Australian Election Management Expert to Receive IFES Baxter Award

Publication Date: 
19 Nov 2015

News Type:

Michael Maley Recognized for Excellence in and Dedication to Election Administration

The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) is pleased to announce that Michael Maley, a distinguished election management expert who previously served as Director of International Services at the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) and supported numerous elections worldwide, is the recipient of the 2015 Joe C. Baxter Award.

The annual Baxter Award recognizes the contributions of election professionals whose skills, dedication and sacrifices to the field of election administration epitomize the mission of IFES and embody the spirit of former IFES Senior Adviser for Election Administration Joe C. Baxter.

“Maley relished serving the Australian public, and his long-term loyalty and enduring contribution to Australian election management and successful Australian elections is matched only by his passion to share his expertise for the improvement of election processes with other countries,” said IFES President and CEO Bill Sweeney. “His international work is both an acknowledgment of his personal achievements and of the AEC’s good reputation in the international electoral community.”

During his tenure as Director of International Services for the AEC, Maley played many key roles, through and with a range of institutions and committees – for example, Australian aid agencies, the Commonwealth Secretariat, the United Nations (UN), International IDEA and IFES. He has served on many boards and as an adviser in agencies such as the Centre for Democratic Institutions at the Australian National University. Maley has also been a regular fixture at global electoral conferences and is a sought-after writer on a wide range of electoral topics.

In 1989, Maley started his international work in Namibia with the UN Transitions Group. In 1992-93 he was Senior Deputy Chief Electoral Officer with the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia. In 1994 he worked with the UN Observer Mission in South Africa, which observed the first multi-racial elections. He has provided substantial assistance on numerous short-term missions, including UN peacekeeping missions, and given technical advice and support to observer missions in post-conflict states at a time when election observation and assistance was developing and becoming recognized as a vital process in the building of peace and democracy. He has contributed to the establishment of the emerging body of international norms for electoral administration, and advanced the status and visibility of the election field at a critical time in its development.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Maley contributed to electoral processes in places both large, like Indonesia, and small, like the Solomon Islands. He helped develop the Pacific Islands, Australia, New Zealand Electoral Administrators (PIAZEA) network. One of Maley’s most enduring legacies and personal accomplishments is the pivotal role he played in Timor Leste’s electoral development. He was appointed a Commissioner of the Independent Electoral Commission in East Timor. In this capacity, he helped establish the nation’s electoral system and associated processes. Committed to the principle of local ownership, Maley helped the East Timorese build capacity and empowered citizens to have a say in running their own country. He mentored and supported this new election management body as it created sustainable electoral processes and laws in an era of tumultuous nation-building; to this day his connection and support continues.

Another noteworthy contribution to the advancement of electoral administration for the benefit of citizens in developing countries is Maley’s instigation and stewardship of the Building Resources in Democracy, Governance and Elections (BRIDGE) project – now the largest electoral capacity development program in the world.

The Baxter Award is given in memory of the late Joe C. Baxter, a legendary figure in the field of international electoral assistance. Baxter began his work with IFES in 1994 as Chief of Party in Ghana, setting up mechanisms to register 9.2 million voters and train tens of thousands of election officials. In recognition of his efforts, he was named a chief by one of Ghana’s largest tribes. From 1997-2002, as a Senior Adviser to IFES, his professionalism, kindness and respect left lasting impacts on the people he worked with during IFES missions to Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

“It is one of the regrets of my professional life that I never met Joe Baxter,” said Maley. “Everything I have heard about him from people I know who worked with him has made it clear that he was a most remarkable man, whose selfless endeavors in the fields of professional electoral administration and electoral assistance have set inspiring standards for all who follow. The receipt of the award created in his memory is something on which I will be able to look back as a real highlight of my career.”

Previous recipients of the Baxter Award include Chief Electoral Commissioner and Chairman of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) of Sierra Leone Dr. Christiana Thorpe; Professor of Political Science and Government at Aarhus University (Denmark) Dr. Jørgen Elklit; former Chairman of the Philippine Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Christian S. Monsod; campaign finance expert Delia Ferreira Rubio (Argentina); Chairman of the Electoral Commission of Ghana Kwadwo Afari-Gyan; and elections expert Rafael López-Pintor (Spain).