The quality of electoral processes is important to Australia’s interests in advancing stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific. While electoral assistance accounts for less than 1 per cent of Australian development assistance each year, elections are regular, resource-intensive and time-critical events of major significance to the countries concerned.
This Office of Development Effectiveness evaluation examined the effectiveness, inclusiveness and efficiency of Australian electoral assistance to major national elections in eight countries between 2006 and 2016: Afghanistan, Myanmar, Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Fiji and Tonga.
The evaluation found that Australian assistance has made a positive contribution to the quality of elections, particularly when strategically applied and effectively coordinated with the work of other partners. Providing technical support, while important, was unlikely on its own to improve electoral processes in challenging environments where broader commitment to democratic processes remains weak. Capacity building of election management bodies was effective at the individual level but less successful in addressing broader factors that allow electoral commissions to act effectively. Efforts to make elections more inclusive focused on candidate training for women, and physical access to polling stations for persons with disabilities rather than addressing structural barriers to inclusion and political empowerment. The evaluation found Australia was well-regarded for providing responsive and flexible assistance, but there that there was potential to improve planning and better integrate electoral assistance within wider governance strategies.