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Core Concepts - Making Connections: Electoral Cycles

The Electoral Cycle Approach
Well-run and credible elections that reflect the will of the people are critical events, but they fit into a larger electoral cycle that needs to be kept in mind. Ideally, an electoral cycle starts at the end of one election and runs through the beginning of the next election. It has three basic phases: pre-electoral preparations, electoral operations and post-electoral strategies. See the Electoral Cycle breakdown for how each phase can link to potential programme activities.

In planning, implementing and monitoring electoral assistance, looking through the lens of the electoral cycle helps in identifying effective entry points for longer-term support. It provides better opportunities to sustainably address systemic issues such as capacity development; institutional strengthening; the participation of women, minorities, indigenous people and other disadvantaged groups; and the use of appropriate and cost-effective technology in electoral processes.

This strategy does not preclude short-term support specifically geared towards an electoral event. It does, however, favour connecting this assistance to other elements of the electoral process. Using an electoral cycle perspective may allow better identification of needs, including for urgent short-term requests, and facilitate advance planning.

Regardless of whether the programme is oriented around a single election or crosses different phases of the electoral cycle, all interventions should stem from an overarching vision and strategy for what needs to be achieved.

Keeping an eye on the larger governance picture
It is also important to consider elections within the overall political environment. This recognizes that diverse political activities are intertwined and influence each other—a reality that may offer opportunities to leverage assistance, but also pitfalls if the focus is too narrow.

A programme that addresses the institutional and professional capacity of an EMB in complete isolation, for example, may not contribute much to building acceptance and trust among other stakeholders. There may be a need to reach out to voters, political parties, the media, civil society, and other actors and institutions of democratic governance.

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