Election monitoring is a powerful tool in promoting democracy, political rights and good governance. Participants in this dialogue discussed the principles behind this tactic, the risks and challenges involved, and the techniques being used by practitioners to overcome these challenges. Election monitor practitioners share their experiences, challenges, successes, and resources with their colleagues in the field and the New Tactics online community of human rights practitioners.
This dialogue's Featured Resource Practitioners include: (more biographical information on these practitioners)
- Patrick Berg of Transparency International, and formerly with the Carter Center and the European Union
- Pat Merloe of National Democratic Institute
- Kwami Ahiabenu of The African Elections Project
- Dr. Roddy Brett fomerly the Deputy Chief of the Carter Center Observation Mission in Guatemala in 2003
- Ecaterine Siradze-Delaunay of the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy in Georgia
- Matthew Easton of Human Rights First
- Evans Wafula, working independently as Human Rights and Media Development Consultant
Summary of dialogue
The discussion about elections monitoring began with a discussion about why election monitoring is important. Election monitoring can provide legitimacy for the international community as well as to provide a sense of trust in the country or community where the elections are being held. It can also be an avenue to help gain civil rights to repressed minorities.
Challenges that were discussed include the possibility of legitimizing a dictator with election results. Also discussed was the need to increase the time of election monitoring, including the run up to elections and afterwards, to make sure all rules are followed.
The role of international and domestic observers was discussed, including what different roles international and domestic observers can play, what expertise they can provide and how these can be integrated.
Tactics that were suggested included using cell phones, both with trained observers as well as citizens to communicate transgressions during voting on election days.
Also suggested was the coordination of a large number of NGOs to observe different parts of the election, which could be presented with a united front for greater legitimacy. Also, the use of Declaration of Principles and Code of Conduct for International Election Observation guidelines to help be effective was suggested.
There was agreement about the need both for the local population to be involved in any election monitoring, as well as the need for countries to have independent election boards to ensure impartiality.
Tactical mapping was also brought up as a useful tool when determining an effective strategy for election monitoring.
Why is election monitoring a powerful tool for promoting democracy, political rights and good governance? OR How can election monitoring contribute to promoting domocracy, human rights and good governance?
What is the relationship between election monitoring and human rights?
Why observe elections? For many, the idea is still to get an independant verdict on the quality of the process: If the observers declare the elections "free and fair", then the outcome should be respected by both the citizens concerned and the international community. The newly elected government is considered legitimate and its decisions understood to be in line with the will of the people.
Holding regular, free and fair elections is thus seen as an indicator for a healthy democracy, but we should be mindful not to equate one with the other. Democracy, as I understand it, is an on-going participatory process of forming opinions and taking decisions on issues affecting the larger community - and elections are just one part of this process.
Election observation can be a useful tool to strengthen democratic practices, but only if it puts elections into a wider perspective. First, by seeing elections as ONE element of a larger process. Second, by not reducing elections to an isolated event on polling day, but by including all its phases such as internal political party nominations, public campaigns, voting, counting and possibly judicial procedures in case of contentious outcomes. Third, by taking a longer-term perspective - not just judging the current elections, but working towards improving the next ones.
Election observation should thus not be a one-off event. Institutions and organisations should make a firm commitment to stay involved, not only by observing consecutive elections, but also by staying engaged in between elections.
Elections, as is obvious, are of course a key aspect of democratic rule, and part of the essential framework for developing democratic polities. However, and significantly, as our colleagues have commented here, they are neither the be-all and end-all of democracy, nor singularly definitional of it. If we reduce our framework to elections as the unique characteristic of democracy, we are in serious trouble, as we can see form the processes and outcomes of democratic consolidation in the 1980s and 1990s in Latin America, where elected government did not, and has not since, dramatically improved the lives of most Latin Americans, despite bringing some important incremental gains and transformations, such as better respected political and civil rights.
In this context then, electoral observation can play a key role, but, as stressed by Patrick Berg, only if seen as part of a longer process. In this case, simply putting a tick in the box accounting for free and fair elections is not enough if we want political processes to impact realistically on the lives of ordinary people, and not just legitimise exclusionary party politics and political regimes.
We might have observed a clean process on the day, but what about what came before, how transparent and accountable was that process. How about party funding? How about the electoral laws in place? How about broader questions concerning access to ballot boxes and, significantly, unrestricted information? And what about what comes afterwards? How accountable are the newly elected politicians going to be, once the excitement and uproar ofthe elections is over?
In this regard, I have a deep concern relating to free and fair elections. Whilst, as we can see from the case of Guatemala and other Latin American republics, more people appear to be voting, and with more informed opinions, can an electoral process really be free and fair, when many millions of voters are illiterate? When their fundamental social and economic rights are violated systematically? When, due to poverty and exclusion, such voters may be left vulnerable to the unethical practices of local politicians, offering payments for votes? How free and fair can elections be then? Seen from the human development approach, the violation of one right necessarilyviolates and makes vulnerable other human rights.
In this regard, I would argue that of acute importance are national (not only international) electoal observation missions, where such processes precipitate local ownership of elections, political processes and voter education and consciousness. Prolonged national electoral observation missions can be important then, particularly if they work to ensure voter information, and the development of realistic political agendas, by linking in to broader voter education and monitoring initiatives that begin prior to the electoral campaign and continue after election day itself.
As Patrick mentions above, there are many phases of the electoral process. I want to highlight one that he mentioned - political party nominations. People often talk about having to choose between the lesser of two evils during elections. Who becomes or remains an on-going candidate is a critical issue. This issue of corrupt, illegitimate, incompetent, or unrepresentative candidate choices leads many citizens to give up on the process altogether. They give up their right to civil participation out of frustration or fatalism to the flawed system.
I would like to share a great example listed in our New Tactics database from PSPD in South Korea of a candidate selection process (click on the PSPD link to read the whole story):
A number of years ago (2000), the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD) worked with a
coalition of 1,053 civic organizations (‘Civil Action for the General Election 2000 called "CAGE") to survey the South Korea population
in order to identify criteria meant to eliminate politicians and make
them ineligible for election. As a result, CAGE set up 7 criteria -- including corrupt activities and anti-human
rights activities -- and listed the names of the potential candidates that "qualified" to this "blacklist".
CAGE then requested political parties to refuse their nomination.
If they were still listed as candidates, CAGE entered upon a nationwide public campaign to
denounce the blacklisted candidates and achieved 90% success in
defeating corrupt politicians in the Seoul metropolitan area and 68%
There is much that can be done prior to election day to help build a better electoral process.
Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager
Take the case of Cameroon's President Paul Biya who managed to use his
huge majority in Parliament to delay constitutional changes that would have
allowed the creation of an independent electoral process and allow for a free, fair and democratic process.
Instead, parliament allowed him to stand for President of the country in
future elections. Previously, the country’s constitution allowed a president to
stay in office for 2 terms of 7 years each.
President Biya started making noises to suggest that he wanted to stay
longer in office over a year ago and with a majority of 153 in an 180 seat
legislature, and his well-known tough control of the ruling Cameroon People’s
Democratic Movement, (CPDM) and allegiances owed to him by members, long suffering
opposition leader John Fru Ndi and his Social Democratic Front (SDF), did not
stand a chance against Biya’s new found aspirations.
Although in a dramatic move, the SDF showed their contempt for the
CPDM's vote to change the country's constitution, nothing seems to have changed
Biya’s aspirations to stay in power.
The oppositions amendments were swept aside and a vote for change went
through. So what did this mean for Biya's political career now spanning
slightly over 25 years in office? Biya's second term in office expires in 2011.
Proposed changes to the country's constitution led to riots in Febrary
2008 and blogs on the internet showed how many disaffected Cameroonians writing
critically, about these consitutional changes.
Biya is just another African leader leader who is manipulating democracy
for his own personal gain. Nigeria's Obasanjo tried this same tactic but was
defeated and had to leave office in Nigeria.There is an impasse in Zimbabwe
over election results and Kenya is still trying to survive a fragile coalition
government which has come under pressure.
African politicians still seem to believe that the countries that they
are elected to run become their personal property and will do anything to
manipulate the electoral system, constitution, their own political parties to
ensure that they hold onto power for as long as possible.
For Cameroon, it seems that the dice is cast now and Paul Biya is going
to stay in office for a very long time. Not just that, he has set a dangerous
Any other president after him may use this very same system to
manipulate democracy, the will of the people and do as they please in office.
Therefor, its critical to mobilize the power of citizens to participate in free
and fair elections and for both local and international election observers to
safeguard a free and fair electoral process by monitoring elections.
Where a free, fair and
democratic process is evident, human rights, the rule of law and democratic
governance is restored. This qualifies election monitoring as a process through
which the tools of governnace and constitutionalism are protected aganist
political manupilation. There is every reason to believe that election
monitoring facilitates citizenry participation in the consolidation of their
democratic institutions and the revivals of a people driven processes.
In conclusion, election monitoring privdes a tool to monitor the democratic processes and helps to hold governments accountable to the principles of a free, fair and democratic process
I think elections are foundation and/or building block towards democracy and human rights. It is elections which lead towards a democratic and good governance. If elections are held in free, fair, transparent and democratic manner, of course, they will help in establishing society with democractic value, a society where everybody's rights are resepected, a society where government cares to provide all basic amenities and needs to its citizens.
There are no two opinions about the fact that it is prime responsibility of the governments and the election authorities to ensure free, fair, transparenta and democratic elections but election monitoring/observation has vital role in making elections free and fair. Therefore, civil society groups and internaitonal election observation groups have to monitor/observe the elections.
In my personal opinion, election monitoring is directly related with human rights. Most importantly, it is right of citizens' and international community to monitor/observe the elections since people have a right to information. Secondly, peoples' participation in elections, in terms of voting, is also their right, so election monitoring not only helps in collecting information about the manner in which elections are held, but it also facilitates in knowing whether people were given their right to participate in elections. It is right of people to voter for the person of their choice, so election monitoring helps in revealing the facts if people were grant this right to freely vote for person of their choice.
Hassan Nasir Mirbahar, Cavish Development Foundation, (Pakistan)
This has been a really interesting dialogue for me so far, both in terms of the sharing and improving of comparative practitioner experience, and for my current academic research on democratization and human rights.
I wanted to pose a question, which is, for me, remaining to be a stone in my shoe. Many of us have stressed the importance of electoral observation, particularly as part of longer-term processes, signaled its possible dangers (legitimization of a dictatorship, amongst others), and indicated the significance of a clear and equal dialogue between local and national observers. My concern lies with the emphatic weight we all justifiably place upon elections as central to democracy, in short the critical importance of political and civil rights to democracy, an assertion that I am certainly in agreement with.
However, I am still struggling with how to reconcile the overarching supposition that political rights, in this case individual and universal rights, represent the fundamental building blocks of democracy, particularly for countries such as Guatemala, Peru and Bolivia, where majority indigenous populations exist. Such countries have ratified International Labour Organisation Convention 169 Concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries, and are thus obliged to adhere to and implement the normative international framework relative to the individual, specific and collective rights of indigenous peoples. The rights consacrated in these instruments include the right to self-determiantion, political autonomy, and the right to exercise and protection of traditional authority structures and political authorities and forms of social organisation.
Cultural rights of indigenous peoples, which include specific rights relating to political participation and representation and broader fundamental and inalienable rights such as the right to land, are systematically violated in these countries, and we remain silent. However, at the first mention of an election, we all rush in to "observe".
In these contexts, broad electoral observation processes then have recently taken place, and in which I have participated. Violations of human rights, electoral law, international standards, are denounced and the international community places its tick or cross on the appropriate box. The country that adheres to these standards is thus an accepted member of the international community and, more often than not, consequently accepted to participate in the global (political) economy. How, if at all, can we justify or reconcile the contradiction that some political rights are "observable" and "denounceable" (those individual and universal human rights), whilst others are less so (as Orwell said, all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others: all human rights then are equal, but some are more equal than others?)?
Clearly, the international human rights system should play a key role
through mechanisms, treaty bodies, reporting, monitoring here. At times
it does, at times it quite clearly doesn´t, for reasons we all know
very well. Maybe there is a sovereignty issue at stake here? It appears that it is not the work of electoral observation missions to observe these other violations of human rights. What, however, do we do about this? The fundamental question then for me becomes to what degree are we exporting, sanctioning and legitimizing a system through our electoral observation missions? This does not mean they should not take place, of course they should. Do we care less about cultural and social rights than political and civil rights, when clearly all rights are indivisible and integral in their enjoyment, exercise and protecion.
Just some doubts.
My immediate reaction to your concerns about indigenous rights versus voting rights, and the tendency to monitor one more closely than the other, would be that equal voting rights can lead to greater rights of indigenous populations, particularly in the countries you mentioned, where they are in the majority. I would also acknowledge that this is only a theoretical chain of events, and not always the path that is achieved. Making sure that all people in a country have an equal say in how their country is run should, in the long term, allow for the majority to express the desire they have for certain outcomes, and therefore making sure that the voting process runs smoothly, and fairly, helps achieve this end.
Of the examples you bring up, I am most familiar with Bolivia. The election of Evo Morales, and with the recently passing of his new constitution which included new rights for the indigenous people of Bolivia. While Morales' methods and results may certainly be up for debate, one definate claim he has in that the indigenous people he represents certainly have more say in the direction of the country than they did under previous administration. While there are various reasons for his rise to power, the approval he recieved in recent elections and referendums, which were observed and approved by international observers from the OAS, allowed him the legitimacy to enact these changes. I certainly agree that Indigenous rights should be considered level with any voting rights that western observers feel the need to oversee, but making sure voting is free and fair is an important step to making sure this is achieved.
I am interested in your reponse to this, particularly to know if I understood your concerns correctly.
Genuine democratic elections serve two fundamental and inter-related purposes in any country. They resolve peacefully the competition for political/governmental power, and they serve as the vehicle through which the people freely express their will as to who is to hold the authority and legitimacy to govern. Election monitoring, when done properly, can contribute to each of these purposes by promoting electoral integrity and the warranted degree of public confidence in the electoral process. Election monitoring can also expose violations of election-related rights, which violations can subvert electoral integrity and deny legitimacy to those who falsely claim electoral victory. That is why election monitoring, when done properly, is a powerful tool.
The Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation, now endorsed by 32 intergovernmental an dinternational nongovernmental organizations, provides an overview of the bases for proper election observation - in light of international human rights standards and basic observation methodology.
The Declaration notes that genuine elections are both an internationally recognized human right and are dependent on the exercise of a wide range of other civil and political rights in the electoral context (e.g., association, peaceful assembly, freedom of expression, freedom from discrimination on improper bases, equal protcection of law, and others) that permiate all elements of election processes. Those processes transpire over extended periods, from drafting laws and other "rules of the game" through, legal recognition of parties, drawing fo election districts, qualifying for listing on the ballot, financing of campaigns, freedom from violence and coercion, media access, employment of electronic election technologies, and many other things well before and beyond election day. It also notes that rights apply to those seeking to vote and those seeking to be elected.
Nonpartisan election monitoring is carried out by domestic election monitors, who are active in the thousands and tens-of-thousands in over 80 countries around the globe, as well as by international election observers. These citizen "watchdogs" promote governmental and political accountability, encourage citizens to exercise the right to participate in government and public affairs and defend the rights of citizens to exercise broader civil and political rights. They also advocate for electoral reforms and other types of democratic progress. Such election monitors fall among the ranks of human rights defenders.
The findings and recommendations of election monitors, domestic and international, can therefore touch on a wide range of institutions and processes in a country. If acted upon in good faith, the findings and recommendations can have significant positive impact on promoting democratic progress, the rule of law and human rights. It can also help citizens increase their participation in government and public affairs, which can result in more responsive and open governance. Where good faith is lacking, election monitorng can reveal democratic deficits.
As noted elsewhere, genuine elections are both an internationally recognized human right and are dependent on the exercise other rights (e.g., association, peaceful assembly, freedom of expression) throughout the process.
Monitoring therefore needs to explicitly include these basic rights at all stages. However, domestic monitors have been prosecuted or worse, when they shine light on problems in the broader rights environment. Zimbabwe has come up a few times in the dialogue and I’d like to highlight the case of Jestina Mukuko and her colleagues at the Zimbabwe Peace Project, who have been monitoring human rights violations during a violent and questionable electoral process in Zimbabwe. Mukoko and several colleagues were disappeared in early December, only to appear in court weeks later after suffering apparent torture and ill-treatment. This brutality indicates both the threat that observation poses to dictators, and the need for the international community to support domestic observers at risk with every measure possible.
kntb I am glad to finally join this exciting group, had been travelling for days and had limited access to internet. I am in for the next 3 days before i travel again. Just to check, this guy is from Nigeria where it seems elections have gotten worse in the last 2 experiences.
Looking back, i can though say that there is a growing awarenss on the need for election monitoring by all staekholders. Although some contributors have raised key issues, is it just about the election per se or the process that leads to the election and how conflicts are resolved afterwards?
Fundamentally, if the electoral body is not independent, the the entire process is flawed as the case was in the 2007 general elections in Nigeria. The incumbent controlled the electoral body so that the process for candidates emergence was not transparent and did not reflect the true desire of the people. This said, monitoring is begining to also alter the manipulative tendencies of political godfathers. For instance in Jos Plateau state where i reside, the gubernatoral candidate had contested elections 3 times consecutively and each time it was alleged he was denied office through electoral fraud. But during the 2007 elections, people, both old and young i personally observed after casting their votes waited to observe the counting and announcement of results. It was invariably difficult to rig the elections again becuase of the monitoring by the electorate per se. And that brings in the dimension of the importance of the use of mobile telephone technology to enhance election outcomes.
Ok, will gist on later.
Kingsley, I'm so glad you could join us for this dialogue.
You raise a powerful point regarding election monitoring that you highlighted from your experience in Nigeria. That is the growing awareness of the citizens themselves that their votes are not being counted in they way they cast them. This awareness raising lead your community to take that next step to demand to WATCH the vote counting making fraud more difficult.
Like so many human rights abuses and violations - they can continue because they happen in secret, or as others have written in this dialogue, people are threatened, arrested, tortured and killed so that those in power can keep these abuses and violations secret. International organizations can help to shine a light on these violations when they build good collaborations with domestic organizations.
Perhaps some ideas for groups doing election monitoring in countries where the activists face severe challenges could be found in the tactical notebook written by Liam Mahoney from the experience of Peace Bridgades International (Side by Side: Protecting and encouraging threatened activists with unarmed international accompaniment). Last January, New Tactics hosted a dialogue with organizations providing unarmed accompaniment to threatened activists.
Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager
Election monitoring defends and promotes a broad range of electoral related rights, as many participants in our discussion have noted. It is based on the right to participate in government and public affairs, which is integral to the right to genuine elections. Election monitors not only shine a light on fraud and lessor electoral deficiencies and/or deter fraud and abuse; they also offer recommendations, where appropriate, on how to improve elections and broader political processes.
In all of these senses, election moniotoring - both international and more so dmoestic -contributes to democratic progress. International election observers often can help domestic actors to improve processes by offering recommendations based on international principles and comparative practives for democratic elections. Follow up on recommendations in the pre- and post-election periods is a challenge for international observation in terms of striking a proper balance between respect for sovereignty and rights defense/promotion. It also presents challenge in developing relationships with a range of domestic actors, who are ultimately the ones who promote reform and democratic progress, A third challenge for international observation is how to sustain longer-term engagements to monitor follow-up.
Various organizations are addressing these challenges. NDI tries to integrate its international observation with long-term activities through ongoing offices in most countries where it observes elections. OSCE/ODIHR relates to OSCE Missions and other OSCE offices in countries; plus it sometimes is invited to send follow-up missions. The EU is developing an intiative with International IDEA to enhance follow up. Other organizations are making similar efforts and are discussing this topic in the process surrounding the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation.
The relationship between election monitoring and promoting democratic progress is much stronger for domestic nonpartisan election monitors. Genuine elections are a fundamental part of democracy but are only a part of it. Mobilizing thougands of citizens to participate in election monitoring builds broader civil society capacities to conduct government and political accountability efforts. Advocacy for genuine elections frequently leads to advocy for publicv policy, law and regulatory improvments in the electoral arena, which builds experience and skills that flows to other topics. There are scores of examples of this around the world where domestic election monitors have championed improvements in electoral frameworks, opend parliaments to citizen observation, promoted forums and other dialogue bewteen citizens and elected officials.
These developments also have led to groups and group members taking up quality of life issues in economic, social and cultural areas that demonstrate benefits of democratic processes. Election monitoring is not a panacea for deomcratic progress or even for ensuring electoral integrity. It has contirbuted beyond elections though and promises to continue to do so. In countries where election monitoring becomes less than an ungent need, human rights and democracy activists can carry lessons to other important activities.
I would like to concur with what has been said by fellow Tactics community members on the power of election monitoring.I would like to share some of the challenges existing in Kenya during the election process ie as people queue to cast their ballots which to a great extent interfere with the monitoring:
In Kenya though secret ballot is the preferred method of voting, elements such as lack of indelible ink , lack of voting papers has been a problem in some cases especially in rural areas
Late opening of voting stations results into scores of people not voting thus even if the votes are cast an an individual wins , it may not be a proper reflections of the wills of the people
Violence in polling centres
The absence of names of voters on the voting registry
Electoral violence is also a hindrance which deters many people from participating in the electoral process which is their constitutional rights
Based on the election related violance we had in Kenya, my take would be to have an independent electoral commission.
Election monitoring makes people feel that their voices will be hears since they elect people they want to represent them.Proper monitoring also ensures that the elected are accountable to the electorates as opposed to situations where there are malpractices such as rigging, nobody can be held accountable because even the winning itself is rigged.Proper monitoring also ensures resources will be used well because politics is all about allocation of scare resources.When monitoring is properly done it helps build a sense of nationhood ( In Kenya and many African countries politics and elections are based on ethnic lines )
Ebony Youth and Orphans Support Initiative Kenya
What are the principles, pre-conditions, and risks to be assessed before implementing election monitoring?
Allow me to share with you my personal experience during the disputed December 2007 presidential election in Kenya. Soon after the voter register was officially published, the power of the citizens to mobilize for change was evident. Under the then prevailing circumstances, a bigger number of people were willing to express themselves and shre their opinions. Africa Interactive Media Foundation through the Voices of Africa project and the Media Focus on Africa launched an election plat form to encourage more citizens to participate in the process and to take advantage of the mobile phone technology.
What we realized is that the more number of people expressing themselves through technology, the stronger becomes democracy and the more participation in the process was realized.
With over 13 million registered voters and a voter turn out of about 80 % slightly less than 10 million voters, tmobile users stood at 16 million due to reduction of call rates and cheap mobile hand sets that was encouraging for citizen journalism during the election period.
The plat form enabled citizens to send in images, sms and monitor the campaign process. Most images send in by citizens using their mobile phones captured instances of police brutality, and violence targetting opposition supporters from polling stations.
There was also evidence of electoral malpractise and vote buying that was captured even as the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) maintained that the process was free and fair.
Reactions from election observers who had witnessed the flawed process and open protest by local and international observers was captured on mobilephones.
Its usually important to consider any prevailing circumstances that would enable external participation by the citizenry and other observers to monitor elections.
It was feared that violence and intimidation would be used to deter voters from voting and especially, violence aganist women voters and candidates was systematic and wide spread in areas associated with the ruling party-the Party of National Unity.
Where there is evidence of planned violence or reported incidents of violence or attempts to steal the vote, its obvious to monitor the process during and after voting.
Like this example from Kenya shows, the use of mobile technology can not only speed up the transfer and publication about probems with the electoral process, but by lowering the threshold for individuals to get involved to simply sending a text message, also get more citizens engaged in the electoral process. The next step after colllecting data is of course how to use it to improve the electoral process. Evans, can you elaborate a bit on the follow-up to the information posted onb the website you mentioned? If it is till online, maybe you could also share the link with us.
One other interesting comes from the Maledives: For the fist multi-candidate Preseidential elections in the history of the country last year, the NGO Transparency Maldives launched a nation-wide information campaign, coupled with a participatory assessment of the electoral system - involving community members, NGOs, political parties and the media. As part of their later election observation mission, they offered an election complaint database on their website. Information posted here not only contributed to the overall assessment of the observation mission, but was also passed and properly lodged as a complaint with the authoritie. I believe this is a helpfl tool, as many people either do not know the proper channels for making complaints or find it too cumbersome (i.e. if travel to te next larger city is involved) or may even be afraid to do so themselves.
It is true that mobile technology is very useful to monitor the elections as spedy information can be transfered. But it was experienced that during the recent by-election in Tamilnadu, India lot of fake messages were received by flying squads about bribing money to voters. When the team went there in mojority of the cases it was a false message. It is strongly doubted some political party who wanted to distribute money in an area diverted the attention of monitoring officials so that they can carry out their bribing with out much disturbance.
Therefore local monitoring and feed back may be very useful in addtion to mobile technology for transfer of information
Many people in this discussion have said there is a need not just for the presence of observers on election day, but also some type of monitoring for campaign financing, freedom of the press and other such campaign activities.
The question is what are the best methods for effectively monitoring these types of activities? Are local or international monitors better? How does the methods differ between different types of countries? Given that often resources (both money and time) are limited, the ability of groups must also be limited, what is the best way to allocate these resources?
For example, during the recent Bolivian referendum, there were few (though some) accusations of ballot-stuffing or denying of voting privledges, I noticed the greater election violation was the monopolization of television advertisment time by the the Morales government. Yet international obeservers, often the most quoted in western newspapers, were only present for a few days before and after elections, thus the lack of balanced coverage was under reported. Are there suggestions on how this can be avoided?
I am representing domestic Georgian, non-partisan, non-governmental organization which is actively involved in election monitoring activities since 1995. I would like to stress that the monitoring of pre-election processes as well as the Election Day and post- election periods is very important. Sometimes the outcomes of the Elections are decided during the pre-election period, and we have number of examples when such cases took place. It is also very important to monitor the campaign financing, monitoring media as well as monitoring work of electoral administration at all levels however it might be very difficult to do everything by one organization as it is directly linked to the money but also most important reliable and professional human ressources. ISFED, the organization I represent is not conducting media monitoring however other partner organizations are doing it. During recent elections in Georgia, we have collaborated with two other domestic, monitoring organizations very successfully. Each one of us conducted monitoring with different approaches, and in slightly different fields. i.e. we monitored election administration, another NGO monitored campaigh financing and the third one conducted media monitoring. On regular basis we informed public about each ones findings on joint press-conferences. Having said that I mean that it is practically impossible to cover every single field of election monitoring by one NGO, however there are other NGOs that might be working in the same field and colaboration during the monitoring is very crutial and important. In addition the joint statments are more listened by the government than if each organization would make separate statment on its side.
You ask which monitors are better domestic or international? I say that both are important as both have different roles to play. In many cases for the credibility of the domestic observation mission it is very important that findings of domestic and international organizations are similar. That both missions discover and speak about similar problems and similar thrends. That is why it is extremely crucial to collaborate with international observation missions, share findings during the whole election process (pre, election day and post). The approaches of the Election Day monitorings are also different. i.e. international observers travel during the election day from one polling station to the other, domesic observers in Georgia are static and stay in one and the same polling station from it's opening till the results are counted, summerized and materials delivered to the upper level election administration.
Referring to Bolivian referendum, It depends very much what was the international observation mission. If media monitoring was a part of the observation mission. I would suspect that media monitoring was not a part of the observation mission and that is why the unbalanced media coverage was under reported in the final report. As I said it depends very much the structure of the international observation mission whether there are long term observers, these are people who evaluate and observe the pre-election environment however they are less visible, even though their work is extremely important and they contribute considerably to the understanding of general election environment. The observers that we see on election day these are short term observers, and their work is less analytical but more technical as they observe feel out special monitoring forms and send reports to the core team. The mission's final reports are based on the analysis of qualitative and quantitative data. it is always possible to get the sense of elections even though on election day there are not many observers deployed.
I completely agree with
this assessment: it is quite impossible for a single organisation to monitor
all aspects of an electoral process in detail. Observation on election day and
media monitoring are among the best known techniques. In line with my earlier statement
on the importance on monitoring the funding of campaigns, I want to share the
In Chile, the NGO Participa
monitored the elections expenses incurred candidates in the 2001 local
elections by calculating the costs of their radio, print and billboard
advertisements. The data showed dramatic differences in campaign spending and
raised questions about the fairness of the playing field for all
In Argentina, where
political parties are obliged to publish the costs of their election campaigns,
the NGO Poder Ciudadano compared these public figures against estimates based
on a monitoring of campaign spending similar to the Chilean approach but
including public rallies. In the 1999 elections, parties had acknowledged costs
of US $ 50 million, while the project had estimated US$ 80 million
- raising serious questions about the sources of the non-declared funds.
I believe that these kind
of monitoring excercises can be an important addition to the more classic approaches
– but they will be difficult to run in parallel by the same organisation.
Bilding networks of interested NGOs is the perfect response to this challenge.
Before sending in the observers to monitor an election, the decision must first be made of whether or not you will monitor the election. How does an organization make this decision? What conditions must be met to make this tactic feasible? What are the risks that need to be assessed? Is there a checklist?
Kristin Antin, New Tactics Online Community Builder
Last couple of days I was travelling in the regions and as had limited access to the internet, I was not able to actively participate in the discussions. I'll do my best to catch up during the remaining days.
Thank you for the quesiton Kristin. From the perspective of Domestic Election Monitoring organization, it is very easy to decide whether to observe the elections or not. I guess the answer on your question will be different from the perspectives of the International Monitoring Organization. For ISFED basically we know that untill the election processes in Georgia become fully free and fair we have to observe. For us the main issue is the funding, (it depends on the importance of the elections usually local elections are not as interesting for the donor community as the Presidential or Parliamentary ones are), and after if we are not able to secure the full covaradge of the polling stations, meaning deploy 3500 observers, (this is the 100% of polling stations in Georgia) then we use two main approaches: 1. we do the random selection of the polling sttaions and 2. based on the experience we know and have identified the problematic polling stations (military, penitentiary, other ) these are the places where we deploy our observers.
I hope I managed to answer your question at least partially because as I understand some parts of the question relate to the international obervation mission
- Eka Siradze-Delaunay -
To reply to Kantin's message
In my view the best approach is that the observer is not one person but they go as a group.This is important especially in case one misses out on some issues , they may compare notes
The other element of being more people is the issue of safety.In Kenya there has been violence and voter bribery even on the day of election , when people are queing .There are also risks of the monitors being harassed due to suspicion on their intention.Theother issue is that an organization need not go into the process alone but work with other organizations ie make it a joint effort .
My comment would be to provide the monitors with idnetification cards and maybe well written jackets with the word election monitor for safety reasons.
How do you execute election monitoring? What are the ingredients for a successful monitoring mission?
What are the political and practical challenges election monitors face?
ثورة العقول بداية التغيير
While human rights abuse are most prevalent in dictatorship goverened countries, the election system is a fake process helping the dictator to abuse human rights and utilise the para military GOS to make the election a game which guarantees the exixting ruling system success.
The question would be how to ensure that the election is a fair process that will bring to power the poeples choice and not to legitimise the existing dictator.
Susan Atwood, Instructor, University of Minnesota’s Leadership : Leadership for Global Citizenship.
On the issue of legitimizing a dictator: this seems to me to lead into the question posed by New tactics of WHEN to monitor an election. It would be interesting to share existing checklists of the preconditions necessary for a given organization to monitor. Clearly, in a one party dictatorship election monitoring makes no sense. In a case where an embryonic multi party system is emerging it may make sense if the pre-election playing field is reasonably level in terms of media, financing, independent judiciary etc. I would be interested to know of examples where an organization has carried out a pre-election assessment and then decided NOT to monitor on election day and what process was followed in these cases - statements outlining the reasons for non-participation etc.
Another issue: does it always make sense to have both domestic and international observers monitoring - in some cases in Eastern Europe for instance, it was detrimental to local political parties to be associated with "foreigners" (Serbia).. Are there examples where it was more effective to have only international monitors, and why?,
And, finally, since I was last involved in election monitoring in the 90s, has any progress been made on coordination, both between different international monitoring groups and with domestic monitoring groups?!
One recent example of carrying out a pre-election assessment and then deciding not to observe the election was the OSCE/ODIHR for the Turkmenistan presidential election of December 2008. The ODIHR did issue a needs assessment mission report explaining its reasons, saying there were "constraints for a meaningful, pluralistic process." (http://www.osce.org/documents/odihr/2008/10/34496_en.pdf) It is a good practice to issue such reports, of course.
In my experience it does make sense to have both domestic and international observers at elections. Each has its own role and can make its own contribution -- internationals primarily because of an image of impartiality and domestic groups because of their ability to have wider coverage and better knowledge of the local circumstances and language. I believe the benefits of having both outweigh the downside that domestic observers may be tarred by being perceived as associated with foreigners. I have yet to meet a domestic observer group that doesn't want international groups to observe, despite the troubles it may cause them.
In terms of coordination among observers, the big breakthrough was the 2005 UN Principles of International Election Observation, including the principle of cooperation among different observer groups. Unfortunately, however, this hasn't always led to good cooperation in practice.
The risk of validating flawed elections remains even when basic preconditions are met. Besides the problem of small sample size and limited local knowledge, many international elections observers feel pressure from the media and the international community to come up with a conclusion quickly -- and perhaps positively as well.
During one observation mission I heard about a local case unrelated to the elections. A rapist had been spared jail because he offered to marry the victim (who was not consulted). This outcome is not uncommon in many parts of the world, but I expressed some shock to another observer, an anthropologist. He replied that they could have (and, by most standards of justice, should have) locked up the rapist, but that would not have resolved the problem that two clans might then have been in conflict for years to come. "That solution was never meant to be about justice," he said. "It was about harmony. . . Sort of like election monitoring.”
The international community has an interest in a validated election with clear results, so that the state in question can attain some stability and relations between countries can proceed. In this context, election monitors are prone to a kind of willful blindness, or acceptance of flaws, more so than other forms of human rights monitoring.
Observation groups can and should commit to avoiding the temptation to respond too quickly, or too positively. But it may take more than will power, such as adopting a more rights-based framework for monitoring and presenting findings, as some groups are now working on.
ثورة العقول بداية التغيير
After few days of pausing, thinking about what is being written, and going through the newtactics web site, I believe the issue of elections as a whole in ruling systems that do not abide by the democtratic game rules, activits should resort to tactical mapping approach as described amongst the documents of this web site http://newtactics.org/sites/newtactics.org/files/resources/8-page_TacticalMapArticle_2008.pdf.
In the Academy of change we are in the process of brainstorming how to establish this tactical mapping as a simple computer software that is flexible and have a feature that assings objective % to the relationships between the different components of the map.
For a society to have the best chance to transform to the democratic system, it would be essential to adopt this tactical mapping approach. and the software would be a valuable tool for ding so
Thank you, drhmorsi, for pointing out the relavence of the New Tactics Tactical Mapping Tool to this discussion! Maybe some of you are wondering what this tool is, and could help accomplish. Here is a brief overview:
Tactical Mapping is a method of visualizing the institutions and relationships sustaining human rights abuses, and then tracking the nature and potency of tactics available to affect these systems, ultimately serving as a tool to monitor the implementation of strategy.
The process begins by understanding the relationship that a campaign seeks to change or disrupt (such as the relationship between a torturer and a victim), then diagramming the relationships in which this strategic target is embedded, using a series of symbols comparable to a flow chart or organizational diagram.
Once the diagram is complete, it is used to “map tactics,” to understand which relationship(s) each tactic is expected to affect, and how. These two processes create a diagnosis of the situation in the given country, including the key relationships surrounding human rights abuses, the impact of existing tactics in use, and the intervention points that are not being addressed.
Tactical mapping can be used to think about:
This tool could be of great benefit for election monitors. I see it as especially useful for monitors interested in collaborating and coordinating work with other organizations. This tool will help you to visualize all the different points at which an organization can intervene to monitor the fairness and lawfulness of elections.This way, everyone involved in the process will be able to see the many many different possible points of intervention to be utilized in order to acheive your goal - and this will support the need for collaboration as opposed to competition.
In response to drhmorsi's desire to make 'a simple computer software that is flexible and have a feature that assigns objectives to the relationships between the different components of the map' - wouldn't that be wonderful! New Tactics has been looking for funding to creae such a software. We would be happy to talk to you more about this endeavor.
In the early years, election observation was mostly confined to observing the casting and counting of ballots on election day. While this could capture the most blatant attempts at electoral fraud, such as ballot box stuffing, it neglected the more subtle – but not less effective – ways of manipulations in the months ahead. In the meantime, professional election observers have improved their approach: The analysis of electoral and media laws, the process of delimitation of constituency boundaries, voter registration and election campaign monitoring have all been integrated in the observation methodology. The use and abuse of state resources by incumbents during election campaigns is also an issue that receives more and more attention. However, one issue is still widely neglected – namely that of party and campaign funding. It is widely accepted that the availability of funds has a huge impact on the election outcome, be it to pay for TV, radio and press adverts, to allow candidates to travel through the country and meet more voters in person or by directly engaging in vote buying. All this distorts the democratic process. Voting and counting may have gone smoothly, but the newly elected leadership may feel more indebted to whoever funded their successful campaign than to the interests of those who cast their ballot. Thus, I argue that issues of political finance should be included in a good election observation methodology. The Transparency International chapters in Latin America have developed and piloted a methodology (CRINIS) to measure the level of transparency in political finance. A first eight-country study found that while laws may be in place, information is not made available to the public and that violations are not likely to be sanctioned. For more information on the CRINIS project see http://www.transparency.org/regional_pages/americas/crinis
Following the December 2002 transition elections, Kenyans elected a democratic and just government attributed to a free and fair process. The participation of both local and international observers. However, these democratic
achievement did not last for long. The National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) disintergrated and two factions emerged one led by Mwai Kibaki and another led by Raila Odinga. Later the Orange Democratic Movement was formed. Politically, coalition politics have become part of the democratic process in Kenya. Unfortunately, with over 200 political parties registered, most of them operated as cash traps used by politicians to distabilizing the voting patterns..
These trend has led to the enactment of the Political Parties bill which controls the number of political parties inorder to authorize political party funding.
The bill attracted a parliamentary majority and was passed with little opposition.
However, institutionalized corruption through party politics has been evident in the past and there has been pressure to ensure accountability and transparency in funding of political parties. On the other hand, the current trend of political parties relying on their own election bureaues for monitoring the out come of elections set the stage for a conflict in the way elections have been observed in Kenya.
In Kenya for example, each political party in the Decemebr 2007 elections, had its own election officers who acted as observers and participated in sending the results from polling stations to the party headquaters. The ElectoralCommision of Kenya (ECK) also had a number of oficers at the polling station to supevise the voting process. However, at the close of the vote there was total mess that led to violence. None of the groups involved in the monitring process was able to predict the violence.
Fore instance, in 2005, when the government lost a referendum, the vote was discribed by observers as free and fair. However, this process was marred by allegations of abuse of office-apractise that has been perfected by the incumbent. Often government has been accused of using public resources for campaign despite the issues being raised by a number of observers.
Where the government contols access for election observers to monitor elections, the trend has favoured international observers against local observers who are often subjected to intimidation and are also exposed to violence since in most case, they are also voters in their own rights.
The lack of an independent eletion monitoring body has been attributed mostly due to lack of funding and the capacity to mobilize resources from within, hence, compromising the credibility and independence of election monitoring by domestic observers.
Its important to address the likely conflict that arises from funding of political parties and monitoring of a free and fair elections without compromising the process.
A problem I encountered while living in Bolivia during the referendum, a problem that was also mentioned to me while I was living in Tanzania, was not only fradulent election problems, but the problem of keeping the local people informed. This seems to be particularly true the farther away from the larger cities one got. As these elections are, first and foremost, about what the voters desire, is it not important to keep them informed of the transparency of their democratic process? In particular I remember in Tanzania local villagers not knowing there were now voting in a (nominally) multi-party system, instead of the single-party system they were accostomed to. What is the best way to keep the voters informed?
Kwami and Eka both offer good advice on making results public.
If the issue is literally making the results of voting available to the public, there are a few sub-issues.
The standard practice in elections is to require that ballot boxes be opened at polling stations in the presence of political party and candidate agents (sometimes called poll watchers or other names) and nonpartisan observers, that the ballots be opened in view of these monitors so that they can witness whether each ballot is valid and for whom it is marked and so that they can witness whether the tally is then accurately entered onto official tally sheets. The emerging standard practice is to then provide official copies of the tally sheets to the partisan and nonpartisan monitors and to post one publically, so that citizens can see the results of the polling station and monitors and media can verify results.
The tabulation process at centers that receive polling station results follow analogous procedures up the line to the central authority (legislative district, central election commission for presidential elections, etc.). This should include releasing immediately to the electoral contestants, nonpartisan monitors and the public tally sheets that show both the aggregated results and the results polling-station-by-polling station. This allows monitors, media and others to return to polling stations and verify entries against the posted tally sheets, if the contestant, monitoring group or media do not have official copies issued at all of the stations.
Election commissions also should enter this data on a web site and make it availabel online. There are credible arguments for posting publically voting data as it is registered by the authorities and credible arguments for holding the information until all or large portions are available in order to avoid unfounded expectations based on favorable early results that can be reversed over the natural course of the tabulation process.
News media can collect data at polling station, district or national levels and report responsibily as long as they make clear that shortcomings of incomplete results should be understood.
Nonpartisan domestic election monitoring organizations can carefully undertake collecting results from a statistical sample of polling stations and prepare highly accurate projections of voting results, as long as they also are present all day in the polling station to analyze whether the results are "clean" or contaminated by ballot box stuffing or other manipulations. Without such "qualitative" observation and analysis, simply reporting projections based on a sample of polling station tallies could legitimize fraud. These exercises, usually referred to as parallel vote tabulations (PVTs) or quick counts, can include very rapid reporting systems (SMS and other means depending on the national conditions) and can be publicized widely to reach citizens at local levels, as well as the Election Commission, party leaders and others. (A handbook about conducting such quick counts can be found in the elections section at www.ndi.org.)
Such monitoring deters fraud and provides a basis for the warranted degree of public confidence in official results tabulation. PVTs can help stablilize potentally volatile circumstances, as was the very recent case in Ghana and in the Montenegrin independence referendum. They also can expose fraud, as was the case in Georgia's 2003 parliamentary elections.
Whether or not nonpartisan monitors, the media or others conduct PVTs, the immediate release and publicity about election results is central to building public confidence in elections. Withholding information concerning results causes suspicion, raises the potential for political violence and undermines confidence in elections.
I'd like to add one more topic relevant to how we conduct election observation. In post-conflict elections, the participation of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) is important to build trust and confidence in electoral processes and the democratic governments they produce. If a part of the population is excluded from the electoral process, the resulting system of governance can suffer from a lack of legitimacy, accountability, and sustainability, particularly in fragile democracies or post-conflict environments. Where refugees and IDPs are able to participate (as candidates or as voters), the conditions through which they participate are often very different from other sectors of the population. It is important that observation groups incorporate the participation of these populations into their observation methodology.
Who are the actors and what are their roles? International observers, domestic observers, citizen participation, others?
How has election monitoring missions benefited from coordination / collaboration among these actors?
As noted above, there are major differences between international and domestic observers, especially for the short term observation on election day. International observers are much fewer in number, and skewed towards more accessible voting sites, and so their role is more likely to be qualitative rather than quantitative. In cases where the sample size is so small as to only catch the most widespread and egregious forms election fraud, their role becomes largely symbolic –demonstrating international interest and concern. This is not to say that symbols are not important. They are very important – and international observers tromping around in t-shirts and baseball caps can perform a beneficial demonstration of the uncertainty principle, positively influencing something by observing it. As noted, domestic observers may number in the tens of thousands and can offer both greater coverage and local knowledge, but have a harder time proving they are not influenced by local and national political considerations, fairly or not.
As with other forms of research and monitoring, there is an essential role for both foreign and international actors, who often work together but will not always agree on strategies or findings. There are times were it is advantageous to keep a separation between the groups but in most cases coordination and even cooperation is called for. At a minimum there is a need for consultation between the two groups before and after the elections so that local groups are not undermined, or overlooked by the press. International groups can use their influence with government to expand the space for local observers to operate. It would be good to see more innovative approaches, such as matching up pairs of international and local groups for joint monitoring and statements in those situations where that tactic would increase the credibility and coverage of both.
As it was mentioned by colleagues, international monitoring is no less important than domestic monitoring, and they are mutually reinforcing to create the objective picture of election’s conduct. International observers are usually equipped with tested methodology, previous training and often also considerable experience of other missions. However, there are some organizations acting like “spoilers” in the process of international election monitoring. I mostly know about the elections on the post-Soviet space, which is characterized by the domination of authoritarian and semi-authoritarian regimes (except Baltic states and new democracies such as Georgia and Ukraine). In most cases the recent elections in those countries were observed by the European observation missions, where the core role was played by the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), and by the observation mission of the CIS (Community of Independent States), with the heavy domination of Russian observers within it. The exception was the presidential election in Russia in 2008, where the OSCE mission refused to come, because 50 long-term observers from the OSCE had not been allowed to start working in Russia on February 15 (while the elections took place on March 2). In other cases OSCE observers were present.
Most of the recent elections on the post-Soviet space (for example, Belarus, Azerbaijan in 2008) were identified by international observation mission as not meeting, or only partly meeting international standards. However, the monitoring mission of the CIS usually used to give a fundamentally different assessment, namely, that the elections were free and fair. This happened because Russia had close economic and political cooperation with those authoritarian regimes where elections were held, and was interested in prolonging the rule of friendly regimes.
I wonder if there are other examples when international observation was biased for some reasons.
In Ghana, historically, we International observation was the norm then we gradually develop the capacity to do internal observation leading to the formation of domestic observers with support and in co-operation with International observers
I will not say we have bias here in Ghana but of course the International observers have their interest and they tend to be "diplomatic" in their approach,
all said and done, a lot of politicians are keen on getting the stamp of International observers on their elections as a sign of credibility of their win
I completely agree with what you've said. In many post-Soviet states which are under Russia's influence, the verdict of the international observation mission led by Russia is often used to gain credibility for election results within the country, despite the outcry of other international observers and those domestic observers who dare to criticize the conduct of elections. The latter can be always portraited as "agents of West (America) having own geopolitical interests".
Kristin Antin, New Tactics Online Community Builder
I'm so glad that Eka describes how three domestic election NGOs worked together to monitor the election in Georgia (from her comment titled Length of election Monitoring):
"During recent elections in Georgia, we have collaborated with two other
domestic, monitoring organizations very successfully. Each one of us
conducted monitoring with different approaches, and in slightly
different fields. i.e. we monitored election administration, another
NGO monitored campaigh financing and the third one conducted media
monitoring. On regular basis we informed public about each ones
findings on joint press-conferences. Having said that I mean that it is
practically impossible to cover every single field of election
monitoring by one NGO, however there are other NGOs that might be
working in the same field and colaboration during the monitoring is
very crutial and important. In addition the joint statments are more
listened by the government than if each organization would make
separate statment on its side."
I wanted to add another example of collaboration between domestic election monitoring organizations. In Southern Africa, election monitoring organizations have come together to form the Southern African Development Community Election Support Network (SADC-ESN), with the help of NDI. NDI's website states:
Civic organizations in many SADC countries have played an important role in safeguarding elections. By recruiting, training and deploying thousands of monitors on election day these groups deterred and documented fraud during voting and counting. Their oversight not only improved the conduct of elections, but gave political parties and the public greater confidence in the process. As a result of domestic monitoring efforts by these groups, transitional and second elections held in the 1990s generally reflected the will of the people. However, in order to contribute to the conduct of free and fair elections in the future, these groups will need to develop increasingly advanced technical skills required to confront the new and more sophisticated challenges that serve to undermine elections. Because these challenges are similar across the SADC region, an opportunity exists to address these concerns by engaging groups on a regional basis. In response to their common experiences, domestic monitoring groups from across the region have formed the SADC Election Support Network (SADC-ESN) to support information and skills sharing.
Are there other examples of coordination and/or collaboration among domestic election monitoring organizations? What do you think is necessary for the success of such a collaboration?
I believe that coordination of NGOs in the process of election monitoring is very important, especially in big countries. For the presidential elections in Ukraine in 2004 (which were marred by serious election fraud, and were followed by the protests known as the Orange Revolution), there were two big coalitions of non-governmental organizations: Freedom of Choice Coalition, which has existed since 2002 and united around 100 NGOs, and New Choice Coalition, which has been formed particularly for that election. Similarly to Georgia, the NGOs that were members of those coalitions monitored different aspects and components of election campaign: campaign funding, media coverage, voter lists (this was very important since we don’t yet have a single state register of voters), and last but not least voting and vote counting. There have been a number of forums and meetings of NGOs in the run-up of elections when they had an opportunity to coordinate efforts and to share their experience. In my opinion, it was crucial for the success of election monitoring efforts to have nation-wide coalitions of NGOs, since Ukraine is a big country in terms of area, and one NGO, even all-Ukrainian NGO, could not be able to make effective monitoring across the whole country.
I am particularly struck by your comment on the coalition building that was involved in the Ukraine. I think this is a very important point to highlight - this need for coalition building among NGOs, both to ensure national coverage but equally important to show that diversity of interest and commitment from NGOs (citizens) to participate in all facets of the election monitoring process. As you so wonderfully pointed out, no one organization - regardless of their national coverage - can do it all. Nor should only one organization do it, the coalition building itself models for citizens the need for collective participation and cooperation.
I'm interested to hear others share their experiences with bringing a wide range of organizations together to carry out the many facets of election monitoring.
Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager
Yes, the Ghana example is a very important model for such co-ordination and collaboration which worked very successful
go to http://www.codeogh.org to read more about coalition of Domestic Observers(CODEO)
The Coalition of Domestic Election
Observers (CODEO) is a federation of thirty-four independent,
non-partisan civil society organizations united to safeguard the rights
of Ghanaian citizens by promoting free, fair, transparent and peaceful
elections. CODEO has observed every election in Ghana since 2000 and is
the largest and most respected election observation coalition in Ghana.
Under the Co-chairmanship of Justice V.C.R.A.C Crabbe, a retired
Supreme Court Judge, and Professor Miranda Greenstreet, a former
Director of the University of Ghana's Institute of Adult Education,
CODEO has been at the forefront of building and consolidating credible
electoral system in Ghana.
Although West Africa doesn't currently have a network of election observation groups like the SADC example described above, the West African Civil Society Forum (WACSOF) has begun to employ an election observation methodology that combines international observers from the region with domestic observers. The approach has some advantages and challenges that WACSOF explores in a recent report that can be found here:
<div>Domestic Observation of election an important exercise</div>
<div>Ladies and gentlemen allow me to say that the principle of observing as opposed to monitoring of election by local is highly important in all circumstances,wether elections in a war torn country or a country reeling under dictatorship.</div>
<div>In Zimbabwe civic bodies and the church organised themselves to monitor elections since 1995.It clear that politicians do have direct interest in elections hence promulgate laws that suits their agend amass power,or rather stay in power whereas the civic society are principled and are moved by values such as intergrity,courage,transparency.</div>
<div>Election observation curtails electoral fraud and irregularities before and after counting before results are announced thereby augumenting evidence in cases where contestants seek legal recourse.</div>
<div>Paralell information tabulation and data gathering restricts electoral mal-practices.In Zimbabwe it became evident that there is massive rigging of presidential results of 29 March Harmonised election after a delay in announcing results as well as different results posting by different electoral participants.</div>
<div>One electoral board can not manage an election without creating avenues for rigging during delimitation of constituence boundaries and during polls.Different players in an election should be allowed to do their work.From civic education on the importance of voting,to the actual casting of a ballot.</div>
<div>Admire Zaya </div>
<div>Build A Better Youth Zimbabwe</div>
<div>96 Central Avenue</div>
Our discussion of election monitoring has concentrated on international election observers and domestic nonpartisan election monitors. There are other important actors in safeguarding electoral integrity that should be mentioned.
Electoral authorities are often such actors, and nonpartisan observers, both domestic and international, more often than not verify that authorities are doing proper jobs and are deserving of public confodence. Ghana's recent elections were a classic example of this. Election monitors' findings about the quality of the election authorities' work were important in Ghana because of the razor's edge margin in the presidential vote. Montenegro's independence referendum was another such example. Electoral authorities, of course, are not always such positive actors, as Zimbabwe's 2008 presidential election, Kenya's 2007 presidiential election and Nicaragua's 2008 municipal elections demonstrate. The efforts of many electoral officials to produce honest and accurate elections, nonetheless, should be acknowledged.
Political parties also can be powerful actors in safeguarding electoral integrity. While there may always be a temptation to manipulate the process where possible, actions of parties to protect their interests in honest elections do provide "checks and balances" that are critical. Party and candidate pollwatchers, as well as their representatives at each step of the election process - including using electoral complaint mechanisms to remedy violations of electoral rights - are important. Election monitors need to be in communication with parties to learn of such efforts, as well as to assess the crdibility of complaints they make. In addition, in post-election periods, parties are key to building support for electoral reforms, and monitoring groups that follow up on recomendations for reform need to find ways to engage appropriately in dialogue with parties as well as with the legislature.
News media also can be effective election monitors, if they follow their journalistic responsibilities and ethical principles. Article 19, the Global Campaign for Free Expression based in London, published Guidelines for Election Broadcasting in Transitional Democracies, which along with the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association's Editorial Guidelines and other documents, are touchstones for media and individual journalists who seek to play positive roles in investigating and reporting on the nature of the election process. Election monitors can build relationships with media outlets and journalists in common efforts to promote electoral integrity beyond simply seeking coverage of election monitor reports and press conferences.
Law enforcement authorities also are important in safeguarding electoral integrity. A culture of impunity exists in too many countries, where electoral related rights are trampled, the people's will is denied in the choice of who should govern and the legitmacy of government is thus subverted. The use of Commissions of Inquiry (often convened by legislative bodies to conduct fact finding), legislative hearings and so-called Blue Ribbon Commissions can spur law enforcement efforts. However, there is no substitute for criminal proceedings, with due process fo law, to break a culture of impunity for electoral fraud, including use of politically motivated violence and voter coercion, as well as stuffing ballot boxes and changing tally sheets.
Share your own tactical approaches, techniques and resources for election monitoring.
I am a Zimbabwean studying at the University of Minnesota's Law School and would like to share with colleagues on why election monitoring is important for good governance and the promotion and protection of rights
Zimbabwe's electoral processes from 2000 until the recent one in March 2008 have shown the citizens the need to have independent election observation and monitoring in order to come up with legitimate and uncontested electoral outcomes.
For the record, Zimbabwe's elections have not been monitored by independent bodies local or international although observers with little say are often invited from what the Harare regime calls friendly countries in Africa and selected ones abraod such as China and Russia while Western democracies are completed bared.
In my view, election monitoring is important in order to promote and safeguard the credibiltiy of the democratic processs and outcome. Its also imporatnt to monitor the electoral processs with a view of making sure that the political and civil liberties of the ctizens and the political contestants are protected.
Lack of this vital process has led to the tragedy that Zimbabwe is today. The regime of Robert Mugabe has appointed itself a refree and a player in the election process in the country. It bans the independent media, bars foreign media organisations from writing news on the electoral process and does not even allow local human rights organisations to monitor the process.
As a result, the process and the outcome of the four previous elections in 2000, 2002, 2005 and the 2008 have been hotly contestant on grounds of an opaque election processs that has no independent safe guards.
Because the election processes in all these elections were not monitored, civil and political liberties of citizens were violated with impunity, allegations of vote rigging were rampant while political violence was the order of the day. As a result, Zimbabwe is facing a twin crisis of legitimacy and govervance emanating from these unmonitored electoral process where the Mugabe regime is both a player and a refree