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Election observation

​​The host of democratisation processes that began in many parts of the world some decades ago have led to an increasing demand for International Election Observation Missions.

What is the aim of International Election Observation?

As an impartial and independent mechanism to evaluate election processes, International Election Observation has accompanied the many democratisation processes begun in recent years, becoming a clear expression of the international community's commitment to promoting democratic values and human rights.

The potential benefits stemming from the presence of an Election Observation Mission (EOM), which acts on the premises of independence and impartiality, are many: a reduction in levels of fraud, the mitigation of conflicts, the strengthening of the electorate's trust in the election process, to bear witness, to strengthen institutions and to improve election processes by drawing up recommendations.

What does an Election Observation Mission do?

An EOM performs an in-depth analysis of the election process by means of a standardised methodology. It does so with a view to providing a professional, independent and impartial evaluation of the quality of the election process observed, under the purview of international law instruments, good practices and national legislation in relation to the unfolding of democratic elections.

Centrality of the recommendations

One of the most significant added values of an EOM particularly lies in the recommendations issued by it with the aim of improving these processes by means of the corresponding technical and legal reforms.

The recognition of the importance of driving the monitoring and implementation of these recommendations led the EU to deploy Election Follow-up Missions (EFM) as from 2013, designed to evaluate the state of the implementation of the recommendations in the countries where elections had been observed.

The number of these missions has continued to grow since then, clearly demonstrating the central importance of monitoring the implementation of the recommendations in order to improve election processes.

In light of this centrality, the EU has developed a database that contains the recommendations issued by the EU EOMs since 2016, which can be accessed by clicking on the following link:​ 

What is the composition of an Election Observation Mission?

The Core Team: this is made up of a Head of Mission, a Deputy Head of Mission and experts in different fields (electoral, legal and political aspects, the media, gender, etc.). The Core Team is deployed for an average period of between 8 and 12 weeks, and is responsible for drawing up a Preliminary Report that contains the conclusions of the EOM.

The members of the Core Team of the European Union (EU) EOMs are selected by the corresponding unit of the European Commission - the Foreign Policy Instrument (FPI) - in coordination with the corresponding unit of the European External Action Service, following registration in the European Union Database for Electoral Assistance Experts.

Announcement of the posts

The members of the Core Team of the EOMs of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) are selected by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), following registration on the ODIHR Election Expert Database.

Announcement of the posts

Long-Term Observers (LTOs): they are responsible for analysing the unfolding election process in their sphere of responsibility during the pre- and post-election period. They are deployed for an average period of between 6 and 8 weeks.

Short-Term Observers (STOs): they are responsible for observing the voting process, the counting of ballots and the consolidation of the results. They are deployed for an average period of between 7 and 15 days.

Which organisations undertake Election Observation Missions?

The EU, the OSCE and the Organization of American States (OAS) are the main international organisations that carry out Election Observation Missions in which Spanish election observers participate. Furthermore, a regional organisation – the African Union – has become an important player over recent years in this field within its geographic area of influence. Along with these international organisations, other non-governmental organisations also exist that undertake international election observation work. These include the Carter Centre, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI).

What is the function of the Human Rights Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation?

The Human Rights Office (HRO) is the unit tasked with pre-selecting or selecting long- and short-term observers for the Election Observation Missions of the EU, the OAS and the OSCE.

For the EU EOMs, the HRO submits a list of pre-selected candidates to the corresponding unit of the European Commission – the FPI – which makes the final selection of observers. For the OSCE EOMs, the HRO performs the selection of the observers. For the OAS EOMs, the selection is performed by the HRO in coordination with the Department of Electoral Cooperation and Observation (DECO) of the OAS.​


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