Abuse and intimidation were reported by more than seven in 10 candidates in Stormont’s May election, according to a survey by the Electoral Commission.
The government must now take “urgent action” to tackle the rise in abuse, threats and intimidation suffered by candidates across the UK, the commission’s report said.
About four in 10 candidates running in May’s general election in England, Scotland and Wales were intimidated by voters, according to a new report from the Electoral Commission.
But in Northern Ireland the problem was much worse.
About 71% of the candidates who stood for general elections earlier this year were abused and intimidated.
A total of 239 candidates stood for election to the Assembly (up from 228 in 2017), of which 87 were women candidates, representing 36.4% of all candidates.
The report states: “A majority of candidates who completed our survey reported experiencing threats, abuse and/or intimidation.
“In most cases, this involved theft or damage to campaign materials, online and verbal abuse.
“It is important that candidates and activists be able to participate freely in our democratic processes, and we plan to meet with the broader voting community to understand what drives candidate abuse and intimidation and to ensure that this issue is addressed.” urgently addressed.”
Jonathan Mitchell, manager of the Electoral Commission in Northern Ireland, said: “While confidence in the election remains high, campaigners and election officials face additional challenges.
“The report highlights concerns about the resilience and capacity of conducting elections, with the chief electoral officer reporting problems in recruiting and retaining staff to work in the elections.
“A majority of candidates reported experiencing abuse and intimidation, mainly involving theft or damage to campaign materials, online abuse and verbal abuse.”
Mr Mitchell added that “measures are needed to counter intimidation and abuse of candidates in elections”.
“It is crucial that candidates can participate in elections without fear,” he said.
“We will work with the broader constituency to ensure we understand what is driving this issue and address it urgently.”
Among the cowed candidates was SDLP’s Elsie Trainor. She was attacked after stalking two youths removing their election posters in south Belfast.
Ms Trainor was dubbed a “Republican b*****d” as she tracked and filmed the individuals in a 15-minute pursuit through Ormeau Park.
She’d seen them take down their placards in broad daylight on Ravenhill Road.
During the episode, she said she was attacked by one of the youths and the second tried to grab her phone while she was filming them.
Many other candidates at the time reported the removal of posters and sectarian abuse – both online and offline.
The survey also found that less than half (46%) of respondents who took part in an election count were satisfied with the efficiency of its conduct.
The count was not completed on the same day and it took until the early hours of Sunday 8 May for the final constituency to be called.
In May there had been complaints in the media about the lack of basic necessities – including groceries, electricity and Wi-Fi.
The report indicated that this year’s election had many more stages of counting, where only a small number of votes could be carried over at each stage, and that more stages were required before candidates had enough votes to beat the quota to transcend and to be considered elected.
It added that these challenges were compounded by the problem of retaining experienced counting staff due to Covid. Other common concerns related to traffic management and admission to census.
https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/urgent-action-needed-after-majority-of-election-candidates-reported-abuse-42007848.html ‘Urgent action’ needed after majority of election candidates reported abuse