More than seven in 10 candidates in May’s Stormont election reported abuse and intimidation, according to an Electoral Commission survey.
The commission’s report says the government must now take “urgent action” to tackle the rise in abuse, threats and intimidation of candidates across the UK.
According to a new report by the electoral watchdog, four out of 10 candidates standing in May’s elections in England, Scotland and Wales faced voter intimidation.
But in Northern Ireland, the problem was far worse.
71 percent of the candidates who stood in the assembly elections earlier this year faced abuse and intimidation.
A total of 239 candidates stood for the Assembly (compared to 228 in 2017), of which 87 were women candidates, representing 36.4% of all candidates.
The report states: “The majority of candidates who responded to our survey said they had experienced intimidation, abuse and/or intimidation.
“In most cases this relates to theft or loss of campaign materials, online and verbal abuse.
“It is important that candidates and campaigners can freely participate in our democratic process, and we intend to meet with the wider electoral community to understand what is causing the abuse and intimidation of candidates. And to ensure that this issue is resolved immediately.”
Jonathan Mitchell, manager of the Electoral Commission in Northern Ireland, said: “While confidence in the election is high, campaigners and those taking part in the election face additional challenges.
“The report highlights concerns about flexibility and capacity in election delivery, with the Chief Electoral Officer reporting problems with recruitment and retention of staff to work in elections.
“The majority of candidates reported experiencing abuse and intimidation, primarily with issues related to theft or loss of campaign materials, online abuse, and verbal abuse.”
Mr Mitchell added that “action is needed to tackle intimidation and abuse of candidates in elections”.
He said that it is very important that the candidates can participate in the elections without any fear.
“We will be working closely with the wider electoral community to ensure we understand what is causing this problem and address it urgently.”
Among the candidates who were intimidated was the SDLP’s Elsie Traynor. He was att*cked in south Belfast after chasing two youths who removed his campaign posters.
Ms Trainor was called a “Republican b*****d” as she followed and filmed the men on a 15-minute chase through Ormeau Park.
He had seen them taking down their posters in broad daylight on Raven Hill Road.
During the episode, she said she was att*cked by a young man, and another tried to grab her mobile phone while she filmed them.
Many other candidates at the time reported removal of posters, and communal abuse — both online and offline.
The survey also revealed that less than half (46%) of respondents who participated in the election count said they were satisfied with how efficiently it was conducted.
Counting was not completed that day, and it took until the morning of Sunday, May 8, for the final constituency to be announced.
In May, there were complaints from the media about the lack of basic necessities such as food, electricity and Wi-Fi.
The report suggested that in this year’s election, there were several stages of counting where only a small number of votes could be transferred at each stage before candidates had enough votes to exceed the quota. could be achieved, further steps were then required. considered selected.
These challenges have been compounded by the problem of retaining experienced counting staff due to Covid, he added. Other common concerns related to traffic management and enumeration.
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