The COVID 19 has brought a wide range of issues to the fore. Some of the most troubling ones, surprisingly, are not public health centered, but political in nature. In many countries, COVID-related corruption has drained public funds and enriched opportunistic leaders. In other countries, the state of emergency that COVID-19 has created has given despots an opportunity to entrench their power and install mechanisms to extend terms, increase militarization, and de-liberalize society at large.
The pandemic has affected the delivery of public services and postponed events that are crucial to maintaining social cohesion, justice, and democracy. Electoral processes are one such event.
Corruption and power grabbing are compounded by slowed down courts, increased surveillance, international territory disputes, and embattled media institutions, leading some to openly wonder if democracy, as a whole, will be able to survive the pandemic.
It becomes imperative, not just in spite of the pandemic, but because of it, that an election that truly reflects the will of the people is able to push through. An election within the post-pandemic context must possess certain characteristics to be deemed a genuine reflection of public sentiment and political desire.
First, the elections must be safe. This safety covers not only the aspect of health, but also freedom from interference. Here, automated elections are a vital solution as they can address many of the issues that arise from slow and vulnerable manual counts.
The second requirement, inclusion and participation, builds on the foundation of safety. An election that is physically unsafe or publicly untrusted cannot hope to enjoy the participation brought by public confidence and trust.
At its core, an election that is not widely and actively participated in is an empty political ritual. Automation also makes it easier for those who are marginalized to participate in the elections. Lastly, as we move forward with the intent of reviving and bolstering democracy and democratic institutions, we must take an all-of-society and all-of-government approach.
No one sector of society, be it business, the academe, the government, or civil society organizations can hope to address such an all-encompassing issue. It is in this spirit that we now hold this discussion.
Mr. Francesco “Paco” A. Pangalangan
Executive Director, Stratbase ADR Institute
Lead Convenor, Democracy Watch Philippines
Prof. Dindo Manhit
President, Stratbase ADR Institute
Session 1: Global Perspective on Fostering an Environment for Electoral Participation
Importance of Participative Elections: US Electoral Context
Ms. Penny Lee
Public Affairs, Invariant;
Regular Commentator, US News & World Report;
Analyst, CNN, MSNBC, & Fox News;
Online Voting and E-Governance: The Estonian Context
Prof. Robert Krimmer
Head of DigiGovLab, TalTech Tallinn University of Technology
Session 2: Electoral Participation in a Pandemic
Philippine Elections in a Pandemic
Dir. James Jimenez
Director, Education and Information Department and
Spokesperson, Commission on Elections
2019 Midterm Elections in Review: An Assessment of the ‘Credibility’ of the 2019 Midterm Elections
Dr. Ador Torneo
Director, De La Salle Institute of Governance
Moving Towards E-Governance
Dr. Ronald Mendoza
Dean, Ateneo School of Government
The Important Role of an Adaptive Civil Society in the Face of Evolving Elections
Atty. Rona Ann Caritos
Executive Director, Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE)