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What do election observers actually do?

EU election observers follow an established methodology which focuses on a comprehensive analysis of all stages of an election process - the political and legal context, the campaign environment, the media coverage, the level of preparation of the election management body, the voting, counting, tabulation and the complaints and appeals process. The analysis is carried out by direct observation, which involves meeting political, electoral, civil society, media and other stakeholders and observing as much of the process as possible. For example, this includes attending campaign rallies and observing the training of polling station staff. Broadly, election observers will focus on the following aspects of an election:

  1. Political context
  2. Legal framework
  3. Election administration
  4. Voter registration
  5. Party and candidate registration
  6. Election campaign
  7. Media
  8. Complaints and appeals
  9. Human rights (including participation of women and minorities)
  10. Role of civil society
  11. Election Day
  12. Results and the post-election environment

There are four categories of observers who work on the team of an EU Election Observation Mission:

  1. Core Team experts: experts specialising in a particular area, e.g. Electoral Analyst; Legal Analyst, Media Analyst, Political Expert etc. Applications for these positions are made directly in response to a call for applicants from the European Commission. Notices with full details of selection criteria are posted here with regular updates when new missions are announced. In order to apply for a Core Team position, you have to have a proven background in a specialised relevant field and several years of experience. For example, Core Team experts often have experience working in the field of technical assistance for elections. The Core Team coordinates the work of the Long and Short-Term Observers around the country and consolidates their reports and observations into a Preliminary Statement and Final Report of the missionís findings. The duration of their responsibility is usually around two months and they are the first to arrive in a mission, approximately six weeks before Election Day.

  2. Long-Term Observers (LTOs):† LTOs are deployed in international teams of two to a special area of responsibility where they carry out an assessment of the same broad range of issues as above, but with a focus on their particular regional context, ensuring that the mission covers electoral dynamics across the whole country. They are responsible for preparing and managing the deployment of Short-Term Observers in their area for expanded mission coverage on Election Day. Each LTO team produces weekly and ad hoc reports on the situation in their area which are sent to the Core Team to be included as observations in the missionís main reports and findings. LTOs are the EU missionís ambassadors in the regions and the highest standards are expected of them in terms of their professional and personal conduct. LTOs are usually in the country for about six weeks, arriving three to four weeks before Election Day.

  3. Short-Term Observers (LTOs): STOs are deployed in international teams of two to a special area of responsibility, where they will work under the supervision of their LTO team. STOs arrive shortly before Election Day and depart soon after it Ė they are usually in the country for around 10-12 days, arriving about six days before Election Day. Therefore their focus is on observing the immediate election environment, the implementation of voting and counting procedures and the tabulation and publication of results. STOs use forms which have been developed by the Core Team as the basis for conducting their observations in polling stations and tabulation centres on Election Day. When they arrive in the country, they will be briefed by the Core Team on the electoral and political context, as well as in how to understand and fill out the forms. When they arrive in their area of responsibility, STOs will also receive a briefing from their LTO team on the local situation, as well as advice on devising their plan for Election Day for observing, and the consolidation and transmission of the forms.

  4. Locally-recruited Short-Term Observers (LSTOs): Often the mission will be joined closer to Election Day by a small number of diplomatic staff from the EU delegation, EU Member State embassies and possibly EU EOM partner country embassies (Canada, Norway and Switzerland). They will be like Short-Term Observers, but as they are locally based, they normally join the mission to observe on Election Day and are present for the briefing and debriefing sessions.