Dr. Staffan Darnolf, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) senior global electoral operations and administration advisor, has 30 years of experience in more than 40 countries as a scholar and practitioner in the field of democratization and electoral processes, specializing in electoral reform in emerging democracies and post-conflict societies. He helped to develop and leads the implementation of IFES’s premier election assessment tools, including the Electoral Integrity Assessment, Electoral Process Diagnostic, and Technical Election Assessment Missions globally. Darnolf is the co-author of the IFES COVID-19 Briefing Paper: Safeguarding Health and Elections, which has been translated into 14 languages. He has been widely featured as a speaker, quoted in global news outlets, and authored books, articles, and chapters in peer-reviewed scholarly journals throughout his career.
Dr. Staffan Darnolf has supported election authorities in planning and organizing electoral events while facing severe safety and security challenges. During the 2014 Ebola crisis in West Africa, Darnolf was a member of the team of public health specialists and election experts who supported the Liberian National Elections Commission (NEC). Building off hard data and integrating cultural values and sensitivities into a set of new procedures and effective use of public health products enabled the NEC to proceed with holding elections. As part of his role as IFES senior global electoral operations and administration advisor, he analyzed how the COVID-19 pandemic impacts election commissions’ abilities to properly plan and organize elections during a public health crisis. Based on this research, IFES expeditiously identified unique risks and applicable mitigative solutions to more than two dozen election authorities, enabling leaders to make informed decisions about moving forward with elections under adverse conditions.
Darnolf previously served as IFES’s director of program development and innovation and led IFES's office in Zimbabwe, where he served as a senior adviser on electoral issues concerning the drafting of the new constitution, the constitutional referendum, and electoral management processes. Prior to his work in Zimbabwe, Darnolf served as IFES's senior elections expert and country director in Cambodia, Nepal, Moldova, and Pakistan (2005-10). From 2003 to 2005, Darnolf was integrally involved in the transitional elections in Afghanistan, where he was appointed an international election commissioner by the United Nations for the 2005 parliamentary elections. Between 1992 and 2003, Darnolf combined his scholarly career with regular assignments for the United Nations, European Union, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, IFES, and the Swedish International Development Authority in western, eastern, and southern Africa, eastern Europe, and southeast Asia.
Darnolf co-edited Twenty Years of Independence in Zimbabwe: From Liberation to Authoritarianism and co-authored the chapter “Electoral Management Bodies: The Missing Link in Handling Electoral Violence” in the book Elections Worth Dying For? A Selection of Case Studies From Africa and How to Hold Elections Safely and Democratically During the COVID-19 Pandemic for the British Academy.
He frequently conducts speaking engagements, such as recent appearances with the Seoul International Forum on Elections, Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta, and Election Commission of India’s Association of World Election Bodies (A-WEB) Center. He has appeared on several media outlets such as C-SPAN, CNN, BBC, Swedish National Radio, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and in the New York Times.
Darnolf is a member of the reference group on effective electoral assistance for the Swedish government’s Expert Group on Aid Studies. His expertise is often requested by regional election management body associations, such as the Association of European Election Officials, A-WEB, the Electoral Commissions Forum of Southern African Development Community Countries and the Pacific Islands, Australia, and New Zealand Electoral Administrators (PIANZEA) Network, and a cross-section of donors on issues related to best international electoral practices, the effectiveness of electoral assistance, and capacity building of electoral institutions.
Darnolf holds a doctorate in political science with a focus on elections in emerging democracies and a bachelor's degree in public administration from Goteborg University in Sweden. He was also a visiting scholar at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in 1998. He speaks Danish, English, German, Norwegian, and Swedish.