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Electoral Leadership in Crisis: Empirical Research and Scenario-Based Training Tools  


Although credible elections can support nations in their democratization processes, seriously flawed or failed elections pose a potent risk to political stability. Electoral leaders therefore operate in a unique and challenging space. They may be required to carry out their mandates at the epicenter of fundamental transitions that involve all sectors of society, enormous political pressure, and uniquely complex challenges to the independence of the institutions they helm. Strong electoral leadership is essential to resolving protracted challenges that prevent meaningful reforms, undermine EMB independence, and subvert the electoral process. Despite these imperatives, there is virtually no area of study dedicated to the topic of electoral leadership either in its own right or as distinct from election management.


Quantitative data and qualitative analysis is needed to test existing assumptions, better understand electoral leadership from a comparative perspective, and tailor training programs for electoral leaders.

To address this gap in understanding, CEPPS/IFES will:

  • Develop and field a detailed survey to gather data on electoral leadership, drawing on existing models of leadership from the public and private sectors;
  • Through in-person interviews, survey results, and desk research, develop examples of leadership successes and failures in the face of serious electoral challenges or crises, upon which scenario-based training modules and simulations can be built; and
  • Craft and test a targeted leadership curriculum for electoral leaders that will foster the leadership skills necessary to preserve independence even in the midst of crisis.


  • Where does individual and institutional authority and independence come from, and how can it be strengthened and protected?
  • What does ethical and accountable leadership look like in the elections field, and how can it be fostered?
  • How is leadership exercised in different electoral crisis scenarios? What can we learn from leadership successes and failures in the midst of a crisis?


The curriculum will be used to support senior electoral leaders (both new leaders and those who have managed elections in the past). The curriculum modules will emphasize the skills needed for electoral leaders to strengthen institutional independence, deliver elections within the context of a crisis, resist manipulation of elections by political actors, and foster institutional resilience and capacity.


IFES’ iEXCEL Executive Curriculum helps electoral leaders develop the skills needed to deliver peaceful and fair elections in times of crisis, resist political manipulation, and foster institutional resilience and independence. The curriculum was developed to reflect lessons from past leaders who have shepherded elections through extraordinary times such as health crises and transitions of power.

Hear directly from some of the exceptional leaders whose experiences helped shape the training, including:

  • Dr. Irena Hadžiabdić, who is confronting the rising tide of disinformation campaigns in elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina;
  • Lamin Lighe, who managed Liberia’s elections during the 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa;
  • Bhojraj Pokharel, who led Nepal’s transitional elections following a decades-long, violent conflict; and
  • Charlotte Osei, who navigated an attack on the Ghanaian election commission’s website and oversaw Ghana’s third consecutive peaceful transfer of power since it became a democracy.
Funded by the United States Agency for International Development’s Global EPT Leader Cooperative Agreement No. AID-OAA-L-15-00007.
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