Election monitoring

Last updated
Internationally observed elections Internationally observed elections (%25), OWID.svg
Internationally observed elections
Internationally observed elections by Western monitors Internationally observed elections by Western monitors, OWID.svg
Internationally observed elections by Western monitors

Election monitoring involves the observation of an election by one or more independent parties, typically from another country or from a non-governmental organization (NGO). The monitoring parties aim primarily to assess the conduct of an election process on the basis of national legislation and of international election standards. There are national and international election observers. Monitors do not directly prevent electoral fraud, but rather record and report instances of suspicious practices. Election observation increasingly looks at the entire electoral process over a long period of time, rather than at election-day proceedings only. The legitimacy of an election can be affected by the criticism of monitors, unless they are themselves seen as biased. [1] A notable individual is often appointed honorary leader of a monitoring organization in an effort to enhance legitimacy of the monitoring process.



The first monitored election was that of an 1857 plebiscite in Moldavia and Wallachia (current Romania) that was monitored by most of the major European powers. Election monitoring was uncommon until after World War II. During the 1960s, less than 10% of elections were monitored. [2] Election observation activities have expanded significantly following the end of the Cold War, along with the development of international standards on the conduct of democratic elections and the process of monitoring elections by both international [3] and domestic [4] observing organizations. By the 2000s, about 80% of all elections were observed. [2]


OSCE observers monitoring a polling station in Georgia in 2018. OSCE Special Co-ordinator Kristian Vigenin observes a polling station on 28 November 2018 in Tbilisi, Georgia (32234401798).jpg
OSCE observers monitoring a polling station in Georgia in 2018.

International organizations such as the Organization of American States, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the European Union, the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Council of Europe, and the African Union regularly deploy monitoring teams. The United Nations no longer provides monitoring services; instead, it focuses on electoral assistance. Individual governments also participate in monitoring efforts, generally under the umbrella of an international organization. These national efforts are normally managed by the local electoral commission. A wide array of NGOs also participate in monitoring efforts. The Carter Center, for example, played a key role—with the United Nations Electoral Assistance Division and the National Democratic Institute—in building consensus on a common set of international principles for election observation. [5]

International observation is complemented in many countries by domestic observer groups.

International election monitoring

International Election Observer identification badge issued during the 1989 Namibian election Foreign Observer identification badge in the 1989 Namibian election.jpg
International Election Observer identification badge issued during the 1989 Namibian election

Standard international election observation missions, as deployed by, for the example, the European Commission or the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), monitor the entire electoral process. Election experts and long-term observers begin their work weeks before the actual election day, looking at candidate registration, the legal framework, the media situation, the work of the election administration, and the campaign environment. On election day, short-term observers monitor the opening of polling stations, the vote cast, and the counting and tabulation of results. After election day, observers remain in the country for another few weeks to monitor how possible election-related shortcomings and complaints are dealt with by the election administration and the judiciary. The findings of the observers are made public in reports issued after election day.

Long-term observers

Most observation missions send a small number of long-term monitors (known as LTOs) for a period of six to eight weeks. A larger number of short-term observers (known as STOs) then join the mission for the final week of the campaign. STOs provide mostly quantitative observation of polling station and count procedures, with LTOs supplying qualitative analysis and contextual information about the wider political situation.[ citation needed ]

In some cases, the objectivity of some international observers is questioned. [6]

Domestic election monitoring

Election observers Election observers.png
Election observers

In addition to international organizations monitoring elections, citizen organizations—or coalitions of organizations—also monitor elections in their own country.

The most common type of domestic election monitoring comes by way of party poll-watchers, who are partisan individuals that are looking out for the interests of their party. Election day activities of partisan observation groups often included scrutinizing the accreditation, voting, counting, and tabulations processes at polling units throughout election day.

There are, however, also numerous domestic nonpartisan observer groups in many countries.

Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) in Pakistan is a coalition of 42 national civil society organizations working together to promote fair elections in Pakistan.

Each jurisdiction may have different rules about who may observe. Rules vary by state in the United States. [7]

Local and regional election monitoring

Most international observer organizations have a mandate to observe parliamentary elections and some organizations, such as the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), also monitor local elections and referendums. [8] However, the Congress of the Council of Europe, in cooperation with the Venice Commission, is specifically mandated to monitor local and regional elections and is unique in this regard. [9] Since 1990, over 50 election processes have been observed by the Congress.

The Congress Strategy on election observation is based on three lines of action:

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe</span> Security-oriented intergovernmental organization

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is a regional security-oriented intergovernmental organization comprising member states in Europe, North America, and Asia. Its mandate includes issues such as arms control, the promotion of human rights, freedom of the press, and free and fair elections. It employs around 3,460 people, mostly in its field operations but also in its secretariat in Vienna, Austria, and its institutions. It has observer status at the United Nations.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Elections in Russia</span> Political elections for public offices in Russia

On the federal level, Russia elects a president as head of state and a parliament, one of the two chambers of the Federal Assembly. The president is elected for, at most, two consecutive six-year terms by the people. The Federal Assembly has two chambers. The State Duma has 450 members, elected for five-year terms. The Federation Council is not directly elected; each of the 85 federal subjects of Russia sends 2 delegates to the Federal Council, for a total of 170 members.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2003 Azerbaijani presidential election</span>

Presidential elections were held in Azerbaijan on 15 October 2003. As expected, Ilham Aliyev, son of the outgoing president, Heydar Aliyev, was officially elected with an overwhelming majority in a vote international observers deemed to be not to be free or fair.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2003 Georgian parliamentary election</span>

Parliamentary elections were held in Georgia on 2 November 2003 alongside a constitutional referendum. According to statistics released by the Georgian Election Commission, the elections were won by a combination of parties supporting President Eduard Shevardnadze.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2004 Russian presidential election</span>

Presidential elections were held in Russia on 14 March 2004. Incumbent President Vladimir Putin was seeking a second full four-year term. It was a landslide victory for Putin, who was re-elected with 72% of the vote.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Elections in Kazakhstan</span> Political elections for public offices in Kazakhstan

Elections in Kazakhstan are held on a national level to elect a President and the Parliament, which is divided into two bodies, the Majilis and the Senate. Local elections for maslihats are held every five years.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2008 Russian presidential election</span>

Presidential elections were held in Russia on 2 March 2008, and resulted in the election of Dmitry Medvedev as the third President of Russia. Medvedev was elected for a four-year term, whose candidacy was supported by incumbent president Vladimir Putin and five political parties, received 71% of the vote, and defeated Gennady Zyuganov of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, and Vladimir Zhirinovsky of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia.

Quick count is a method for verification of election results by projecting them from a sample of the polling stations.

Presidential elections were held in Armenia on 19 February 2008. Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan was elected in the first round according to official results, but this was disputed by former President Levon Ter-Petrosyan, who was officially placed second.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fairness of the 2008 Russian presidential election</span>

The fairness of the 2008 Russian presidential election is disputed, with election monitoring groups giving conflicting reports. Most official reports accept that not all candidates had equal media coverage and that some election monitoring groups had restricted access to perform their role. Monitoring groups found a number of other irregularities, but made no official reports of fraud or ballot stuffing.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights</span>

The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) is the principal institution of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) dealing with the "human dimension" of security. The Office, originally established in 1991 under the 1990 Paris Charter as the Office for Free Elections, is still best known for its role in observing elections although its name changed in 1992 to reflect the broadening of its by the Helsinki Summit.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2010 Azerbaijani parliamentary election</span>

Parliamentary elections were held in Azerbaijan on 7 November 2010.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2011 Kazakh presidential election</span>

Early presidential elections were held in Kazakhstan on 3 April 2011, having been originally scheduled for 2012. The elections were called after a plan for holding a referendum to increase president term limits to 2020 was rejected by the Constitutional Council. Nazarbayev was re-elected for a fourth term with 95% of the vote and a 90% turnout, against three nominal candidates. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has complained about a lack of transparency and competition in the vote.

Aleksey Vladimirovich Kochetkov. Aleksey Kochetkov is a former engineer and political analyst well known for his closeness to official Russian policy under President Putin. He has often written in support Russia's occupation of Georgia, and also in support of pro-Moscow conspiracy theories in his book Neo-nazis and Maidan.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2013 Azerbaijani presidential election</span>

Presidential elections were held in Azerbaijan on 9 October 2013. The result was a victory for incumbent President Ilham Aliyev, who received a reported 85% of the vote, whilst leading opposition candidate Jamil Hasanli finished second with a reported 6% of the vote.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2017 Armenian parliamentary election</span> Parliamentary election in Armenia

Parliamentary elections were held in Armenia on 2 April 2017. They were the first elections after a constitutional referendum in 2015 that approved reforms for the country to become a parliamentary republic. The result was a victory for the ruling Republican Party of Armenia, which won 58 of the 105 seats in the National Assembly.

Electoral integrity refers to the fairness of the entire voting process and how well the process protects against election subversion, voter suppression, and other threats to free and fair elections. The consequences of unfree or unfair elections can include doubts in the legitimacy of the outcome, loss of faith in the democratic system, and reduced future participation.

The Coalition of Domestic Observers (CODEO) is a network of civil society groups, faith-based organizations, and professional bodies that observe Ghanaian elections to ensure free, fair, and transparent elections. Since its establishment in 2000, CODEO has become the largest domestic election observer network in Ghana–consisting of forty-two civil society, professional, and faith-based organizations. CODEO also holds membership with the Global Network of Domestic Election Monitors (GNDEM) and the West African Election Observers Network (WAEON). Despite the long history of both domestic and international election observers in Africa, CODEO has established itself as a continental example for successful election observation and peaceful transitions to democratization.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Free and Fair Election Network</span>

Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) is the first-ever network of civil society networks in Pakistan dedicated to strengthening democracy through methodically-enacted observation and oversight of electoral, parliamentary, and governance processes. As many as 20 regional networks of over 500 tehsil-level civil society organizations are part of FAFEN, establishing its unmatched outreach to communities of people belonging to all classes, ethnicities, and religions across Pakistan. FAFEN’s work since its inception in 2006, has made it one of the most credible voices in the country for responsive, transparent, accountable, and efficient electoral, legislative, and local governance.So far, FAFEN has observed the General Elections in 2008, 2013 and 2018, Local Government Elections in 2015, and Legislative Assembly Elections in Gilgit-Baltistan in 2009 and 2015, with active support of its partner organizations as well as duly accreditation from the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). FAFEN has earned an excellent reputation among various stakeholders, including the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) and has been recognized as an authentic organization among political parties, civil society organizations, international community, academia, and the media. After the General Elections 2013 various political parties levelled multiple charges of rigging, on which the Supreme Court of Pakistan had formed a Judicial Commission to investigate the matter. FAFEN was the only civil society organization, which was summoned by the Supreme Court of Pakistan to share its election observation findings.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Audrey Glover</span> British international lawyer, election observer, DBE

Dame Audrey Francis Glover,, is a British international lawyer, experienced election observer, former director of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (1994-1997).


  1. Hyde, Susan; Marinov, Nikolay (2014). "Information and Self-Enforcing Democracy: The Role of International Election Observation". International Organization. 68 (2): 329–359. doi:10.1017/S0020818313000465. S2CID   202327588.
  2. 1 2 Matanock, Aila M. (2020). "How International Actors Help Enforce Domestic Deals". Annual Review of Political Science. 23 (1): 357–383. doi: 10.1146/annurev-polisci-050718-033504 . ISSN   1094-2939.
  3. "Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation" (PDF).
  4. "Declaration of Global Principles for Nonpartisan Election Observation and Monitoring by Citizen Organizations" (PDF).[ dead link ]
  5. The Carter Center list of elections observed. The Carter Center.
  6. 'People power' is a global brand owned by America. By Mark Almond. August 15, 2006. The Guardian.
  7. "Policies for Election Observers". National Conference of State Legislatures. Retrieved 2023-09-16.
  8. Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), "Election Observation Handbook: Sixth Edition," OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) (2010).
  9. The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, "Resolution 274: Congress policy in observing local and regional elections," Council of Europe (2008).