Free and fair elections give citizens the opportunity to directly express their political will. They are therefore essential for a country’s democratic development. Countries can call upon independent election observers to guarantee compliance with the principles of democratic elections. At the invitation of a given country, the European Commission sends election observers to monitor and document procedures before, during and after an election. Over 150 missions have been carried out in the past 20 years with the participation of more than 10,000 European observers.
The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH has been supporting the work of election observers since 2008 on behalf of the European Commission. In the almost 20 missions it has carried out so far, its in-country structures and many years of experience in this field have helped to facilitate these so-called election observation missions.
First of all, GIZ makes organisational and administrative preparations for the mission. This includes, for example, the deployment of experts and observers, booking suitable accommodation for them as well as renting secure offices and equipping them with communications technology such as telephones and internet connections. However, if necessary, it also ensures that personal protective equipment, such as helmets and bulletproof vests, is available.
During the whole mission, GIZ gives the European observers logistical support to enable them to visit as many polling stations as possible on election day. Vehicles, technical equipment and, last but not least, accommodation must be provided. These services are particularly in demand in countries and regions with weak infrastructure.
The federal enterprise has conducted election observation missions in almost 20 countries to date – Mali, Paraguay, Burkina Faso, Sri Lanka, Egypt, and Chad to mention just a few. Each country and each election pose different challenges for the observers. Take the parliamentary elections in Chad in February 2011, for example. As a result of irregularities in previous elections – the country has one of the lowest rankings in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index – the first experts already arrived in the capital N’Djaména as early as November 2010.
In the following weeks, the mission grew to 90 members, all of them monitoring the registration of candidates and voters as well as the election campaign and media reporting. On election day itself, the EU election observers then monitored the opening of the almost 600 polling stations and the casting and counting of the votes. At the end of the mission, the results were transmitted to the national electoral commission and discussed with the Chadian partners.
GIZ’s recent activities have included election observation missions in Gambia and Kosovo in 2017, in Zambia in 2016, and in Burkina Faso and Burundi in 2015. There were major challenges in many of these countries – both in terms of logistics and security. During the missions in Burundi and Burkina Faso, for example, the security situation deteriorated during the elections to such an extent that one had to evacuate all the observers and other experts taking part in the mission from the countries within a very short space of time. In Kosovo, on the other hand, the challenge was that there were only a few days between GIZ being commissioned and the start of the mission: ‘It was a race against time – even more than usual,’ said Vincent Louis, project leader of the Kosovo mission. ‘Thanks to the valuable support of the country office, the experienced team of experts and excellent backstopping from International Services, GIZ overcame this challenge successfully.
Last update: June 2017