News

The Role of Election Observers

Multimedia

Audio

Election monitors now accompany most every election held around the world. They come from a variety of countries and are usually representing a non-governmental organization.

Denise Dauphinais is a deputy director at I.F.E.S., a global democracy assistance organization. She says the Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe or O.S.C.E, is one of the main groups that provide monitoring.

Ms. Dauphinais notes, "They take people from all around the world, put them in a delegation, provide them with briefing and information about the election process and the legal frame work and the social conditions and the political environment in the countries that they're going to be observing in."

Ms. Dauphinais says election observers are usually volunteers who are provided with transportation and hotel costs and some expenses. But they don't normally receive a salary. She also says there is a slight difference between election monitors and election observers.

"An observer is normally someone who is there for a limited period of time, usually a fairly short-term observer," contends Dauphinais. "So you're probably talking a period to be there a period several days before the election, during the election and a few days after the election."

Ms. Dauphinais  says election monitors stay in the country much longer because they are observing all parts of the process from beginning to end. Those components include studying election laws, assessing the openness of candidates' campaigns and analyzing media influence.

"Are state owned media allocating time to the various parties that are contesting the elections," says Ms. Dauphinais. "Is the media being fair to the various parties or, in some instances, is the media actually serving to incite problems."

David Pottie manages election observation and democracy projects for the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia, an organization founded by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. Mr. Pottie says election monitoring organizations are usually invited to observe proceedings by a host country.

"Sometimes it rests with the office of the president sometimes it rests with the electoral commission or whatever regulatory body is responsible for the conduct of elections in a particular country," says Mr. Pottie. "So receiving an invitation is certainly an important first step.

Mr. Pottie says most monitoring organizations become involved only when it is clear that they will be well received by a country's major political forces.

"A number-one priority is to respect the sovereignty of the country in question," states Mr. Pottie. "The Carter Center and most other major international election observer organizations do not try to impose themselves on any particular country. We can only work in a country if we are invited guests."

Mr. Pottie says safety is a big concern.

"Election observers in the Carter Center's practice are first and foremost volunteers," says Mr. Pottie. "So one is asking people to place themselves at considerable risk."

Tamara Gallo Olexy organized observers for the recent elections in Ukraine. She says international monitors were very important.

"The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America had over 2,400 international election observers that we specifically coordinated throughout Ukraine," notes Ms Olexy. "Getting a feeling back from all of the observers, they did feel as if they made some sort of impact."

She says impartial observers strengthened the electoral process in Ukraine by providing an independent view.

Ms. Olexy says, "They were able to assist the election observers from both candidates. And they were able to take notice if any violations were occurring and to comment on them to the local election commissions. For the most part, the local election commissions did heed their notice."

Elections are critical times when international participants can have a major influence. Their presence can increase confidence that votes will be counted fairly and that elections will have validity -- which is the essence of democracy. The Iraqi elections, however, may be an exception as very few international monitors will be in the country to observe balloting due to safety concerns. Our next Focus will examine the challenge involved in monitoring this historic election.

 

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs