Sunday, April 20, 2014

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Chad's Parliamentary Elections: Troubling Anomalies

A detailed analysis of election results in Chad reveals some troubling anomalies and throws light on the nature of Chadian politics.
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On Sunday, February 13, Chad held parliamentary elections - the first in the country since 2002. The EU observer mission’s comments on the validity of the poll seem surprising given Chad’s patchy history with democracy. The impression was that the democratic shortcomings in Chad derived from the media and the lack of a political space for dissent, not with the poll itself. Yet, serious anomalies both with the turnout of the elections in certain constituencies, and with the published results of the election, suggest otherwise.

Turnout

An analysis of the election results as a whole should be prefaced by a brief look at the effects of the democratic system used in Chad, this can be found here. We can then turn to a more detailed analysis of the numbers to check their internal consistency. The first issue that arises is the question of turnout. Turnout was recorded as 56.6% and the figures on the numbers of votes cast do give this turnout figure; that is, if one takes the Chad Electoral Commission’s (CNEI)  statement of "figures for registered voters", as CNEI appears to do.

However, this then raises several problems. For a start the figures don’t add up: adding the totals for each constituency gives a figure precisely 15,000 short of the published total. Moreover, the statement of election results gives totally different figures for registered voters – listing some 570,881 registered voters fewer than the official figure. Dababa and Dagana have lost over 51,000 (55%) and over 49,000 (68%) of voters respectively between the statement of voters registered and statement of results, whilst Lac Lere has gained over 71,000 voters (77%). It is not clear what the reason for the discrepancy is, or which is the correct figure.

Yet whichever figure is correct, and whatever the reason for this disparity, neither of the two versions seems to answer the anomalies:

If we accept the statement of electoral results as true, and take CNEI figures for registered voters, then that implies an unlikely high turnout in a number of constituencies. For example, in Bahr Sara and Dar-Tama more votes were cast than there were voters in the constituency. Bahr Sara represents a seat in which the MPS won, after the URD missed out on a seat by 2.5% of the vote, with a bizarre 105% turnout. In Kobe 99.8% of the population appears to have voted (implying that only 54 people in the entire constituency did not). Under these figures, eight more seats have a turnout above 90%.

Conversely, if we were to accept the statement of registered voters as true, then different questions arise in other constituencies. Votes in most constituencies now occupy a more normal distribution, but at the high end there are some puzzling results. Two seats (both of them uncontested MPS seats) illustrate turnout of about 90%, and one seat, also uncontested for MPS, demonstrates turnout of slightly over 100%. But the real problems arise in La Nya Pende and Lac Lere. In La Nya Pende the MPS picked up two seats by just 4.5% of the vote on what was seemingly a 113% turnout, while in Lace Lere (where the UNDR won all three seats by just 3% of the vote) turnout reached the impossible figure of 161% of registered voters.

Spoiled Ballots

Spoiled ballots are not a rare phenomenon, and in a country where the literacy rate amounts to 25% of the population, numbers seem to contradict expectations. According to the figures, 13.9% of votes cast correspond to spoiled ballots. Nevertheless, there is an extreme level of variation between each constituency's spoiled ballots. This is unusual but possibly partly explicable: the seats with low rates of spoilt ballots are all either safe MPS constituencies or uncontested seats. Conventionally, it is less probable that a ballot will be spoilt in an uncontested election, and in a safe seat ballots are less likely to be challenged. In contrast, taking the example of Tanjile est, which is a marginal seat with fifteen different parties fighting for the vote, spoilt ballots were unusually high. Nevertheless, in cases where more ballots are spoilt than are cast for any party, the democratic process seems unconvincing.

Results

When the CNEI’s website announced that the MPS have won the seat of Bahr El Gazal Nord with 105.67% of the vote, it didn't take long to realise that something was wrong. The number of votes cast hardly ever adds up to 100% but if it does, it is possible that this is due to either exhaustive recounts or to the official just writing the convenient figure in. Voters can walk out of the booth and accidentally take their ballots with them, the occasional vote can get lost and the occasional vote can get counted twice. A handful of miscounted ballots is not the end of the world, but when the number gets into hundreds, then there is cause for concern.

In ten cases this could have influenced the result (see top factbox to the right of the article).

Even more concerning is the fact that the given percentages for votes cast in each seat do not actually match the percentages one arrives at when calculating the percentages from the data itself. Checking the number of votes cast for each political party does give the same answers as those provided by the electoral commission, but the totals in each seat add up to radically different percentages to those given. For example, Arrondisment N’djamena 3eme  (a small constituency with low turnout - 641 votes) represents the most overvoting constituency with 16.4%  more votes counted than were cast.

In 11 cases this could have influenced the result, changing 13 seats: (see lower factbox to the right of the article).

In conclusion, serious anomalies are evident in both the turnout figures in certain constituencies, and with the published results of the election. The scale of some of these anomalies is large enough that they call into question the validity of the poll. In addition, it is possible that these anomalies could have resulted in the wrong result being declared in 19 constituencies, with the potential effect of giving the MPS and allies up to 19 more seats than they were due, and the opposition up to three. Whilst this does not prove electoral fraud it does suggest a worrying trend of puzzling anomalies which act to the benefit of MPS.

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