This report assesses the evidence on the impact of professional election security on elections and, more broadly, a country’s development. The role of security forces (including police and the military) is widely seen as critical to successful and peaceful free and fair elections in the policy literature (UNDP 2009, Ndulo & Lulo 2010, USAID 2010).
Donor support for elections has been particularly significant in post-conflict contexts (Fischer 2002). ‘In such cases as Bosnia and Herzegovina, East Timor, and Kosovo, international military and civilian police security forces, in partnership with local authorities, have been deployed to provide protection to people, facilities, materials, and data’ (Fischer 2002, p.20).
Due to the lack of rigorous, cross-country studies on the impact of electoral security, this study draws primarily on case study literature. This literature is made up of (i) assessments and evaluations by donors about programmes to professionalise electoral security, and (ii) broader country literature on elections that involves an assessment of the impact of electoral security on the conduct of elections.
The evidence from the case study literature is fragmentary, although the report draws on donor assessments of electoral security interventions in a number of countries (including Burundi, Kosovo, Sri Lanka, Lesotho, and Haiti); security-related donor inventions in Sierra Leone and Sri Lanka; donor-supported efforts to generate an electoral code of conduct for police in Nigeria; efforts to professionalise security in Darfur; international efforts to boost electoral security in Timor-Leste; and training to police in Kenya. Other examples include post-conflict elections in Mozambique and Namibia.
The general policy literature on election security has highlighted a number of key lessons:
- Election security has been most effective when it has involved a partnership of equals between the civil police and the military (Fischer 2002).
- Training should be timely. The cases of Nigeria and Sierra Leone demonstrated training for police officials that comes too late in the electoral cycle is often ineffective (UNDP 2009).
- Police training should be multi-dimensional, comprising both written materials and interactive “face-to-face” training from superiors or front-line officers.
- The role of police during the different phases of the electoral cycle should be clearly defined, for the benefit of forces themselves and the general public.
- Donor engagement with local security actors should focus on ‘training, restraint, public-order policing, dispute-resolution skills, and the specific provisions of electoral law.