Elections can have a positive developmental effect in developing countries, such as improved economic policy, especially when elections are conducted well (Chauvet and Collier, 2008). However, there is little evidence on the impact of specific electoral measures on elections, and this study found no evidence of a direct link between electoral measures and a country’s development. It may be tenuous to link specific electoral measures directly to long-term development. It is also difficult to isolate which of the electoral measures has greatest impact as in most cases several electoral measures are combined into integrated programmes.
A recent statistical study found that elections are beneficial in countries which have previous democratic experience resulting in robust democratic institutions, or have been allowed two years of preparation to establish democratic institutions (Flores and Nooruddiny, 2012). However, from this study it is not clear which institutions are most important. In general there continues to be a need to measure how much electoral assistance has contributed to democracy building: there is a lack of rigorous assessments of the results of electoral assistance, though this is in part linked to the inherent difficulty in identifying useful performance indicators (Haider 2011). In the absence of such analysis, only tentative conclusions can be drawn from case study literature. This study looks at a number of different case studies and identifies where electoral measures are believed to have resulted in positive impacts.
Of the three measures – credible electoral rolls, domestic observation and impartial election adjudication – domestic observation seems to have been the most effective in supporting fair elections, reducing post-election violence and promoting longer-term stability. Domestic observers have also helped to ensure credible electoral rolls and have supported processes of electoral adjudication. Creating credible electoral rolls seems to be best undertaken following, or commensurate with, creating a valid civil registry, a crucial component which many developing countries lack. Building impartial adjudication processes can be beneficial but this can be dependent on their efficiency which can take time to develop.
In general the most effective choice of electoral measures would be tailored to the context, to address the most likely drivers of post-election conflict, and factors which are likely to undermine longer-term development.