IFES’ Leadership in Electoral Administration Program (LEAP)
Strong electoral leadership is often the determining factor in overcoming some of the greatest threats to credible and inclusive elections. The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) piloted a new module of its “Leadership in Electoral Administration Program" (LEAP) in Colombo for the Election Commission of Sri Lanka (ECSL) as part of the U.S. Agency for International Development-funded “Improved Election Management Program” on January 17 and 18.
LEAP is a global IFES program that aims to strengthen leadership skills of election administrators. LEAP includes a scenario-based crisis simulation that exposes participants to complex situations and encourages them to apply leadership skills to real world contexts. After participating in the first LEAP program in Bali, Indonesia, ECSL Chairperson Mahinda Deshapriya and members Nalin Abeyesekere and Professor Ratnajeevan Hoole requested IFES to run a LEAP program for the ECSL senior team focused on the relationship between leadership, ethics and crisis management.
On the first day of LEAP in Sri Lanka, IFES Asia-Pacific Regional Director Vasu Mohan and IFES Ukraine Country Director and Senior Global Adviser Peter Erben presented comparative examples of influential electoral leaders from around the world, as well as a framework for understanding ethical and accountable conduct in leadership. The presentation highlighted key components of effective electoral leadership such as maintaining a reputation of impartiality through active communication with stakeholders and transparent decision-making. Participants were also encouraged to identify ways that the ECSL can model ethical leadership both internally and for other institutions in Sri Lanka. IFES President and CEO Bill Sweeney was an active participant in the event and offered opening reflections on the historical impact of electoral leadership in honor of IFES’ 30th anniversary.
“Taking on the role of a human rights activist gave me a new perspective on the benefits of coordinating with stakeholders when we as the Election Commission do not have a mandate to act.”
- ECSL Participant
Participants roleplay as a candidate and journalist.
Framed by these principles of leadership, the second day consisted of an electoral crisis simulation based on the scenario of a presidential candidate using hate speech to disparage the opposition in a heated campaign. Participants juggled the desire to mitigate electoral violence associated with the candidate’s rhetoric, and the responsibility to act in adherence with a vague legal framework. In addition to promoting creative problem-solving in a real world situation, the simulation encouraged ECSL participants to assume the perspective of security actors, media, civil society, human rights group members and political representatives. As such, the simulation allowed many of the participants to identify the specific responsibilities of the ECSL, and opportunities for other electoral stakeholders to act in situations where the ECSL is restricted by its need to maintain impartiality and act within its mandate. Going forward, IFES will share additional resources with the ECSL on hate speech and its relationship to the mitigation of electoral violence.
For more on the piloting of LEAP in Bali, please click here.