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Standardizing the Principles of International Election Observation

Posted by on Friday, July 6, 2012 in Notes, Vol. 43 No. 3, Volume 43, Volumes.

On October 27, 2005, thirty-two international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) and intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) signed the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation, drafted with the assistance of the United Nations.  For nearly four decades before the signing of the Declaration, international election observation rapidly gained acceptance as a legitimate method of guaranteeing free and fair elections and thus promoting lasting democratic institutions.  Many INGOs and IGOs conducting observation missions—including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Organization of American States, the South African Development Community, and the Carter Center—independently developed standards for their observers to follow.  As international election observation became more prevalent and more organizations entered the fray, however, independent standards contributed to confusion.  The Declaration thus sought to standardize election observation principles governing both international observation missions and host nations.  Despite this noble goal, the Declaration falls short of providing a truly uniform and specific set of regulations that host nations, INGOs, or IGOs—if they so choose—can simply adopt.  In seeking to remedy the shortcomings of the Declaration, this Note examines existing international principles and representative national laws and offers, in conclusion, a draft Annex to the Declaration that incorporates the most useful and effective of these provisions.

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