Monday, January 16, 2012

FDA's Key Electoral Fairness Definitions

These electoral fairness definitions provide a conceptual framework for the FDA electoral fairness audits:

Key Definitions:

Candidate and party influence refers to the opportunity and action of candidates and parties to campaign directly and indirectly in the public domain for elected positions of political representation. This opportunity and action occur before, during, and after an election period. Also, this concept may overlap with the political content of media, electoral finance, and voter influence. In the terms of the FDA electoral fairness audit, candidate and party influence includes:

  • Registrations requirements for candidates and parties.
  • Laws for candidates and parties access to media and and reasonable opportunity to take advantage of the access.
  • Regulations on access to major debates.
  • Electoral complaints process for candidates and parties.
  • Laws on donations/contributions to candidates and parties.
  • Procedures for formation of electoral lists and boundaries.
  • Procedures for the determination of elected winners in constituencies/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.

Candidate and party influence only entails laws, regulations, procedures etc. which impact the influence of candidates and parties. For example, candidate and party influence does not entail procedures for electoral complaints by voters nor does it entail laws on voter assistance at polling booths.

(Source: Foundation for Democratic Advancement)

Electoral fairness refers to the impartiality, balance, and equitability of election law, regulation, procedure, access, opportunity, and action, before, during, and after an election period. In the context of the FDA electoral fairness audit, electoral fairness encompasses the concepts of political content of media, candidate and party influence, electoral finance, and voter influence: the impartiality and balance of the media's political content; the equitability of opportunity and action of registered candidates and parties to influence; the equitability of electoral finance laws and regulations in the case of registered candidates and parties; the equitability of opportunity and action of voters in terms of voicing their political views and/or influencing 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 a mix of equitability and bias through legislated equal access to media while unequal reasonable opportunity to take advantage of that equal access. In contrast, electoral fairness would entail a broad, balanced diffusion of electoral propaganda by registered political parties during the campaign period, equal campaign finances (not just 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).

The underlying concepts behind electoral fairness are an equal playing field for registered candidates and parties so that they are distinguished by the voting public based on who their candidates are, and what their policies, visions, and pledges etc. are, and a broad, balanced electoral discourse in which the people as a whole are given the better opportunity to determine their political representatives. Electoral fairness as defined is a vision of what ought to be for democratic processes.

(Source: Foundation for Democratic Advancement)

Electoral finance refers to electoral finance law and regulation applied to registered candidates and parties before, during, and after an election period. Electoral finances encompasses campaign finances which are restricted to the campaign period.

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

  • Caps on electoral donations/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.
  • Procedures for the handling of electoral donations/contributions by registered candidates and parties.
  • Public electoral subsidies (or the lack of).
  • Laws on who can make electoral donations/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 equal 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 with the act of voting.

(Source: Foundation for Democratic Advancement)

Political content of media refers to the political content of radio and television broadcasters, the press, and online 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 the concept of candidate and party influence, and electoral advertisements by third-parties are included in the concept of voter influence.

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 applies “balance” in the case of the political content of media as equal political content of all registered political parties. This application is based on the premise that voters should have balanced information on all registered candidates and parties, and that registered candidates and parties should be elected by the will of the people. The FDA does not support the idea of parties successful in the previous election being favored in media coverage in a current election, because this would create bias based merely on past results, and thereby weaken the process of capturing the will of the people in the present. Also, the FDA does not support unlimited freedom of broadcast and press media. The FDA believes that there is a misleading connection between freedom of broadcasting/press and democracy. The purpose of democratic elections is to capture as accurately as possible the will of the people. A broad, balanced electoral discourse supports the will of the people, rather than a narrow, imbalanced electoral discourse. Although the FDA acknowledges that imbalance in the media's political content could be canceled out if there were media ownership concentration laws which produced pluralistic media ownership and an overall balanced coverage of all registered political parties.

(Source: Foundation for Democratic Advancement)

Voter influence refers to the citizens who are eligible to vote and their opportunity to express through assembly, articles, letters to editors, blogs, advertisements etc. their political voice in the public domain and to vote (including the relative weights of votes). Voter influence applies to before, during, and after an election period.

In the context of the FDA electoral fairness audit, 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 donations 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.

Voter influence does not include procedures for the counting of votes. Also, in the context of the FDA electoral fairness audit, voter influence may include overlap with the concepts of political content of media, candidate and party influence, and electoral finance. The overlap is contingent on the impact of these other concepts on voter influence. For example, no caps on donations/contributions to candidates and parties will impact voter influence because the lack of cap will favor voters with more financial wealth, and thereby create inequity and imbalance in voter influence.

(Source: Foundation for Democratic Advancement)

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