlos Galindo, who headed the country’s National Civil Registry, decided it was time to address this emerging threat to democracy. The registry, which worked with the National Electoral Council, would soon conduct the first local elections since the country’s 2016 peace agreements, and Galindo wanted to ensure that voters had correct information about the process, including the locations and open hours of polling stations. He asked his team to find appropriate ways to respond to misinformation, mindful of low public trust, frequent strategic use of disinformation by political parties, and limited resources to target voters at the local level. Building on the experience of the registry’s Mexican counterpart, head of international partnerships Arianna Espinosa led the design and implementation of a plan to deal with the problem. The team struck deals with social media platforms, independent fact checkers, and political parties to take part in the fight against false information and used an artificial-intelligence-powered platform to detect and respond to false news about the election process during the campaign. By election day, the team had refuted a total of 21 misleading claims and published 59 verified news items and videos on social media, but the limited reach of the publications and minimal engagement with some of the key stakeholders prevented the registry from having the impact it aimed for. After the election, the new head of the registry refocused on building more-transparent processes and providing accessible information for citizens about elections while curtailing some of the initiatives Espinosa had introduced. This case is part of a series on combatting false information, including both misinformation (unintentional), disinformation (intentional), and fake news, one form of disinformation.

Alexis Bernigaud drafted this case study based on interviews conducted with officials, journalists, and civic leaders in Colombia and Spain from January through May 2023. Case published July 2023.

Defending the Vote: France Acts to Combat Foreign Disinformation, 2021 – 2022

Author
Alexis Bernigaud
Focus Area(s)
Country of Reform
Abstract

After a hack-and-leak operation that targeted a candidate in its 2017 presidential election and a social media campaign against its exports in 2020, France’s government decided to take steps to protect its politics from foreign digital interference. With another national election approaching in April 2022, Lieutenant Colonel Marc-Antoine Brillant began designing a new unit that aimed to detect foreign information manipulation while preserving freedom of speech by separating responsibility for identification of attacks from responsibility for framing and executing a response. After the proposal cleared legal hurdles, Brillant’s team, under the authority of the Secretariat-General for National Defense and Security, set up an interagency governance system, initiated a dialogue with social media platforms, and monitored social media to detect hostile campaigns. During the 2022 campaign, the unit, called Viginum, identified five foreign interference attempts and referred them to other parts of government that could decide whether and how to react. The elections ran smoothly, and the Viginum team started to focus on building stronger public understanding of its mission and activities.  

Alexis Bernigaud drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in France from August through November 2022. Case published January 2023.

Defending the Vote: Estonia Creates a Network to Combat Disinformation, 2016–2020

Author
Tyler McBrien
Focus Area(s)
Country of Reform
Abstract

Troubled by reports of disinformation and fake news in the United States and with regard to the United Kingdom’s Brexit referendum vote, Estonia’s State Electoral Office in 2016 created an interagency task force to combat the influence of false messaging on its democratic process. To guide its work, the small staff of the State Electoral Office adopted a network approach by engaging partners from other government agencies, intergovernmental organizations, civil society, social media companies, and the press to identify and monitor disinformation and to work with the press to correct false statements. It also developed a curriculum that would help high school students improve their ability to separate fact from fiction. The collaboration largely succeeded in checking foreign interference. However, considerations involving free speech and censorship hobbled the task force’s efforts to restrain disinformation spread by domestic political parties and their supporters. This case illuminates how an electoral management body with limited staff capacity and a restricted mandate addressed a societywide disinformation challenge.

 

Tyler McBrien drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in September and October 2020. Case published December 2020.

A Bumpy Road to Peace and Democracy: Liberia’s Power-Sharing Government, 2003 – 2005

Author
Tyler McBrien
Country of Reform
Abstract

In 2003, after 14 years of civil war and as many failed treaties, representatives of Liberia’s government, rebel groups, and civil society came together in Accra, Ghana, to negotiate a peace agreement. They chose Gyude Bryant, a businessman unaffiliated with any of the factions, to head a transitional government made up of ministers from the incumbent political party, the two main rebel groups, and independents, including opposition politicians and civil society leaders. Bryant’s primary goals were to maintain peace and pave the way for elections by the end of 2005—an assignment that entailed disarming and demobilizing more than 100,000 combatants, creating the means to deal with crucial issues ranging from truth and reconciliation to governance reform, and addressing a long list of other tasks—all of it under the scrutiny of Liberia’s legislature as well as regional and international organizations. Although successful democratic elections in late 2005 marked the achievement of Bryant’s primary aims, his fractious government failed to reach many other objectives, including building capacity and ensuring that resources earmarked for development served their intended purposes. The difficulties led to a novel, temporary system of governance—shared with international partners—that targeted procurement, spending, and other aspects of financial management. This case offers insights useful for planning transitions in low-income, divided societies where prolonged conflict has gutted institutional capacity.

Tyler McBrien drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Monrovia, Liberia in November 2019. Case published in January 2020.

This series highlights the governance challenges inherent in power sharing arrangements, profiles adaptations that eased those challenges, and offers ideas about adaptations. 

The United States Institute of Peace funded the development of this case study.

 

More Than Good Elections: Ghana's Presidential Handover, 2007-2009

Author
Robert Joyce
Focus Area(s)
Country of Reform
Abstract

The January 2009 presidential transition in Ghana, the West African country’s second democratic transfer of power between opposing parties, was a significant step in the nation’s democracy. A contentious handover eight years earlier had widened political divisions and hindered policy continuity. In the aftermath, leaders in government and civil society tried to create new norms and practices that would ease transitions. Ahead of the December 2008 election, the Institute of Economic Affairs, a Ghanaian public policy think tank that promoted good governance, led major political parties in talks aimed at setting rules for the presidential transition process. At the same time, a policy unit in President John Kufuor’s administration worked separately to improve the government’s procedures for transferring power. Although a tight timeline and political complications prevented both groups from achieving all of their goals, their work helped ease Ghana’s political tensions and improved the quality of information exchanged between the outgoing and incoming governments. The new government, led by President John Atta Mills, benefited from improved transition reports prepared by civil servants and aides who had taken part in the Institute of Economic Affairs talks. The changes helped the new administration organize, identify priorities, and maintain focus on effective projects and programs.

Robert Joyce drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Accra, Ghana, during July and August 2015. Case published in November 2015.

Mexico's Moment: The 2012 Presidential Transition

Author
Robert Joyce
Focus Area(s)
Country of Reform
Abstract

Mexico’s 2012 presidential transition tested the durability of the country’s democracy. Outgoing president Felipe Calderón ceded power to longtime political opponents. The new president, Enrique Peña Nieto, had to gather information on government programs, select a Cabinet and top aides, and set priorities—with no guarantee of significant cooperation from his predecessor’s administration. But to the surprise of some Mexicans, Calderón ordered his staff to cooperate by gathering and organizing information to brief their incoming counterparts. The process the two leaders put in place ensured an effective handover and helped pave the way for a landmark political deal early in Peña Nieto’s term. The 2012 transition, only the second between opposing parties in eight decades, followed steps other countries could find helpful for ensuring the continuity of core government functions during transfers of power.

 

Robert Joyce drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Mexico City in April

2015. Case published in September, 2015.

A Tense Handover: The 2010 Presidential Transition in the Philippines

Author
Robert Joyce
Focus Area(s)
Country of Reform
Abstract

In 2010, political tensions in the Philippines threatened a stable transfer of presidential power. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was at the end of her tenure when Benigno Aquino III, son of two national heroes, won election in May. During the campaign, Aquino had accused Arroyo of corruption and mismanagement. Animosity, lack of planning by the outgoing administration, poor government transparency, and a weak political party system created obstacles to an effective handover in a country with a recent history of instability. However, a dedicated corps of career civil servants, a small but significant degree of cooperation between the incoming and outgoing administrations, and thin but effective planning by the Aquino side allowed for a stable though bumpy transition. The handover highlighted the importance of institutionalizing the transition process to avoid conflict and facilitate uninterrupted governance.

 

Robert Joyce drafted this case study on the basis of interviews conducted in Manila during November 2014. Case published April 2015. 

Reverend Gift Moerane

Ref Batch
ZA
Focus Area(s)
Ref Batch Number
7
Country of Reform
Interviewers
Rachel Jackson
Name
Reverend Gift Moerane
Interviewee's Organization
South African Council of Churches
Language
English
Town/City
Johannesburg
Country
Date of Interview
Reform Profile
No
Abstract

In this interview, Reverend Gift Moerane shares his experiences serving on the South African Electoral Commission’s Conflict Management Mediation Panels since 1999. He describes the conflicts that plagued the pre-election period in 1999, including the contestation of control of areas by various political parties, or “no-go” zones. He discusses the role that political party loyalties played in causing electoral disorder, and the effects of apartheid on these loyalties. Furthermore, he notes the role the police forces played in electoral mediation and talks about the relationship between mediation and policing. He explains the importance of the training and recruitment of mediators. Finally, he discusses the usage of the country’s electoral codes in deterring conflict escalation.

Profile

At the time of this interview, Reverend Gift Moerane was a member of the South African National Peace Accord, spokesperson for the South African Council of Churches. He served as a member of the Electoral Commission’s Conflict Management Mediation Panels since 1999. He was born in the Vaal Triangle in the Meyerton Township. He completed teacher training at the College of Education in Groblersdal. In 1984, after working as a clerk for the Meyerton municipality, he started working for the Council of Churches, assisting families of detainees and political prisoners.

Priscilla Isaac

Ref Batch
Y
Focus Area(s)
Ref Batch Number
8
Country of Reform
Interviewers
Rachel Jackson
Name
Priscilla Isaac
Interviewee's Position
Director of Elections,
Interviewee's Organization
Electoral Commission of Zambia
Language
English
Town/City
Lusaka
Country
Date of Interview
Reform Profile
No
Abstract

In this interview, Priscilla Isaac, the Director of Elections for the Electoral Commission of Zambia in Lusaka, talks about her role in implementing the Conflict Management Committee to lessen the amount of electoral conflict. The Electoral Commission began utilizing the Conflict Management Committees as early as 2001, when the committee received help from the Electoral Initiative for Sustainable Democracy in Africa and the Malawi Electoral Commission to educate the general public on the prevention of electoral violence.  However, the committee became more explicitly used in 2006, following the rise in disputes and conflicts mostly happening during by-elections. Isaac details that due to this increase in violence, the commission believed that it would be helpful to sit down the participants and have them sort out their disputes among themselves. With help from the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa and Electoral Commissions Forum of Southern Africa Development Community, the Conflict Management Committees were able to make user-friendly manuals that defined the electoral codes of conduct. Isaac explains how it was difficult in making the balance between facilitating a harmonious atmosphere and punishment. They wanted to make the people have a platform where they could peacefully discuss their political grievances, but at the same time knew that there would be some rule breakers. However, the commission itself does not have the ability to punish or arrest any perpetrators, so the potential punishment did not really scare people from having electoral disputes, scaring people off, etc. Henceforth, the primary role of the Electoral Commission through the Conflict Management Committee is to admonish—to set forward the rules and explain to the public that they should be mandatorily followed. She states the procedure of people expressing their complaints to the committee, and how one can express grievances on the district and national level. 

Case Study:  Creating Avenues to Resolve Election Disputes: Conflict Management Committees in Zambia, 2001-2011

Profile

At the time of this interview, Priscilla Isaac was the Director of Elections for the Electoral Commission of Zambia in Lusaka. She has played a major role in mitigating the prevalence of electoral disputes in Lusaka by her participation in founding the Conflict Management Committees. Isaac attended the University of Zambia where she studied psychology and public administration. Upon graduation, she joined the Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM), which was the largest parastatal mining organization in Zambia. She worked in the public relations side of ZCCM for over ten years. However, she began to look for work following the mining industry being privatized by the government. Her search ended when she received an offer to work for the Electoral Commission of Zambia, in which she used her public relations background to participate in the commission’s public relations department. Shortly after, Isaac switched from this department and was asked to head the elections department as Acting Deputy Director of Elections and Voter Education—becoming the first woman to do so. In this new position, she began to educate the general public on the electoral code and the prevention of hostility in the time of elections. Following the increase in electoral disputes and violence in the midst of by-elections, the Electoral Commission decided to implement the Conflict Management Committees to help lessen the electoral violence through the creation of devices such as user-friendly manuals which explained the rules that parties must abide by to keep a just electoral environment. She acknowledges that there are many benefits and faults to this system, but believes in the process and recommends it to other places which are facing similar problems.