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.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.

VOA Blogs