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Protecting electoral integrity: International IDEA presents the global project “Protecting Elections” in Panama

From left to right: Magistrate Yara Campo Berrío, Magistrate Luis Guerra Morales, Magistrate President Alfredo Juncá Wendehake, Specialist Sead Alihodzic, Magistrate Eduardo Valdés Escoffery, and Project Manager – Panama, Carlos González Martínez.
What does it mean to talk about risks in the electoral context? At what point does a risk become a threat? How can we prevent that threat from turning into a crisis that jeopardizes electoral integrity and democracy as a whole? These questions were addressed during the visit of International IDEA’s expert Sead Alihodzic to Panama City between 16 to 20 January 2024.

International IDEA has a long history of working with electoral risk management, democracy resilience and the conduct of elections during times of crises. During Mr Alihodzic's visit to  Panama, he met with influential leaders of the country's electoral authorities and other stakeholders to present the global "Protecting Elections" project, one of the more recent initiatives on these topics. 

The project, funded by the government of Canada, aims to develop an integrated framework that adopts a holistic approach to protecting elections. This approach promotes risk management, resilience building, and crisis management practices in electoral management. The overall objective is to deliver gender-sensitive knowledge resources, training materials and assessment tools that can support electoral management bodies to safeguard the integrity of electoral processes.  

Building on the longstanding relationship between International IDEA and The Electoral Tribunal of Panama, Mr Alihodzic's visit was an important opportunity to anchor the conceptual thinking of the project in the Panamanian context and to learn from the Tribunal's work with managing risks, threats and crises. The project's contextual relevance was confirmed after fruitful discussions with the full panel of magistrates of the Electoral Tribunal of Panama, electoral process authorities, journalists, and academia. The Tribunal showed interest in participating in the project's implementation activities.

The implementation phase involves testing and piloting the Integrated Framework's resource package in four countries globally. Following the visit, a dialogue has been initiated between International IDEA and the Electoral Tribunal to formalize the partnership for Panama to be the Latin American country represented in the project. Other confirmed countries are Mauritius (Africa) and Finland (Europe), while discussions with prospective partners in the Asia-Pacific region are forthcoming. By being part of the test phase, the Electoral Tribunal is offered a unique opportunity to feed their good practices and lessons learned into the project resources and the wider community of practice. At the same time, the project resources and activities aim to strengthen the knowledge and capacity of the Tribunal and, consequently, contribute to more free, fair and credible elections in Panama. 

As an institute with a mandate to promote and protect democracy and strengthen institutions, protecting elections is considered one of many necessary efforts to reinforce confidence in democratic institutions and the democratic system. With the Protecting Elections project and other initiatives, International IDEA continues to promote and protect democracy in and from Panama.

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About the authors

Ana Elisa Miranda Sanchez
Communications Assistant
Roberto Ogg Fabrega
Programme Assistant
Julia Thalin
Associate Programme Officer, Electoral Processes
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