n Conflict Trends - Electoral observation : elections

Volume 2005, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1561-9818


This article looks at electoral observation as a mechanism for strengthening democratic practice. The importance of having international and domestic observers is reflected in the various instruments that have been developed by African regional institutions and organisations to measure "best" democratic practice. The African Union (AU) has also recognised the role of observers and developed draft guidelines to guide the involvement of AU observers in observing and monitoring elections in member states.

This article paints the broad context in which electoral observation takes place by looking at the role of elections in democracy, conflict and elections, the electoral authority, and the function of observers, including factors that observers need to take into account when observing elections and commenting on the electoral process. The article briefly looks at the various electoral principles and guidelines that have been developed and that provide a yardstick with which observers measure the freeness, fairness and legitimacy of elections.
Two elections are looked at in some detail, namely the 2004 Botswana parliamentary and local government elections and the 2003 presidential elections held in Somaliland. The case studies examine and illustrate the practicalities of electoral observation.

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