Friday, July 18, 2008

The Asia Foundation Report: Really?

From their website:

Observation of the Mongolian Party Elections

The Asia Foundation deployed 17 two-person teams to observe the parliamentary election. Other international observation efforts included a total of 26 teams deployed by locally based embassies and international non-governmental organizations, and 9 teams from overseas deployed under the aegis of the Asia-Pacific Democracy Partnership.

This report is now making its rounds in the press. The report consists of two parts, the first on the voting process and the second part on the voter sentiment. After I read the report and saw its pie-charts of voter survey, what I thought was "oh? really?". I am tempted to dismiss the second half of their report as complete nonsense, without blaming the Asia Foundation mind you, and not even close to being suggestive of reality.

Example: Only 12% of the surveyed thought the elections were not free / fair, while 67% said the elections were free / fair. Really?

Source: The Asia Foundation: Observation of the Mongolian Parliamentary Election Report And this? 70% thought this was not likely?

The main reason I am skeptical is its overly optimistic results.

I could try and explain the reasons for the optimistic results to a certain extent.

First of all, I don't know much about sampling and surveys, but how indicative is a survey taken from 200 voters? Second, who were the interviewers? Foreigners? While Mongolians may speak to the local press frankly and may express their dissatisfaction with the electoral process, they may not do so with foreign observers. It will not do to air our dirty laundry in the international press is the thinking. Most people, non-politicians, are reluctant to be quoted by name criticizing the system. Third, the report states the date as 29 June, the election day. imageI interpret this to mean that the interviews with voters were conducted at voting stations on the election day itself. Which explains why 67% thought "the elections will be fair and free". I certainly hoped it would be fair and free. Hmm... but still, surely we are not that deluded?

But perhaps I am missing the point here. These were simply the sentiments of 200 voters on the election day. What is more important in this report are the Asia Foundation observers' report on the voting process, which indicates to a large extent that the voting process looked fair and free. This does not, of course, rule out the possibility of vote-rigging during the counting process.

imageFunnily enough, in 14% of the visits, there were officials "loitering near the station". I found the phrase hilarious and perhaps quite fitting, for whatever reason.

In 29% of the visits, the voters were not given enough privacy to mark their ballots without being observed by others.

Now what are we to do with their findings? But more importantly what will the government do with this report? Better voting process including voter privacy and less loitering of officials would be a good start.

View the PDF report from their website here.