European Union External Action

EU and Election Observation

17/12/2018 - 15:15
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Election observation is a highly visible demonstration of the EU's commitment to supporting democracy and promoting human rights around the world. It contributes to strengthening democratic institutions, building public confidence in electoral processes, helping to deter fraud, intimidation and violence, especially in fragile, post-conflict or developing regions. It also complements other key EU foreign policy objectives, particularly peace-building.

Election observation missions (EOMs) provide a comprehensive, independent and impartial assessment of an electoral process according to international standards for democratic elections. The EU is a worldwide recognised credible actor in international election observation. Since 2000, 147 EU EOMs have been deployed in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

An observation mission assesses all aspects of the electoral process, including  its legal framework, the delimitation of constituencies, the registration of voters and candidates, the training of election staff, voter education, media coverage, the campaign and the preparations for the vote, as well as the appeals process. On election day observers visit polling stations in order to assess the opening, voting, counting and aggregation of results. This is done according to the principles of independence, full coverage, impartiality, transparency, professionalism and non-interference in the process.

This helps to promote public confidence in the electoral process and may serve to promote electoral participation and mitigate the potential for election-related conflict. EU EOMs follow a very precise methodology that is a warrant of the implementation of these principles. In its final report, an EU EOM offers recommendations for improving the integrity and effectiveness of future electoral processes and the wider process of democratisation.

EU EOM recommendations have a wider scope than electoral reform and touch on issues such as free media, active and engaged CSOs, an independent judiciary, human rights and democratic institutions. They can be used as the basis for informing electoral assistance projects supporting democratisation processes in partner countries.  

European Union’s Elections Observer Missions (EU EOMs) are led by a Chief Observer and are made up of a core team (composed of a Deputy Chief Observer and a number of electoral experts) as well as long term and short term observers.

The Chief Observer is present in the country at key moments of the mission. Traditionally a Member of the European Parliament, the chief observer has the overall responsibility for the mission, including the final report, and is its only spokesperson.

Core team experts, including the Deputy Chief Observer, support the chief observer, set the analytical framework for the mission, and carry out specific tasks like media monitoring and manage the work of the observers. Core team experts are specialised in legal issues, election administration, human rights and gender security, logistics, media monitoring and public relations. They have a sound experience of EOMs and are recruited via specific calls for applications.

Long-term observers (LTOs) are ideally deployed around one month before election day and remain on the field even after the preliminary results are officially announced to observe the resolution of electoral disputes. They are located throughout the country and observe the unfolding electoral campaign, the conduct of election day and post-election operations. They also  address particular issues, such as the use of public resources by candidates as well as wider human rights’ issues such as freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, participation of women in the electoral proces, among others.

Short-term observers (STOs) are deployed to observe the polling day and the early counting of ballots. Both LTOs and STOs are deployed in teams of two and report back to the Core Team.  Observers are proposed by EU Member States.

Supporting staff provide the mission with the necessary logistics and security functions the EOM needs to fulfil its mandate and for the day-to-day management of the mission.