A senior Romanian minister was convicted on Friday of electoral fraud over a 2012 attempt to impeach a president and political rival, a judgment that dealt a blow to Prime Minister Victor Ponta’s efforts to demonstrate to the EU a hard line on graft. Regional development minister Liviu Dragnea was convicted of masterminding a campaign to use bribes and forged ballot papers to swing an impeachment vote against then president Traian Basescu, arch rival of Ponta’s ruling Social Democrats. The court gave Dragnea, a powerful figure in Romanian politics, a one year suspended jail sentence, which spares him prison. He will, however, be banned from holding public office. The decision can be appealed.
The world is moving online and so too now is politics. But as online, electronic voting (e-voting) increasingly becomes a reality, are we opening ourselves up to vote rigging by power-hungry politicians or fame-seeking hackers? Voting has traditionally been a pen and paper exercise; a slip filled-in and placed into a sealed ballot, with results counted and recorded by independent volunteers. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the result can’t be swayed, unintentionally or otherwise. There have been some notorious examples of foul play – Slobodan Milošević was accused of rigging elections in 1996 and 2000 in Yugoslavia – while errors can also occur, as best illustrated by the 2000 US presidential election, when a fault with Florida’s ballot paper led some people to vote for the wrong candidate. … These risks are only magnified when voting systems are pushed online. Brazil, Belgium and Estonia are just a few examples of the countries to have taken to e-voting, and while they have seen the benefits from the improved speed, accessibility and legibility (no more illegible ticks or crosses), they are arguably more open to attack.
A spokesman for Nigeria’s ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has accused the Independent National Elections Commission (INEC) of colluding with security agencies in deciding last Saturday’s gubernatorial elections in some PDP strongholds in favor of the All Progressives Congress Party (APC). Olisa Metuh, national publicity secretary of the PDP, said INEC officials and security agencies aided APC supporters in Abia, Imo, Plateau, and Zamfara states. Election commission officials were not immediately available for comment. Of the results announced so far, the APC has won 21 of Nigeria’s 36 states to 12 for the PDP. The results in Abia and Imo states have been declared inclusive.
While there are only two months left until the general election in June, vote-rigging incidents during previous elections have increased concerns over the security of the ballot boxes and the fate of the votes on the Supreme Election Board (YSK) list as millions of citizens failed to check whether they will be able to vote or not. Rigging claims were frequent during past elections, although no major vote-rigging has been made public yet which might change the results. Some unused ballots were found in the trash, some people were claimed to have voted twice and there were claims that some voted using the names of dead people. Still others were not able to vote as their names were not on the list specifically drawn up for voters. Power outages took place in 41 provinces on the night of the local elections on March 30, 2014. Allegations of election fraud were rampant following the local elections, with observers documenting many discrepancies between the numbers recorded at polling stations and those finally entered into the YSK’s computer-based Elector Record System (SEÇSİS). More interestingly, a cat that allegedly got inside an electrical transformer was held responsible by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government for at least one of the power cuts that occurred in 22 provinces during vote tallying on the evening of March 30.
While Pakistan’s opposition parties are still arguing about alleged rigging in the 2013 general elections, a former chief election commissioner (CEC) of India has revealed similar stories from the general elections held in his country last year. In his book An Undocumented Wonder: The Making of the Great Indian Election, which juxtaposes the electoral system of India and other countries, Dr SY Quraishi suggests some key electoral reforms to improve the electoral process. He said the 2014 polls had witnessed more violence, hate speeches and violations than the previous elections, adding that many senior leaders had launched a frontal attack on the Election Commission of India (ECI) for all this mess. “Even the most rigorous and well managed elections cannot guarantee honesty and efficiency in the practice of democracy,” he writes, sharing details of all 16 general elections held in India since 1952. “Elections are fought with the aim of capturing political power and, thus, have a high-stakes context. About seventy-three countries with 42 per cent of the global population do not hold free and fair elections.” The former CEC writes that a public interest litigation on the rigging issue was filed in the Bombay High Court. The commission held that it had made all efforts to update the electoral rolls and had repeatedly appealed to voters in four languages to check their names.
Macedonia’s main opposition party on Tuesday published what it says is new evidence of government vote-manipulation in three recent elections, following up on accusations of a massive wire-tapping scandal. At a party rally, Zoran Zaev’s Social Democrats released what they said were recorded conversations between conservative government officials and Macedonia’s intelligence chief. Addressing more than 2,000 party supporters, Zaev repeated calls for conservative Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski to immediately hand over power to an interim government that would ensure “free and fair elections.”
Salvadorans go to the polls on Sunday to elect new legislators and local officials in a tight contest between the ruling Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front, FMLN, and the conservative Nationalist Republican Alliance, ARENA, for control of the Legislative Assembly. Voters in El Salvador will also elect 262 new mayors, some 3,000 municipal council members and 20 country representatives for the Central American Parliament. For the first time, voters will be able to select individual candidates from any party rather than being forced to vote for a single party with an established list of candidates. Voters can still opt to simply choose a party.
Tajikistan’s veteran President Imomali Rakhmon looked set on Monday to dominate parliament for another five years after his party took a strong lead in an election Western observers said was stacked in his favor. The central election commission, announcing first results from Sunday’s general election, said on Monday his People’s Democratic Party of Tajikistan had won 65.2 percent of the party list votes, which account for about one-third of the seats in the lower house of parliament. No information was available yet on results from direct mandate constituencies, which make up the rest of the 63-seat lower house, but observers expect Rakhmon loyalists to win most of those races as well.
A senior official of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has refuted reports that the use of card readers to authenticate voters is unconstitutional. Both the 1999 constitution and the Electoral Act of 2010 stipulate that “electronic voting is prohibited for now.” Critics say those laws are also meant to cover the use of electronic readers to check voter registration cards. But Nick Dazang, INEC’s Deputy Director for Public Affairs said critics are misunderstanding the measures. “The card reader we are deploying for the elections is meant only for accrediting voters before they vote,” said Dazang. “Electronic voting means using a machine to vote. And in the instance of the card reader, the only thing it does is to accredit and authenticate the voter and then verify the voter as the genuine voter of the Permanent Voter Card [PVC] that we are using for the election.”
Tujja Masa won’t dare vote in Nigeria’s presidential election next month. The 50-year-old farmer is one of the hundreds of thousands who’ve fled their northeastern villages to escape gun and bomb attacks by Islamist militants. Raids last week were said to have killed hundreds of people in the town of Baga, while a girl as young as 10 detonated explosives at a market in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state. The self-declared leader of the Islamist Boko Haram group, Abubakar Shekau, has likened democracy to homosexuality and incest in video messages. “I am really afraid of election day,” Masa said in Maiduguri, the city in which he’s sheltering with relatives after running away from Krenoa, his village in the north of Borno state. “Honestly we are praying for God to come to our aid and have hitch-free elections, but I will not go there.” Nigeria, home to Africa’s biggest economy, oil industry and population, is stumbling toward general elections in the face of worsening violence by the Islamist group, Boko Haram, and the introduction of a biometric voter-card system designed to end ballot stuffing and fraud.