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Reporting on Elections

Council of Europe Handbook for Civil Society Organisations


The opinions expressed in this work are the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of the Council of Europe. The text of this publication may be reproduced on condition that the full title of the source, namely the Council of Europe, is cited. If it is intended to use any part of the text for commercial purposes or to translate it into a nonofficial language of the Council of Europe, please contact the Public Information and Publishing Division, Directorate of Communication (F-67075 Strasbourg Cedex or

All internet sources cited in this reference were accessed in August and September 2013. Division of Electoral Assistance and Census Democratic Governance Directorate Directorate General II - Democracy Council of Europe Strasbourg France

Cover and layout: Service for the Production of Documents and Publications (SPDP), Council of Europe and European Humanities University © Council of Europe 2013


Reporting on Elections Council of Europe Handbook for Civil Society Organisations

Editor: Marie-Carin von Gumppenberg Contributors: Giorgi Chkheidze, Sinisa Bencun, Igor Gaon, Marie-Carin von Gumppenberg, Lela Taliuri

Strasbourg/Tbilisi 2013


Table of Content
Foreword.............................................................................................................................................................4 Introduction.......................................................................................................................................................6 Reporting on Elections.....................................................................................................................................9 What kind of reporting are we talking about?.......................................................................................... 10 How do you plan your reporting?............................................................................................................... 13 How do you structure an election report?................................................................................................. 17 Why is proper observation planning so important in election reporting?......................................... 22 How does observer performance influence the quality of your reporting?....................................... 26 How do you report on election violations?............................................................................................... 29 Which language should you use in election reports?............................................................................. 35 How do you assess the information against international standards?................................................ 43 How do you formulate recommendations?.............................................................................................. 47 Annexes............................................................................................................................................................ 51 Authors............................................................................................................................................................. 52 Abbreviations.................................................................................................................................................. 53 List of key phrases.......................................................................................................................................... 54 Further readings............................................................................................................................................. 55 OSCE/ODIHR Code of Conduct for Observers........................................................................................... 57 Venice Commission Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters.......................................................... 58


In any country democratisation is a process with several steps. One important step is elections, and election reports provide important indicators as to in which direction the democracy in a given country is heading, and to what degree human rights and rule of law are respected. Therefore, election reporting is crucial for the further development of democracy. It provides a public record of what has been observed and serves as a reference for future elections. While providing pre-electoral assistance in several member states, including in countries which are part of the Eastern Partnership Facility, the Council of Europe learned from civil society organisations about their need for a “tool kit” on election reporting. In order to comply with this request from domestic election observers, the Council of Europe has prepared a handbook written within the framework of the Eastern Partnership Facility, a programme funded by the EU and implemented by the Council of Europe in cooperation with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. The aim of this handbook is to inform domestic observers regarding best practices on how to gather election-related information, how to report on election issues and how to assess to what degree the elections are held in compliance with domestic legislation and international standards. This book is the result of a pilot project, sponsored by the Kingdom of Norway, implemented in Georgia in 2012 and 2013 under the title “Enhancing Election Monitoring Reporting Capacity of Georgian NonGovernmental Organisations”. In September 2012 the Council of Europe deployed an expert to Georgia to advise five leading Georgian election observation organizations on how to develop high quality election observation reports. The expert organised a two-day training session for representatives of the NGOs on effective election reporting based on good practices. The expert subsequently worked with each organisation individually to develop a format and structure for election observation reports, tailored to the aims and needs of each individual organisation. In February 2013, building on the first phase of the pilot project, the expert returned to Georgia to provide extensive feedback to the NGOs on their final election reports written after the 2012 Parliamentary Elections. After this expert’s visit, the NGOs requested the Council of Europe to develop a practical manual on domestic election reporting. To fulfil this request the Council of Europe in cooperation with domestic and international experts prepared this handbook “Reporting on Elections; Council of Europe Handbook for Civil Society Organisations”. The handbook serves as a guideline for domestic observers. It explains step by step how an election report is written, how it is structured, which language is used, what to include and what not to include in the report. The handbook focuses on both interim and final reports published by the core team. The handbook is divided into three parts: Introduction; Reporting on Elections and Annexes. The main part of the book “Reporting on Elections” is composed of nine chapters: “What kind of reporting are we talking about?”, “How do you plan your reporting?”, “How do you structure an election report?”, “Why is proper observation planning so important in election reporting?”, “How does observer performance influence the quality of your reporting?”, “How do you report on election violations?”, “Which language should you use in election reports?”, “How do you assess the information against international standards?”, and “How do you formulate recommendations?”.


In the annexes, the domestic observer can find a list of key phrases, references concerning election observation and international standards, as well as the OSCE/ODIHR Code of Conduct for Observers and the Venice Commission Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters. This publication can serve not only as a reference for domestic election observers, but also for governmental officials, political parties, election officials, voters and civil society organisations who plan to report on election activities. It could also be useful as a training tool for future domestic election observers. Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the experts who kindly contributed to this handbook, in particular: Marie-Carin von Gumppenberg, Lela Taliuri, Sinisa Bencun, Giorgi Chkheidze, and Igor D. Gaon. Our gratitude goes also to the European Commission and the Kingdom of Norway who supported this project.

Francois FRIEDERICH Head of Division Directorate General II – Democracy Directorate of Democratic Governance Electoral Assistance and Census Division


Why are elections so important?
More than ever before, citizens around the world are taking part in elections as voters, candidates and observers. Elections are an essential step in creating a legitimate authority which reflects and protects the interests of citizens. Of course, generally, one democratic election does not guarantee a change in the political culture of a society, but holding elections on a regular basis in compliance with Europe’s electoral heritage is seen as an indicator of a developing democracy. Democracy is an on-going participatory process of forming opinions and taking decisions on issues affecting the larger community while at the same time respecting minority rights, and elections are one part of this process. Long-term efforts must also be undertaken to build an inclusive democratic society that respects human rights, administers justice fairly, and encourages full citizen participation in public and political life. If elections are held in a free, fair, transparent and democratic manner, they will help to promote the society’s democratic values and a respect for universal human rights.

Why is domestic election observation so important?
Assessments of election observers are crucial in determining whether an election is considered genuinely democratic. These assessments are powerful tools in promoting democratic procedures, political rights and good governance. And these assessments are done either by domestic and/or international observer groups. Of the two groups, domestic observers have a comparative advantage. Domestic observer groups outnumber the international observers; they can deploy their people all over the country, while international observers cover only some areas. Domestic observer groups know the political culture, the language and the territory; they view many things that may pass unnoticed by international observers. They – as well as the international observers – are educating the voters and promoting the rule of law. Domestic observer groups can specialise in certain aspects of election observation, while the international observers cover the election process as a whole. They can more efficiently than the international observers verify the voter roll, observe the complaint process, document instances of intimidation and human rights abuses, and watch the media. In addition, domestic observers remain in the country after international observers are gone and continue working on improving the electoral process.


Professionalization of Domestic Election Observers In the last two decades domestic election observation has become far more sophisticated, and its scope of activities has expanded. Media, political parties, and election administrations are coming under closer scrutiny and more systematic observation. Increasing attention is being paid to the accuracy of voterregistration lists, and audits of electoral registries have become the norm rather than the exception. Electoral laws as well as campaign rules are subjected to more in-depth analysis. Women’s participation in electoral processes has become a key issue. As in the past, the presence of observers at polling stations remains the centrepiece of the observation efforts. But there have been significant changes in how observers are deployed, in how they collect information, in what they report on, how those reports are analysed and in what they recommend. These shifts reflect two trends: a greater appreciation of the importance of the political climate and the political culture and a keener understanding of the need for more systematic evaluation of the quality of the electoral process. The introduction of benchmarks has made it easier for observers to evaluate election-day activities, including the opening and closing of polling stations; the performance of polling-station officials and party representatives; the procedures for securing ballot boxes; the voter-identification protocols; the management of unregistered voters, and the counting of the votes and reporting of results. In the past few years, indicators for evaluating the electoral climate around the polling stations have been developed, and violations are now being documented more carefully and accurately. In addition, quantitative tools have been refined: parallel vote tabulations or “quick counts” have become faster and more accurate as a result of more finely honed statistical-sampling procedures along with better technology, improvements in observer training, and refinements in analysis. Such vote counts are now normal practice. As a result, domestic election observers now have at their disposal instruments that are more wide-ranging and more differentiating than ever before – and hence are more powerful. As election observation has become more systematic, observers have become increasingly adept at developing and deploying multiple strategies for detecting and deterring the subtler efforts of electoral manipulation and theft. They – and only to a lesser extent the international observers – are now the principle safeguards of the electoral process. Increasing influence of domestic election observers While becoming more professional, domestic observers became more influential. Election observation was once almost the exclusive domain of international and interregional organizations. In the last ten years, however, there has been a surge of interest among domestic groups in observing elections in their own countries. Internationally driven election observations, such as those undertaken by OSCE/ODIHR, the UN, the EU, PACE and the Congress originally relied primarily on their own resources, personnel, and accumulated expertise. However, with domestic election observer groups increasingly becoming more and more professional, the international community started to rely more and more on their expertise. As a result, even international observations became more and more “domestically driven”. Domestic election observer groups not only provide the infrastructure and logistical support for the international observers, but also fulfil other important tasks: • As domestic observers are more familiar with the situation on the ground, they assist the international observers by providing information about the electoral process from the very beginning (even before the international observers come in) and in detail; As domestic observers have the mandate not only to observe but also to actively participate in the electoral process, they – and not the international observers – follow-up on election violations and implement projects to improve the electoral process.

Many observer groups have become so professional that they have started to observe elections in their own countries even without external assistance; this is a significant step in democratic achievement. The citizens now own the electoral process as they take part in elections not only as voters and candidates but also as observers. In this way they contribute to transparency of the electoral process, to changes in the political culture and the citizens’ trust in the elections.

What are the outstanding issues?
While many domestic observers have become more professional and as a consequence more influential, there are still some outstanding issues. Domestic observers could increase their professionalism and their independence if they would pay more attention to the following: • • • Domestic observers could to a greater extent integrate international election standards in their election observation methodology; They could adhere more strictly to a code of conduct, committing them to stay impartial in their observation and to report only about facts and figures and not about rumors and gossip; Domestic election watchdogs could report not only on key findings, but also assess them against national and international standards and come up with recommendations for the improvement of future election processes.

However, the neutrality and objectivity of the domestic observers is frequently being challenged – especially during highly competitive elections. Often the observers on the ground are intimidated, harassed and/or bribed, and some are even prosecuted. They are hindered in fulfilling their work as observers: excluded from polling stations: physically threatened; and/or their friends and family members are given severe warnings. Certainly, domestic observers should not risk their or their family members’ lives. However, they can try to adhere to the principles of neutrality and objectivity while carrying out their tasks. These tasks start with defining the observation methodology, continue with watching the accuracy of their findings and their compliance with international standards, and conclude with presenting reports in a clear and understandable manner. Only if they stick to these principles do they gain the trust and confidence of the public and become powerful watchdogs which make a difference in the electoral process. To this end, domestic observers need more in-depth training on their tasks, on the purpose of objective election observation and on reporting. To achieve this, a highly specialised observation methodology and a thorough training plan are required; codes of conduct setting out the main rights and duties of domestic observers, based on neutrality and objectivity, should become standard. Election observation has a vital role in ensuring that elections are in compliance with the principals of Europe’s electoral heritage. Domestic observers are not there only to recognize and pay attention to fraud, to alleviate electoral deficiencies and/or to deter fraud and abuse; they are also present to offer recommendations on how to improve elections and the political process as such. As elections are not a one-off event, domestic observer groups should make a firm commitment to stay involved, not only by observing consecutive elections, but also by staying engaged in-between elections. And the international community should assist them by supporting projects focusing on educating voters, improving voter lists, building the capacity of election management bodies, and/or revising the electoral code.

References: University of Oslo/Norwegian Centre for Human Rights: Manual on Human Rights Monitoring (2008). Chapter 9; Election Observation Handbook New Tactics in Human Rights/Election Monitoring (2009) OSCE/ODIHR (2010): Election Observation Handbook OSCE/ODIHR (2003): Handbook for Domestic Election Observers


Reporting on Elections


What kind of reporting are we talking about?
Decide what you want to achieve with your reporting! Before you start observing, decide how you want to use the information that you will gather. Which type of reporting are you aiming for? Do you want to report in order − To document what happened and/or − To analyse the information you gathered, come up with findings and formulate recommendations for the future? You may wish to do both: you may wish to document the violations and to come up with recommendation for the improvement of future electoral processes. Pre-Election Day and Election Day reporting enable you to comment constructively on the process; while post-election-day reporting focuses on the analysis of the elections a whole. You might wish to release your reports at suitable moments or on a regular basis. “Whichever method is used, a domestic observer group should aim to produce a preliminary statement and final report after the election. These will be its definitive assessments of the electoral process.” (ODIHR domestic election observation handbook, p. 115) Differentiate between internal and external reporting! Reporting is an essential part of election observation, and there are two different types of reports: internal and external ones. The first are written by observers in the field, the latter are produced by the core team. • As a Long-Term Observer (LTO), you produce weekly reports that will be a basic information source for the Core Team (CT), using a form and structure based on CT needs. In case you are observing or participating in a specific event during the pre-election period, such as rallies and candidate forums, you write instant event reports. As a Short-Term Observer (STO), you report several times during Election Day (E-Day reporting) using pre-defined forms. As Core Team you analyse the STOs’ and LTOs’ reports and include the relevant, accurate, complete and objective information into your interim reports, press releases, preliminary statement and final report.
Pre-election reports weekly reports by the Long-Term observers, event reports and interim reports compiled by a Core Team Election Day reports STO/mobile team reports on polling station performance, STO/mobile team reports on specific issues such as opening of polling stations and incidents, STO text message reports on E-Day procedures and/or election results core team reports about parallel voting tabulation (PVT) Post-election reports: Core Team statement on the preliminary findings and conclusions, Core Team final report

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The handbook focuses on interim reports and final reports published by the core team.

Put an emphasis on your interim and final reporting!
Interim Report(s) At the very beginning of domestic observation, you should decide whether to publish interim reports or not. This depends on your election observation goals and objectives, and the timeframe of your observation mission. The overall goal of interim reports should be improvement of the on-going electoral process as a whole. If you want to exercise influence on the election stakeholders before E-Day, if you want the election stakeholder to feel watched and held accountable, if you want to report publicly on all positive and negative trends in the election process, then you should definitely decide to publish interim reports. Depending on the timeframe you might wish to issue more than one interim report. The first interim report could be more of a general nature covering issues such as national legislation and the focus of your observation (e.g. structure of the election administration if you cover the election administration). You should present more concrete data and information on the election process in the subsequent interim reports, once you start receiving information from the field. Then you can present individual cases as well as statistical data.
“The purpose of interim reports is to give an indication of the issues the EOM is considering, to underscore some of the positive elements and observed shortcomings, to serve as a tool for continuous dialogue with the authorities, to enhance the transparency of its work and to provide an opportunity for the authorities to address any critical issues in the run-up to Election Day.” Source: ODIHR Election Observation Handbook, 2010, p. 49

Final Report The final report provides an analysis of the whole electoral process covered by your election observation. It should contain more statistical data than information about single incidents. Depending on the scope of your observation and the resources you are engaging, your report will include a number of topics covering legal framework, election administration, voter and candidate registration, election campaign, media, E-day, tabulation, and/or dispute resolution. Often final reports are published months after the elections. When they are published so late, they are no longer of interest to the wider public due to practical reasons: three months after the elections you can no longer influence past electoral processes - you can only influence future electoral processes. So, the final report focuses on long-term goals: how to improve election legislation and procedures; how to reform the administration; and/or how to train election observers. All these issues are laid out in the conclusions and recommendations that you present in your final report.
“The final report provides an overall assessment of the electoral process. In particular, the report provides a mission’s conclusions on the process in its entirety, and on the extent to which the event was conducted in accordance with OSCE commitments and other international standards for democratic elections, as well as with national legislation. More importantly, it also provides concrete and constructive recommendations for the host country authorities on how the process might be improved or brought more closely in line with OSCE commitments.” Source: ODIHR Election Observation Handbook, 2010, p. 95

Be aware that your reports go public! The main difference between the election observers’ and the core team’s reports is the fact that the core team produces reports for the wider public, while the STOs and LTOs are only for internal use. In public reports, mistakes are not allowed. Once published, these reports become a source for different election stakeholders such as media, political parties, NGOs, and the international community – there is no opportunity for correction. Each sentence, even each word, needs to be weighed, with a projection of reactions and consequences that might result from different target groups. All information must be accurate before it is released to the public. Otherwise, your findings can fail at the first step, which can jeopardize the credibility of the entire observation project. Be aware of your target audience!

Please make sure you are clear to whom you are writing the report! Who is your main audience? To whom are you addressing the report: to the government as a whole; specific state institutions; the political parties; the broader public; or the international community? A list of questions is important both for reaching the target audience and structuring your report. If your main target is a specific state institution, like the state election commission or the parliament, you should focus on the issues that are in the jurisdiction of these institutions like the improvement of specific elections laws, rules and/or regulations. In your report all your findings, conclusions and recommendations should then be linked to specific provisions of election law that you wish to be changed. Or, if you want to address the international community in your report, you focus on international standards and point out issues such as EU recommendations in the light of accession processes, and/or other international partners’ requests towards the country that are directly or indirectly related to elections. Mostly, your reports will be addressed to all or most of the listed subjects, so you will have to make it balanced, interesting, useful and plentiful for a wide audience. Consider how you can reach your target audience! In which languages will you publish your reports? Take into consideration the specific environment of your country as well as your available resources. As a minimum, you should produce your report in the official language(s) of the country. Also, if you can publish the reports in the minority languages (if any), and commonly used other languages in your country and region, it is a definite plus. If you plan international distribution, an English version of the report is a must. How will you distribute your reports? Each interim report should be followed with a press release with extraction of key findings from the report. Have in mind that the media will usually copy-paste the information from the press release, very few will go deeply into the report. For the final report, you should decide if it is convenient to make a press release as well. In general, you should access all channels of communication for distribution, using all available IT and other tools. Reports could be made public the following ways: • • • Press releases – make it no longer than one page; Press conferences – carefully choose the date, time and place; prepare E-packages for everyone, including the report, press release, and other relevant documents; Email – during your observation mission create specific mailing lists for government officials, political parties, media, international community, and NGOs; adjust your e-mail cover letter for each target group, and attach your reports to the email; Internet – distribute your information on your own and other web pages, as well as through social networks; Working groups at governmental/ambassadorial level – try to reach out to existing working meetings of international organisations and embassies.

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When distributing the electronic version of your reports, always use formats that are widely common and protected from content change, like pdf! Depending on your resources, consider developing small brochures where key findings from the report will be adapted and distributed to ordinary citizens, using graphic and other tools that will make them easy to read and to understand. For example, if you want to target youth, adjust the style and focus on findings about youth in the election process.


How do you plan your reporting?
Identify your election observation scope well in advance! Before you start with your observation activities, become clear on what you want to observe! Do you want to focus on the performance of the election administration, on the use of administrative resources, on the media coverage of the elections or on individual cases?

After having made the decision about the scope of your election observation (e.g. election disputes), take a look how these issues were handled during the past elections: what were the main problems in the previous elections (e.g. beatings of party activists), and what were the most important findings (e.g. inconsistencies in the legislation) and recommendations (e.g. creation of a taskforce to settle the election disputes)? In addition take a look at the current election environment: what are currently the main interests/concerns of citizens (e.g. intimidation of teachers)?


Scope of your election observation Legal and institutional framework Which and how do the laws regulate the elections? Are the laws in compliance with international standards? Are there problematic provisions? How and when were the laws drafted and adopted? Election administration What is the structure and composition of the election administration? What is the procedure for nomination and selection of the election officials? Is the election administration generally viewed as independent and impartial? Are the meetings of the election administration open to accredited observers? Does the electoral administration enjoy public confidence? Are they able to work on the basis of consensus, trust and collegiality? How is the training and the certification for the election officials organised? Are there a strategic plan and an election time table? Registration of candidates Is the right of citizens to stand for election respected? Is the registration of parties and candidates conducted in an open, transparent, fair and non-discriminatory manner? Voters’ lists Who compiles the voters’ lists? How complete and accurate are the voters’ lists? Is there public trust in the voters’ lists? Is there any independent institution auditing the voters’ lists? Political environment Who participates in the elections? Is there any obstacle for those who are competing? Is equality of opportunity guaranteed by state authorities for parties and candidates? How is the election campaign organised? Is the atmosphere calm without tension, pressure and intimidation? Political party, candidates and election campaign funding Is the campaign funding of political parties and candidates transparent? Is the funding of the election administration transparent? Media environment Is the media complying with the media legislation? Are parties and candidates receiving sufficient airtime to convey their political messages? Is the electorate receiving adequate information to enable them to make a well-informed electoral choice? Do the main broadcast channels (public and private) present a balanced view of political issues? Are media freedom and independence respected? What impact has social media on the election process? Women’s participation Are there any obstacles to women’s participation in elections as voters and candidates? Does the election law have instruments for guaranteeing women representation on the party lists, a so called “female quota”? How do the media treat women candidates – with or without stereotypes? Are women going to the polls – equally as men? National minorities Can national minorities participate in the elections? Are there mechanisms to enhance their representation? Do national minorities have equal opportunities in receiving voter education and information? Do they have an opportunity to be part of the election administration? Do they have equal access to information about the elections? Election observation Who is planning to observe the elections: international and/or domestic groups, partisan or non-partisan groups? Are there any long-term observers? On e-day are there mobile or/and stationary short-term observers? Will they cover the entire territory or not? For which period of time are the observers deployed? Do they have access to the election administration at all levels? Post-election developments How was the procedure of the tabulation and announcement of results conducted? Did the election commission stick to all deadlines as stipulated in the law? Were there any serious complaints challenging the election results? How were the complaints handled? Were there any cases that ended up in the court? Were elections repeated in some of the districts?


Choose which international standards you would like to refer to!
Whichever decision you take about the scope of your election observation, identify the international standards that are relevant for your election activities. The rationale behind this is the following: you are not only to assess your findings against the national legislation, but also against international standards. Key principles of international standards are laid out in the Venice Commission Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters and the OSCE Commitments: • The Venice Commission Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters outlines the following five principles as Europe’s electoral heritage: universal, equal, free, secret and direct suffrage. Furthermore, it stipulates that elections must be held at regular intervals and that conditions for implementing these principles are the respect for fundamental rights, regulatory levels and stability of electoral law, procedural guarantees, and the electoral system. The OSCE Commitments emphasize the following principles: periodic, genuine, free, and fair elections, universal and equal suffrage, voting by secret ballot, and honest counting and reporting of results.

For instance, you chose to focus on the following international standard: “Public resources should not be used unfairly for the benefit of one candidate.” Then the report should contain reference to this standard in the way that your report will have a chapter named “Use of administrative resources” containing a general assessment of this issue, and concrete facts reported by your observers, e.g. “Infrastructure projects of local authorities that were financed from the municipal budgets were presented as personal achievements of candidates in the following regions“ (provide examples); “Public buildings and premises (mostly theatres), public transport vehicles and football stations were often used for endorsing candidates or political party propaganda,“ (provide examples); “The local administration organized campaigning events for the local ruling parties,“ (provide examples);“The opening of the school year was used for campaigning,“ (provide examples).

Structure your reports before you start observing!
Don’t start writing your report when the elections are over! The earlier you start, the better! You do best when you start structuring your reports before you start observing! Have a table of contents ready! Find below the basic structure of any election report:

Basic structure of an election report
Introduction: mentioning main focus of election observation, e.g. use of administrative resources Methodology: recruiting experts, training observers, e.g. about all aspects of the use of administrative resources); deploying them to strategically important places (e.g. mayors’ offices) Main part: outlining the relevant legislation, presenting the main trends/violations, e.g. in the field of use of administrative resources Findings and recommendations: focusing on the compliance of all relevant stakeholders with the international standard, e.g. use of administrative resources


Decide which information you need for your interim and/or final reports. Based on these decisions, you assign and train your team members.
“Before the conduct of an observation programme, consideration should be given to a range of possible findings. Brainstorming should be done well in advance to determine how possible situations might be reported. A variety of scenarios should be identified, along with the relative likelihood of each outcome. By thinking about these issues at the beginning of a monitoring exercise, and by periodically reviewing strategy and tactics, a domestic observer group will be better prepared to effectively use the information collected.” Source: ODIHR Handbook for domestic observers, 2003, p. 116

Start writing your report well in advance!
Once you have decided about the scope of your election observation activities and the structure of your reports, you can start writing! The first interim report usually contains basic data about the legislative framework, the election systems and the election subjects. As this basic data is known from the very beginning, you can write it down – even before you receive your first reports from the field. The same goes for the final report. Most of the final report you can write before the Election Day. You can describe your main focus of election observation, explain your election observation methodology, outline the relevant legislation, present the main preelection trends/violations and even come up with first findings and recommendations.

Plan the timing of the publication of your reports well in advance!
Make a reporting plan in advance, including the number of reports, dates of release and key persons in charge for each activity. The number of reports, their public announcements as well as the dates of their release, depend on different factors: the length of the observation period, the reporting capacities of your observation mission, and the election calendar. The release of interim reports can be linked to key events within the electoral calendar, like the end of voter or party registration or the deadline for dispute resolution. They can also be released independently from the electoral calendar, within a certain period of time (e.g. every three weeks or every second month). Final reports, a full and overall assessment of the elections, should be released about six weeks after the electoral process is completed, but no later than three months after Election Day. The release of your reports can be combined with several ad hoc “stand alone” press releases. These press releases can be in fact small reports, usually targeting specific issues such as a sudden change of legislation, major election incidents or important court decisions. To receive maximum media coverage, you might consider announcing the publication of your reports in advance and combining the release of your report with a press release summarizing the most important findings of the report.

Consider the length of your reports!
Your reports should never be too long! No reader – even if he/she is the most interested one – is going to like going through hundreds of pages. Limit yourself - think twice which information is really important and which can be left out! For example, do you really want to list all election cases, or is it sufficient to list only the most important ones? Do you really want to go into detail or only concentrate on the main tendencies? In general, interim reports don’t exceed 10 pages and final reports 50 pages (using custom margins and font size 12). You can always list statistical data in the annexes of your reports for “advanced users” and those who want to go deeper and receive additional information, for example on election cases, election results, or court decisions.

How do you structure an election report?
What does a report look like?
Use a clear scheme to present the information to the readers! You might choose from a variety of formats to organize your information for readers. Most recommended is a combination of the following structures: • • Description: Describe what happened: when, where, to whom. The details help the reader understand the circumstances. Chronological Order/Sequence: Describe the events in sequence from the very beginning to the end. Use words that signal the chronology of events, such as first, then, next, finally, and specific dates and times. Compare/Contrast: Use comparisons to describe to the reader the changes in the election code, the progress made in regard to previous elections, the increase/decline of incidents. Problem/Solution: Based on your analysis and key findings, present recommendations for further improvement of the electoral process.

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Structure your report! Whichever report you write, always structure your election report the following way:
Basic structure of any election report Title page: Present the most important information about your report: the title of the report, the elections the report is covering (presidential, parliamentary, local), the reporting period, the title of your organisation including logo, the date when the report was published. Table of contents: Provide an overview of the sections of your report and their page numbers. Introduction: Mention the main focus of your election observation (election administration, campaign finance, E-Day procedures etc.), the international standards you are referring to, and the type of report you want to publish (interim report, final report). Methodology: Outline your observation methodology: the recruitment of experts, the training of observers, their deployment to strategically important places, the technology you use (e.g. for Parallel Vote Tabulation – PVT). Main part: Provide an overview of the relevant legislation and present the main trends of the electoral process you are covering with the report. Insert headings and sub-headings which reflect the contents of each section. Findings and recommendations: Summarize your report! Outline your findings briefly with no new arguments or evidence. Refer to international standards! Based on your findings outline suggestions/ recommendations for bringing the elections further in compliance with international standards. Information about your organisation: On the last page sum up the history of your organisation, your mission/vision and outline the sources of funding for your election observation activities.


Indicate the period your report is covering! On the front page, but also in your report, state which period you are covering! Usually, interim reports cover a period from two weeks to two months; while final election reports cover the whole observation period. Have a table of contents! All your reports should be formally structured into sections. These sections are reflected in the table of contents that gives an overview of the sections, so readers can easily identify the parts of the reports that are interesting to them. Insert headlines! Break down your text into sections with each section having a clearly defined headline! All titles and subtitles should give the reader clear guidance on what to expect from the respective section; headlines should be neutral and should not give any assessment about the conduct of elections. Find the balance between text, charts and pictures! Put the most important information in writing! Don’t use too many visual aids such as graphs and charts. While a pie chart or bar graph could visualise raw data, it should never go without explanatory notes that tell the reader why that data matters: showing the number and the period of time when incidents occurred, demonstrating the media coverage political contestants got during prime time, comparing PVT data with official election result. You may also consider inserting pictures, however, don’t overuse! Your report should state the facts mainly in writing. If you use pictures, consider carefully which pictures you insert into your report. Be aware of data protection/privacy rights of other people. (See: CoE (1980): Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data)


What does the final reports look like?
In final the report, the key elements of any election report should be included: executive summary, table of contents, introduction, conclusions, recommendations, and information about the organization. In addition the following issues could be covered:
Possible Structure of a Final Election Report Title page Table of contents Executive summary Introduction and acknowledgements Political background Analysis of legislative framework Analysis of the voter registration process and/or the results of any voter list audit Election administration Observation of candidate registration Observation of the election campaign Monitoring of the media Participation of national minorities, participation of women, voting of people with disabilities Observation of voting, counting, and tabulation Official results and commentary Resolution of complaints and the efficiency of the system of adjudication Findings and recommendations Information about election observation organisation

However, you are not bound to the above mentioned structure. If you decided to focus on specific aspects of the election process, then you could limit your final reporting to these aspects. Have a main message! Clearly define your main message by indicating the international standards against which you are assessing the elections. You should state which specific international standards are met, partially met or not met, you are not to judge whether the elections were “valid” or not.


Your final report should reflect the extent to which the electoral process was carried out in a manner that enjoyed the confidence of the candidates and the electorate, as well as the degree of political will demonstrated by the authorities to conduct a genuine democratic election process.
“The two rounds of presidential and municipal elections met most OSCE commitments and other international standards for democratic elections. The constructive role and discreet, but reassuring, presence of the police contributed to the conduct of peaceful election days. Overall, these elections were administered in a professional and transparent manner. Some problems were evident, such as allegations of intimidation of voters in the pre-election periods.” or “The parliamentary elections were competitive, transparent, and well-administered throughout the country, although certain aspects require attention. On Election Day voters were able to freely express their choice in a peaceful atmosphere, despite some irresponsible claims of irregularities by political parties.” or “The parliamentary elections marked an important step in consolidating the conduct of democratic elections in line with OSCE and Council of Europe commitments, although certain key issues remain to be addressed. The elections were competitive with active citizen participation throughout the campaign, including in peaceful mass rallies. The environment, however, was polarized and tense, characterized by the frequent use of harsh rhetoric and a few instances of violence. The campaign often centred on the advantages of incumbency, on the one hand, and private financial assets, on the other, rather than on concrete political platforms and programs.”

Assess the current elections against previous elections! When assessing an election, you might also consider the degree to which these elections were an improvement over previous elections. You could do this by referring to previous reports issued by international organizations and domestic observer groups; by comparing facts (e.g. number of candidates, incidents during Election Day, election results); by reporting on changes (e.g. changes in the electionrelated legislation, in the election system, in the training of election officials, in the handling of complaints by the authorities). Give a summary of your key findings at the beginning! In the beginning you may wish to write a summary of the most important issues/cases of the electoral process. This is what most of your audience will read. Below is an overview of key phrases used in the summary:
The Constitution and Unified Election Code was last amended…. The elections were administered by a three-tiered election administration comprised of … The voters’ lists were administered by… Candidate registration was overall inclusive and transparent… The election campaign was conducted in a highly polarized political environment… The distinction between state and party was frequently blurred… Generally, the media provided voters with a diverse range of political views, allowing them to make a more informed choice… The complaints and appeals procedures were recently simplified and clarified to some extent... Election day was generally calm… The tabulation process at DECs was assessed positively by the observers… Approximately 800 Election Day-related complaints and appeals were filed, alleging a range of irregularities in voting, counting and tabulation of results…


Provide an analysis of your observations! Final reports provide an analysis of all aspects of the electoral process that have been observed, they should never provide simply an enumeration of single cases! You should avoid the following enumerations:
Alleged bribery of voters in Dusheti by Zurab Otiashvili On 27 August this year, the Mtskheta-Mtianeti Information Center reported alleged voter bribery by Zurab Otiashvili. According to the report as well as the news published on the official website of the Dusheti Municipality,… Alleged bribery of the Poti voters by Tengiz Sarishvili On 6 and 11 September this year, Information Agency “Info 9” published two stories on its website about the meetings held by Tengiz Sarishvili, a candidate of the United National Movement to Membership of Parliament under direct election system, in the Election District no. 70 in Poti… Alleged bribery of the Lanchkhuti voters by Gia Goguadze On 20 September of the current year, in its information program at 15:00 hrs, Channel 9 showed a story depicting voter bribery in the Election District no. 61 in Lanchkhuti by Qetuna Tsintsadze, representative of Giorgi Goguadze,…

A final report should always contain a summary of the cases, i.e. providing information about the number of cases and their adjudication. Single cases are only to be mentioned if they are outstanding/detrimental to the electoral process. The following way cases could be mentioned:
The Prosecutor’s Office opened investigations in seven cases of suspected vote buying. In two of these cases decisions to seize property and detain suspects appeared to have been taken on questionable legal grounds… Another case involved M.K., who was arrested for suspected vote buying in July, prior to the calling of the elections. While still in detention, he became a candidate… To the knowledge of the election observers, none of seven of these cases of alleged vote-buying were adjudicated on merit and no suspects were convicted for vote-buying…

Come up with recommendations! Through recommendations you can make your views known and suggest a line of action. Recommendations provide suggestions on how the overall process or elements of the process might be improved. They are offered with a view to enhance the conduct of elections in the country and to bring them fully in line with Venice Commission Code of Good Practice, OSCE commitments and other international standards for democratic elections. (see also the last chapter of this handbook)


Why is proper observation planning so important in election reporting?
Invest time and resources in your planning phase! Observation of elections is a serious project which demands serious work, knowledge and professionalism. It involves people, money, logistics and politics. In order to organise an effective observation, as a first step, domestic observers and organisations should prepare a work plan. The plan should be flexible and adjustable to the unexpected situations that might occur during the course of activities. The work plan is the list of objectives, goals, activities and expected outcomes. It is very important to include anticipated human and financial resources as well as a timetable. When approved, the work plan serves as a guide to actions to be taken in order to reach the objectives, written so as to be transparent to anyone, inside or outside the implementing group, in describing those objectives, and outputs, and justifying the actions to be taken. Before preparation of the work plan the organisation should take into consideration the type of election, since the type of election can have a critical impact on the election observation methodology. Different approaches may be required, depending on whether an election is presidential, parliamentary, local or a national referendum. Therefore the first step is a needs assessment. Conduct a needs assessment! Conduct a needs assessment in order to determine what aspects of the election process need attention and should be prioritised as observation subjects. Consult a broad range of sources to get a balanced view of the situation; take a regional approach into account. Write down the most important findings of your needs assessment! Take into consideration: • • • Previous election observation reports in order to understand the extent to which recommendations from previous election observation activities were implemented; The recent amendments to the election legislation; Interviews with key stakeholders: Election Commission and other relevant government authorities; political parties; prominent legal and media experts; specialized NGOs (focussing on women’s rights, national minorities, human rights, anti-corruption issues); Interviews with international observers.

Analyse your own capacity!


What are the appropriate scope, scale, and timing of observation operations?
Scope: For what type of observation is your organization qualified? In which field have you gained expertise? Possible focus areas include an analysis of the legal framework; formation, effectiveness, and impartiality of the election administration; complaints and appeals processes; registration of parties and candidates; voter registration; the election campaign, including the media and campaign finance; Election Day; the reporting of election results; and litigation of court cases. Scale: The type of election can have a critical impact on election observation methodology and be a significant factor in observer deployment during the pre-election period. Different approaches may be required, depending on whether an election is presidential, parliamentary, local, or a national referendum. How much money do you have available? Do you have adequate financing? How many observers can you recruit? And what kind of observers do you need? (partisan/non-partisan, mobile/stationary STOs, LTOs/ Coordinators, core staff ) How many? Do you want to cover the whole territory, or focus on representative areas or a single region? Timing: Which phase of the election process will you observe: the whole election period or only the E-Day? Come up with a clear action plan! After the needs assessment, you should develop an action plan. If you represent several civil society groups, all groups should be represented at the meeting, so that everyone shares and has a common understanding from the beginning of the project. During the meeting you should decide on the following: Objectives: What do you want to observe in the election process and what do you hope to achieve? (e.g. promoting public confidence, deterring and detecting irregularities, improving election legislation, furthering trust in the voters’ lists, promoting women’s participation as candidates and voters) Goals: What are the goals you want to pursue after having chosen the overall objective? (e.g. detect errors in the voter register, hold parties accountable to the code of conduct, report on election-related violence, increase voter understanding of the election process, observe Election Day processes, advocate for a new election law) Activities: What are the concrete activities you want to undertake? (e.g. radio campaign for election law reform, audit of the voter register, survey of selection of election commission members, targeted observation of Election Day proceedings, Parallel Vote Tabulation, monitoring of post-election complaints and appeals) Expected Outcomes: What specific impact should your activities have? Which goals and objectives would you like to accomplish? (E.g. better informed voters, higher turnout, a report on the Election Day process, a list of violent incidents and how they were addressed by authorities)


Once the objectives, goals, activities and expected outcomes have been defined, they should be organized into a planning strategy. The planning strategy should include realistic goals and objectives, within a reasonable amount of time and available resources. Prepare your schedules! Once objectives, goals, and activities are defined, come up with a draft timetable of all election activities and tasks. Only when you have all activities incorporated into the timetable will you see how realistic your objectives and goals are, and how they can be achieved. Make sure to include the following information in the timetable: Election Calendar: Tie your observation activities to electoral events. Fundraising Deadlines: Don’t forget about sticking to deadlines for submission of project proposals to donors. Training calendar: Take your time and train your observers properly on what to focus on when observing and how to fill out the reporting forms. Reporting Schedule: Develop a plan outlining who should submit which kind of information and at what time to incorporate it into your reporting. Think of appropriate deadlines (e.g. for LTOs submission twice per week).


Establish an effective reporting structure! Precise and timely internal reporting is vital for your reporting. Your observers on the ground must gather objective information and report it accurately and on a regular basis to the regional co-ordinators; and your co-ordinators must analyse the information and forward it to the core team. In the case of extraordinary events or developments implying serious violations of existing national legislation and/or international standards, your observers on the ground should immediately inform your headquarters by reporting by telephone and/or then sending a flash report. Below you will find a graph explaining the link between the training and the reporting of your observers. Only if your observers have undergone intensive training on reporting, will they be able to deliver quality information to your headquarters that – on the basis of the information from the observers on the ground – can then write objective, impartial and accurate reports.

Have an effective communication structure! Election observation relies on various communication technologies in order to quickly pass information, particularly to transmit observer findings from around the country on Election Day. Such communication systems might include fixed phones, mobile phones, fax machines, computers or a combination of these. Regardless of which technology you choose, communication networks can be interrupted or overloaded, therefore, you must be prepared with an alternate solution. Have back-up communication plans in place that are known to your observers. In some cases, you might have to send information by car or other means.


How does observer performance influence the quality of your reporting?
There is a clear link between election observers’ performance and the quality of your report! The more knowledge your observers have about the electoral context, the better they know their tasks and duties, the better they understand their code of conduct, the better they are trained in crisis situations and the better they can report about the election process. The more factual and accurate their information, the better you could make reference to it in your report. Carefully select your observers on the ground! Carefully consider how to select the observers you need for your observation activities. You will have to recruit and coordinate a large number of volunteers. The most efficient way is to identify credible civil society groups in each region that might be interested in taking part in your monitoring efforts as a coalition partner. The following questions might arise: • • • • Is your organisation based only in the capital, or do you have offices and contacts in the regions? Do you have a volunteer database from previous activities? Do you have a database for new volunteers? Do you have partner organizations in the regions which will work with you? If, yes, have you trained them sufficiently? How will you coordinate the volunteers?

Clearly define the tasks and duties of your observers! Determine which approach you will follow! Will you just observe the electoral process and/or follow up with complaints and taking them to court? Whatever decision you make, it will have consequences for your observer profiles. Do you need just short-term observers who know E-Day procedures, or do you need long-term observers who have in-depth observation experience as well as reporting, logistical, human resources and management skills? Or would you require lawyers with experience in filing and following up complaints and appeals? Define clearly the tasks and duties of your observers – before the elections, on E-Day, after the elections!


Intensively train your observers! Hold mock elections. Use role plays and other interactive methods. Give them specific cases they have to solve. Let them fill out reporting forms. Make them aware what and what not to focus on. Use standard forms to be used by all observers so that findings can be properly collected and easily processed. At the end, organise final exams and choose the observers. During the training sessions you might convey how to properly conduct their work. There are several principals which you should respect during your work: Stay impartial, independent and objective! • • • • • • Be discreet! Discuss election issues only with your colleagues. Refrain from any biased statement in relation to any political party, any candidate, or any issue in connection to the elections. Be in continuous dialogue with all election stakeholders. Do not wear or display anything which could be considered as identification and support to any political party or candidate. Properly investigate allegations. Base your conclusions on well documented, factual, and verified evidence. Report only on self-established facts. Do not accept any gifts or favours from any election stakeholder; it could be regarded as undue influence taking. Stay out of political tensions and conflicts. React appropriately: first and foremost, do not put yourselves in dangerous situations. Don’t take sides. Gather facts from all stakeholders.

Don’t disrupt or interfere in the election process! (e.g. by directing election officials). • • • • • • If you notice irregularities, inform the election officials, but do not tell them what they should do. Do not make any prediction on election results. Do not express your personal opinion on the validity of the elections. Comply with the instructions given by polling station officials. If you are dissatisfied with any officials’ instructions, document them. Do not physically assist in the voting or counting process. Do not use photographic, video or recording equipment at the polling station without permission of the officials in the polling station. Avoid any form of confrontation with the officials in the polling station.


Sign a code of conduct with your observers! Your observers should follow well-established election observation standards such as principles of neutrality, impartiality, professionalism, respect for the laws of the country, and respect for the organization instructions; they must sign a code of conduct to commit themselves to proper election observation. Sanctions should be foreseen and enforced in case of breach of this code of conduct. In a joint effort, more than 125 non-partisan election observation organizations agreed on a statement of principles and a code of conduct commemorated in April 2012 at the United Nations in New York.
Code of Conduct for non-partisan election observers and monitors Maintain strict non-partisanship, by remaining politically neutral in all activities concerning the election process (including observation, monitoring, voter education, exit polling and any other activities), by refraining from expressing publicly any preference for or against any candidate, political party, group, movement or other association seeking public office, or those supporting or opposing any referendum initiative (including when reporting factually about violations of laws, regulations and electoral rights by parties, candidates or referendum groups), and by rejecting all favors offered or threats issued by any of the political contestants or their agents; Work independently of government in support of a genuine democratic election process, without regard to who wins or loses, and employ the best practices, methodologies and techniques, in light of non-partisan principles and suited to national conditions, in order to observe and monitor the various elements of the election process throughout the election cycle and the related political environment or apply best practices, methodologies and techniques to specific elements of the election process; Maintain strict adherence to the principle of nonviolence, call on all involved with the election process to do the same and take any practical steps possible to reduce the potentials for election-related violence; Respect the country’s constitution, laws, regulations and international obligations consistent with holding democratic elections, promote respect for electoral related rights, and call on others involved with the elections to do the same; Respect the roles of impartial election authorities at all levels and at no time interfere unlawfully or inappropriately in the administration of the elections, as well as seek diligently to work in cooperation with impartial election officials, and follow lawful instructions from them or other appropriate authorities concerning protection of electoral integrity; Help to safeguard the rights of voters and prospective voters to exercise their electoral choice freely and without improper discrimination, unreasonable restrictions, interference or intimidation, which includes promoting respect for the secrecy of the ballot, the rights of eligible persons, including women, youth, indigenous peoples, members of national minorities, persons with disabilities and other traditionally marginalized populations, to register to vote, to receive in languages they understand sufficient, accurate information in order to make an informed choice among the political contestants and to engage in other aspects of the election process; Help to safeguard, with strict impartiality, the rights of political contestants to be elected, without improper discrimination or other unreasonable restrictions on their ability to receive legal recognition or to meet other requirements for ballot qualification, on their ability to freely campaign for support of the electorate, on their ability to communicate their political messages to the public or to exercise their rights to association, peaceful assembly and movement, on their ability to monitor all elements of the election process and to seek effective remedies, as well as to enjoy their right to security of person; Cooperate closely with other election observers and monitors from non-partisan citizen organizations that endorse the Declaration of Global Principles for Nonpartisan Election Observation and Monitoring by Citizen Organizations and cooperate with international election observation missions; Report impartially, accurately and timely all observations and findings, both positive and negative, with sufficient documentation of all serious problems to permit verification of the events, and with sufficient documentation of positive aspects of the process to provide an impartial and accurate picture of what took place; Provide sufficiently high quality training for all observers and monitors to allow them to understand this Code of Conduct, sign the accompanying pledge with full appreciation of its meaning and provide reports that meet the standards of this Code of Conduct. Source:


How do you report on election violations?
Be clear what it is you want to report about! Your core team as well as your observers in the field will receive a lot of election-related information. Before you start your observation, you should be clear which information is important for your reporting and which is not! Are you focusing on violations of the election legislation, violations of national legislation other than the election legislation or on election disputes that you are defending before court?
What are you reporting about? Reporting on violations/disputes of the national legislation: pre-election regulations (e.g. registration and campaigning of the election subjects; use of administrative recourses; operation of the election commissions; media; elections/campaign funding); E-Day procedures (e.g. opening/closing, vote count and tabulation); post-E-Day procedures (e.g. multiple ballot stuffing, allowing non-registered voters to vote, violations of the vote count procedure, illegal rejection of E-Day complaints, violation of the results summarisation procedure); Reporting on violations/disputes based on legislation other than the election law: e.g. public service legislation (campaigning restrictions for public officials); administrative code (regulations on the usage of administrative recourses by central and local officials); criminal and quasi-criminal law (misdemeanours or administrative violations entailing fines or even short-term imprisonment) Reporting on your own complaints/disputes (which might include both or only one of above categories of violations/ disputes)

Notwithstanding which decision you take, be clear about which stages of the election process you are covering: pre-election, E-Day and/or post-Election Day: • Pre-election disputes might include cases of vote buying and violations of campaign funding. Often they are vaguely regulated by law, something that constitutes a challenge for election observers to gather information, to document the cases and assess the information. E-Day and post-E-Day disputes are mostly cases that are filed with the election administration and/or the courts. The election legislation often regulates these cases, making it easy for election observers to document the cases and to follow the proceedings.


Be clear about a possible conflict of interest! Unlike international election observers, you might decide to exercise your right to submit complaints. If you are exercising such a right, then understand that you might have a conflict of interest: on the one side you are litigating complaints, and on the other side you are reporting about cases that you are litigating. Being aware of this conflict of interest, you should try to ensure objectivity in your reporting. Always adhere to the principles of impartiality and accuracy. This can be done the following way: • • • Develop separate forms for cases that you just report on and for cases that you are following up; Have separate staff members working on your own cases and other‘s cases that you are covering; If possible, do not limit your reporting only to the complaints you are following, but also try to cover other complaints of the election districts you are observing.

Be proactive when gathering information! Be pro-active especially when covering pre-election disputes. Search for information. Reach out to election subjects, media and other institutions on a regular basis in order to identify cases and gather information about them. Set up teams of media analysts screening traditional and new media with the aim not only to monitor the media coverage of the contestants but also to learn about potential election disputes. If you have limited access to information, especially in the case of non-election code violations, rely on defendants, their lawyers and political subjects to gain access to the needed information.

Carefully gather information about election disputes!
Create your own election dispute table! Before gathering information from the field, create your own database about the election disputes that you intend to cover, these may be cases that you just document or cases that you follow-up on. Such database “will determine whether legal redress can be achieved and will assist the process of cataloguing and tracking legal disputes. An analysis of this data will enable an assessment of the role, fairness, and efficiency of the authorities charged with the adjudication of election disputes.” (OSCE/ODIHR Handbook for Domestic Election Observers, 2003, p.35) Your database could be structured as follows:
The election dispute table should include description of the act of failure to act which permits complaint; persons/institutions likely to be accused; adjudicative body; manner of complaints should be submitted; time limits; procedure of complaints consideration (within election administration and/or within the judiciary); mechanisms of enforcement; penalties and remedies. Source: OSCE/ODIHR Handbook for Domestic Election Observers, 2003, p.43

Train your observers how to gather complaints! In order to receive proper and accurate information from your observers, you are advised to train them how to gather complaint information properly. Your observers should not only be familiar with the relevant national legislation and international standards, they should know not only how to gather all relevant information, how to fill out complaint forms and to report about incidents/complaints, but also should adhere to a strict code of conduct when conducting this work.

The principles of the code of conduct are described below:
Code of Conduct for Complaint Information Gathering … Confidentiality and the protection of those who file complaints is a top priority. Be as objective as possible. Contact and speak with all sides involved (i.e. complainant, defendant and the adjudicative authority). Meetings on complaints should be conducted with two observers whenever possible. For complaints which have been filed with an institution, a copy of the documentation should be obtained whenever possible. If an election commission or court session is holding a hearing on an election dispute, try to attend but ask for permission even if the hearing is public. The person to address with a request to attend is usually the presiding judge or chairperson. Do NOT approach the parties at the hearing and remember that you are a neutral observer. Source: ODIHR: Resolving Election Disputes in the OSCE Area, 2000, p. 23

Properly document single cases! To document an election violation, use the election administration’s complaint form for observers or your own complaint forms that you have developed in order to cover all cases. You should have forms for election legislation-related cases, for cases covering other legislation than the election legislation and for cases that you are following-up on. Be sure that your complaint form and the general observation forms provide the same information for your database. Consider developing separate forms for pre-election, E-Day and post E-Day proceedings. In general, your forms should contain the following information:
Documenting a violation Who: Obtain all names, affiliations and functions of the persons involved and contact details where possible. Who is complaining? (e.g. voters, candidate, party representative). Who is committing the alleged violation? (e.g. another party, local authorities, mass media). Who will hear the complaint? What happened: Take detailed notes and track the exact timing of the story. Ask for as many specifics as possible (i.e. names, exact place, date, witnesses). Determine and obtain when possible any tangible evidence such as copies of written documents, videotapes, and newspaper articles. When it happened? (Be as precise as possible) Where: Where do you [other election actor] file the complaint? Court or Election Commission? When a complaint has been brought to a court or an election commission, ask for a case number assigned by the court or commission dealing with the dispute. When the court/adjudicative body will discuss it. Source: OSCE/ODIHR Handbook for Domestic Election Observers, 2003, p. 48.

Follow a clear structure when observing judicial/court proceedings! When observing judicial/court proceedings, take into account major principles of the organization of the justice in your country; there might be different kinds of approaches: in one case the judge might be an “arbitral” trying to ensure the fairness of the proceedings by basing his/her judgments only on evidence presented by the parties; in another case the judge might be inquisitorial, actively collecting and evaluating evidence from all involved parties. In either case, for you it is important to receive answers to the following questions when following judicial/ court proceedings:


Consider using the following list of questions to observe adjudication process: “Whether the complainant is able to present evidence to the court or election commission in support of the complaint, either through the submission of written documents or by oral testimony; Whether other interested parties are able to present evidence; Whether the proceeding is conducted in public; open to all interested persons, including the media and members of the general public; and whether any part of the proceedings is conducted in a closed session where observation is not possible; Whether the adjudicating authority appeared to treat everyone fairly, including the complainant, witnesses, and interested parties; Whether, overall, the adjudicating authority appeared to be impartial; Whether the adjudicating authority’s decision was consistent with other rulings in similar cases; and Other observations, particularly the comments of the adjudicating authority, which support all conclusions reached by the monitor about the proceeding. … Whether the complainant and interested parties are represented by attorneys; The extent to which the court appears to follow legal rules of procedure; Time before the court makes a decision; and What information the court gives the parties concerning the right to appeal to a higher court.” Source: OSCE/ODIHR Handbook for Domestic Election Observers, 2003, p. 49

Carefully report about election disputes! Refer to domestic legislation and international standards! Before presenting your complaints information, refer to the national legislation and to the appropriate international standards. Against this background, you will be able to analyse the gathered information and provide conclusion on the transparency, efficiency and fairness of the process. (For the basic set of international standards see OSCE/ODIHR: Resolving Election Disputes in the OSCE Area, 2000; and Guidelines on Elections, Adopted by the Venice Commission, at its 51st Plenary Session, 2002.) Ensure that the information you present in your report is complete, accurate and objective! • Complete information: Be sure that you have enough data for your report! Beyond the details of the events and persons involved, the value of the information gathered for your report will depend on how complete your information is. If you are missing details, you should strive to gather additional information in order to properly report on the cases. You could do this by interviewing witnesses, by asking for additional documentation from the police or the hospital, or if permitted, by examining electoral records (such as protocols, voter list extracts, PEC log book, spoiled, unused and even voted ballots, and equipment and materials, such as stamps).
Of the numerous specific allegations examined by the observers, several were clearly found to be credible, including a number of verified cases of pressure exerted by local officials on opposition supporters, including in particular teachers, to desist from campaigning.


• Accurate information: Base all conclusions on your personal observations or on clear and convincing facts and evidence! You should clearly distinguish between primary and secondary sources of the violations/ complaints that you are reporting about. Always make clear whether you did observe the facts on your own/through your observers or whether the facts were reported to you. In any case, always collect copies of the complaints and other documents related to their consideration. This is the best method of ensuring accuracy. Below you find an example:
This case was reported by the media and became the subject of a police investigation. LTOs reported intimidation of political party activists in all districts.

• Objective information: Report both positive and negative findings! Be balanced. If you have negative findings, be sure that you also report about positive findings. These findings should strictly reflect facts, never rumors or personal opinions. You could present the facts the following way:
The CEC held frequent sessions which were open to observers, party proxies and the media, and generally operated in a transparent manner. It was active in technical preparations, adopting instructions for PEC members, training DECs and PECs, and conducting a large-scale voter information campaign. However, the CEC did not act in a collegial manner. On contentious issues, CEC members failed to act independently as required by law, and decisions were voted on along political lines.

Properly analyse your election-related violations! Follow a well-established structure when you present your complaint information in the report! If you present single cases, use the information of your electronic database. Present the cases in the following way:
Analysis of election disputes Legal Provisions: What laws prescribe the alleged actions? What are the relevant statutes and regulations (emphasis should be placed on electoral and campaign laws, but also all other pertinent laws). Adjudication: Was a decision taken? By whom and with what authority? Is the case being appealed? Was any administrative action taken? Is there a date and copy of the decisions? Enforcement: Were decisions implemented? By whom? The defendant? A state body? Was redress obtained? Was it satisfactory? Source: OSCE/ODIHR: Resolving Election Disputes in the OSCE Area 2000, p. 24

In order to avoid enlisting too many cases, present an overview of the single cases in the annex of your report, by preserving the legally protected information public version of the database. When summing up your findings, categorize the cases you are covering! − How many violations occurred when? In the pre-election period, E-Day or post-Election-Day period? − Which kind of violations occurred?

o o o o o o o o o o o

Formation of the election commissions; Registration of the parties/candidates; Registration of voters; Illegal Campaigning (by parties or by state institutions); Media Coverage of election subjects; Harassment of media outlets/journalists; Obstruction of Campaigning (by parties or by state institutions); Violation of voting rights on election day; Violation of the security of ballots; Violations during counting; Violations during aggregation/tabulation;

o Accuracy of the final results, as declared.

– How the election violations were handled? Was a complaint filed? Was this complaint satisfied or rejected?
How the complaints were handled? How many cases were considered to require further investigation? Among the complaints how many were sent by the election commissions to law enforcement agencies or other state bodies? Among cases requiring further investigation, how many were sent to the prosecutor? How many of these cases have been decided? What are the substantive grounds of the decisions by the election commissions? What are the substantive grounds of the decisions by the courts at each level? Are there institutional comparisons on the efficiency and extent of enforcement of the decisions? What are the substantive grounds for the appeals (especially with regard to the prosecutor)? What are the statistics on the total number of cases filed with each institution? How many of the cases are related purely to the administration of elections and how many are tied to the structural weaknesses of the legal and/or electoral system? Source: OSCE/ODIHR: Resolving Election Disputes in the OSCE Area 2000, p. 21

– Were there disproportionally too many violations? Are the reported irregularities or violations isolated incidents or do they form a systematic pattern that could pose a threat to the integrity of the election process? Properly summarize your findings! Be short and to the point. Bring up numbers and figures. A summary of your findings could look like this:
How many violations occurred when? In the course of the election day and after the elections, the observers took further legal actions on 223 violations at precinct and district election commissions. 103 cases that involved gross violation of polling procedures were immediately eliminated; the observers issued verbal warnings and made corresponding entries in the PEC book of records. In the remaining 120 cases, the observers filed complaints with election commissions: 67 complaints were filed with PECs, 52 with DECs and one with the CEC. Two complaints were filed in court. How were election violations handled? Out of the most important complaints, only one was comprehensively reviewed and upheld. A significant part of the complaints was declared inadmissible for hearing by the CEC on merits. ... In addition to refusing the review of complaints due to “procedural” reasons, the CEC did not use its power to review on its own initiative any of the allegations concerning the violation of law by precinct and district election commissions. Although courts generally carried out open hearings in a professional and thorough manner, some complaints were ruled inadmissible without sound legal basis, and some written judgments did not set out sufficient reasoning. In addition, the CEC and courts tended to stretch the law beyond reasonable interpretation and without regard to its spirit in favour of the ruling party candidate and public officials.

Which language should you use in election reports?
Language matters! Language matters, especially in election reports. As elections are politically sensitive events, which could evoke serious tensions and conflicts, if one party feels unfairly treated, election reports are as sensitive as the events they report about. Reports could stir up tensions, if formulated in a biased way favouring one side. Reports could also mitigate tensions if carefully formulated, based on facts and written in a clear manner. You should stay politically neutral in all your election activities, not only when observing the electoral process, but also when reporting about it. In your reports, refrain from expressing any preference for or against any candidate, political party, group, movement or other association seeking public office. Always demonstrate strict impartiality. Stay neutral!
“The report should be concise, clearly written, and factual. It should avoid speculation and should report what has been observed and what has been reported to the monitor, carefully distinguishing between the two. If an allegation has been made, the monitor should indicate whether a further source has verified or substantiated the allegation.” Source: ODIHR Handbook for Domestic Election Observers, 2003, p. 17

A concise, clearly written and factual election report uses plain language; it has an effective structure (see previous chapter), but combines also good document design with clear and concise expression. Use a simple design! Organize the information in a sequence that’s logical for the audience. For example, when reporting about election incidents, then always report in the same manner, i.e. first state the facts (what happened when, where, to whom?), then refer to the relevant legislation and finally assess the case against international standards. Use a layout that makes it easy for the reader to find, understand and use the information. Use many informative headings and subheadings to guide the reader through the text. Use appropriate typography, font size, and line spacing. Use one and the same font for the whole text; use the same font size for all headings as well for all paragraphs. Use margins. Don’t make the area between the main content of a page and the page edges too small. Allow enough space between the lines.


Use plain language! Ensure that the report is clearly written and can be understood by people who are not election experts. The readers should be able to easily understand the report the first time they read it. Use plain language in your election reports. Plain language is clear, straightforward expression, using only as many words as are necessary. It is free from jargon and rarely used words and terms; it uses the appropriate terminology in a way that is easy to grasp. Plain language concentrates on bringing the message across instead of distracting the reader by complicated language. It leaves unnecessary phrases and cumbersome sentence constructions aside; it avoids inflated vocabulary, is factual, concise and issue-oriented. Be short! Your reports will be clearer if you keep your sentences, paragraphs and sections short. Aim for an average sentence length of 12 words, with no one sentence running over 25 words. Cover only one subject in each paragraph, and keep paragraphs under 10 or 12 lines. Don’t overstretch your sections; aim at 2-3 pages for each section. This way the reader easily understands the message you want to get across. Try to avoid sentence constructions such as the following:
The purpose of the limitation imposed by this provision is to prohibit the placement of propaganda materials on institutions and buildings, which are obliged by law to adhere to the principle of political impartiality and which must be perceived as politically neutral by the public. (45 words)

This way the message comes across better:
Article 9 of the election code prohibits placing election posters at government buildings. (12 words) Government institutions are “obliged to adhere to the principle of political impartiality”. (12 Words) In this way the public could perceive them as politically neutral. (10 words)

Reduce your sentence to the main message! Omit phrases that do not add any additional meaning to your sentence. Don’t use “It should be noted that…” / “It is noteworthy that…”/ “It shall be emphasized that…” All of these phrases distract the reader from your main message. Avoid the following structure:
It is noteworthy that a day before the incident in village Tkhilistskaro, “Georgian Dream” had a public meeting in Telavi.

The sentence has more weight if formulated the following way:
A day before the incident in village Tkhilistskaro “Georgian Dream” had a public meeting in Telavi.


Don’t use unnecessary qualifiers! Excess or elaborate words (e.g. totally, completely) make your writing weaker! If being used, they leave the impression that you are biased in your judgement. Avoid the following sentence construction:
Their claim was totally unrealistic. It was completely meaningless.

The sentence is better formulated this way:
Their claim was not substantiated. It lacked basic facts.

Avoid passive sentences! When using passive voice, no clear indication is given who is the author/source. Sentences as stated below leave the reader with many questions: Who introduced the legislative changes? Who evaluated them positively? Are we talking about the same person/entity? Avoid this construction which uses passive voice:
Important legislative changes aimed at promoting media pluralism were introduced that were positively evaluated.

This construction makes the sentence clearer:
The parliament adopted legislative changes aimed at promoting media pluralism, which the election observers evaluated positively.

Keep the subject, verb, and object close together! Structure your sentences in a way that they are easy to understand. Get to the point. Don’t hide your message behind complicated syntax constructions. Avoid the following construction:
The Election Code envisages the opportunity of pre-term termination of the authority for members of election commissions, yet only in cases directly stipulated by law.

This construction makes the sentence clearer:
The Election Code allows the authority of election commission members to be terminated ahead of schedule.


Use parallel phrasing! When referring to the same cases, use a similar grammatical form. Using parallel language brings your thoughts together and makes it easier for your reader to understand the document. Here is an example:
The Central Election Commission operated professionally and despite limited resources met legal deadlines… Authorities made significant efforts to implement necessary changes to the voter registers… Two candidates, the incumbent president and the opposition leader, contested this election…

Be factual! As a politically neutral observer you should refrain from expressing any preference for or against any candidate, political party, group, movement or other association seeking public office. State the facts in your reports – in an unemotional, straightforward, concise way. Depersonalize your report! When reporting about your observations, don’t talk about yourselves; always talk about your organization in the third person. “The election observation organisation considers/regards/believes…“, instead of “I/we consider/regard/believe…” Avoid emotional speech! Don’t use any words that could give the impression that you are biased in favor of one organization, institution, political party or candidate. Omit such words as “regrettable”/“unfortunately”. Avoid sentences like the following:
As for the process of complaints review, regrettably both the Election Administration and courts failed to respond effectively to violations on E-Day. or Unfortunately, district election commissions and CEC members frequently demonstrated a hostile attitude toward representatives of monitoring organizations in the process of complaints review.


Avoid subjective statements! Do not state your personal feelings, opinions or thoughts about the electoral process. Solely present the facts and assess them against national legal norms and international standards. Avoid the following sentence construction:
The State Audit Office (SAO) was notorious for its unfair decisions during the immediate pre-election period.

This is the correct way to assess the work of the State Audit Office:
A new regulatory body, the State Audit Office (SAO), was tasked to implement the law related to party and campaign finance. The SAO enjoyed wide discretionary powers, but failed overall to apply the law in a transparent, independent, impartial and consistent manner, targeting mainly the opposition.

Use the appropriate terminology! Your impartiality can be best demonstrated by using internationally recognized election terminology (see also Annex), while at the same time writing in a clear, concise and easy to understand manner. Avoid the following type of formulation:
The executive authorities had a hand in the majority of the cases of biased and improper use of legal resources. The State Audit Office was once again notorious in this respect. In certain cases the InterAgency Taskforce, functioning with the National Security Council, also was far from acting impartially.

Formulate the text in the following way:
The SAO enjoyed wide discretionary powers, but failed overall to apply the law in a transparent, independent, impartial and consistent manner, targeting mainly the opposition. The Inter-Agency Taskforce at times exceeded its mandate and challenged the principle of separation of powers…

Use neutral headlines! In your election report you should not exhibit any bias or preference in relation to national authorities, parties or candidates. Do not indicate your opinion in the headlines as is done below:
1. Improper decisions and actions of the executive authorities 2. Inconsistent approach of the State Audit Office 2.1 Groundless imposition of fines 2.2 Selective reactions to offences 2.3 Ignoring cases of illegal donation

This way is correct because it demonstrates your objectivity:
1. The election administration 2. The State Audit Office …

Don’t report rumours! Rumours are unverified information circulating from person to person; they often lack evidence. As election

observer you only report about events that you yourself observed and documented or about which you received credible information. Avoid the following formulation:
According to the rumours one of the local dwellers has agreed to rent out the office space. However, on the same day his father was arrested for “illegal possession of weapons”, while his son’s shop was closed for not paying taxes. After one week the father was released. Rumours among the local population spread in a way to make it seem that every local dweller would face similar consequences if he/she tried to support the opposition and offer their office premises for rent.

State the facts! Don’t hide behind phrases such as “certain cases” or “various inquiries”. Both words – “certain” and “various” – leave the impression with the reader that, for example, you as election observer don’t know the exact number of cases you observed or were reported to you. Avoid the following sentence construction:
Certain norms in the Election Code allow political officials to pursue a pre-election campaign together with discharging their official obligations. The observers examined if there were illegal contributions in certain cases in favor of the governing party. The local government officials conducted various inquiries. Various persons reported cases of vote buying.


This way is correct:
Article 43 and 45 of the Election Code allow political officials to take part in the election campaign while being in office. The observers examined if there were illegal contributions in four cases in favor of the governing party. In three cases local government officials conducted inquiries. The election observers received credible information about cases of vote buying.

Make it clear whether you are reporting an observation first hand …
LTOs reported a number of instances when public administration employees and teachers were encouraged to attend UNM rallies.

… or information that was reported to you. Always mention the source!
The CEC subsequently reported that country-wide 2.83 per cent of all ballots cast were deemed invalid.

Be careful with allegations! While observing you will be receiving a lot of information about election incidents; some information will be credible, some will be not. Make clear in your report whether you consider the information you are providing to be based on facts or lacking substance.
Observers received credible allegations that voters, party supporters, and public employees were pressured to support pro-government candidates. In 7 districts, observers were able to verify allegations as credible or verified by multiple sources. Or The observers received numerous, troubling allegations from all over the country of pressure on or intimidation of citizens in connection with the elections. The core team followed up on these reports and found many to be credible. Even when the allegations could not be substantiated, it was often clear that people believed them, undermining “their right to cast their votes free of fear of retribution.” This problem seriously undercut the quality of the election process.

Don’t just enumerate cases! Put them into context! Do not just present individual cases and enumerate the violations, but also put them into context. Make it clear whether any reported irregularities or violations of law are isolated incidents or whether they form a systematic pattern that could pose a threat to the integrity of the election process.
The election observers were only able to document cases of the opposition, while allegations involving violations against the ruling party could not be proven.

Read your text out loud to yourself!
We all skip words when we read silently, and even more so when it’s your own work and you think you know what you have written. Reading aloud forces you to pay attention to each word. This will help you to identify if your text is user-friendly and easy to comprehend. Pay attention to your punctuation. See if your sentences need breaking up. Watch out for fragments that need revising. If you have no difficulty reading and understanding your text, then you most likely have taken into consideration all the advice presented in this section.

Edit and proof-read your reports!
Edit your report! Various people might have contributed to your report – all with very specific writing styles. Harmonise the text. Did all contributors structure their parts of the text in a similar way? Did they present all cases in the same way outlining the most important facts, referring to the legal norms that were violated and mentioning your organisation’s involvement in the case? Use the spell and grammar checkers! But review each proposed change individually before making changes. Take your time with proof-reading your report! Your report will benefit from it! Often articles are missing and prepositions for dates/places are wrongly stated (e.g. in 2012, on 12 January 2013, at the meeting).


How do you assess the information against international standards?
Assess the elections against international standards! Be aware of the international standards! The ultimate goal of your election observation is to assess the extent to which an electoral process complies with the domestic legislation and – even more important – with international standards. Your assessment is two-fold: (1) election violations are assessed first and foremost against the national legislation, and (2) then both election violations and national legislation are assessed for compliance with international standards since the elections and the legislative framework for elections should fully reflect international standards.
You are not in charge of assessing the legitimacy of the elections. This job is done by the Election Management Bodies or the courts that have the authority to annul the election results. Your job is to evaluate the compliance of the elections with domestic and international standards.

There are different kinds of international standards: primary and supplementary sources. Primary sources are (1) treaties that are binding under international law for those states expressing their consent to be bound by the treaty, (e.g. 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; 1950 European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms); and (2) non-treaty sources or “soft law” instruments such as declarations, commitments, joint statements, or declarations of policy or intentions which constitute a strong moral commitment to the protection of human rights, but are not legally binding, (e.g. the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights). Supplementary sources bring together the unwritten sources of election standards. These sources are outlined in election reports, in election guidelines (such as OSCE/ODIHR Guidelines for Reviewing a Legal Framework for Elections), or comments on election legislation (such as ODIHR/VC Joint Opinions on the Election Codes and Laws on political unions of citizens). These supplementary sources are important for cases where the primary legislation does not settle the issue. Most prominent supplementary sources are the OSCE Commitments (specifically the 1990 Copenhagen Document), and the Venice Commission Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters. The difference between binding and non-binding standards becomes obvious, when it comes to their enforcement: while treaty standards can be enforced, non-treaty standards can’t. For instance, Article 3 of the First Protocol to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) stipulates that the “High Contracting Parties (…) hold free elections at reasonable intervals by secret ballot, under conditions which will ensure the free expression of the opinion of the people in the choice of the legislature.” In case of violation of this article, individuals from the member States of the Council of Europe may apply to the European Court of Human Rights and seek redress. The same principles are also laid out in supplementary sources such as the 1990 Copenhagen Document and the CoE Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters; however, they can’t be enforced under these documents as both documents are not legally binding. Assess the national legislation against international standards! Assess all information you receive from your observers twice: evaluate whether elections are in line with

(1) national legislation and with (2) international standards; whether domestic election law and regulations were implemented and to which degree international commitments and principles were upheld. Domestic standards are enshrined in the constitution, the election code or other relevant acts of the State, while international standards are laid out in the international treaties, declarations and commitments and supplementary sources. Key principles of the international standards are the following: • The Venice Commission Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters outlines the following five principles as Europe’s electoral heritage: universal, equal, free, secret and direct suffrage. Furthermore, it stipulates that elections must be held at regular intervals and that conditions for implementing these principles are the respect for fundamental rights, regulatory levels and stability of electoral law, procedural guarantees, and electoral system. The OSCE Commitments emphasize the following principles: periodic, genuine, free, and fair elections, universal and equal suffrage, voting by secret ballot, and honest counting and reporting of results.

The OSCE principles adopted in the so-called 1990 Copenhagen Document reads as follows:
The OSCE Copenhagen Document (1990) (7) To ensure that the will of the people serves as the basis of the authority of government, the participating States will (7.1) hold free elections at reasonable intervals, as established by law; (7.2) permit all seats in at least one chamber of the national legislature to be freely contested in a popular vote; (7.3) guarantee universal and equal suffrage to adult citizens; (7.4) ensure that votes are cast by secret ballot or by equivalent free voting procedure, and that they are counted and reported honestly with the official results made public; (7.5) respect the right of citizens to seek political or public office, individually or as representatives of political parties or organizations, without discrimination; (7.6) respect the right of individuals and groups to establish, in full freedom, their own political parties or other political organizations and provide such political parties and organizations with the necessary legal guarantees to enable them to compete with each other on a basis of equal treatment before the law and by the authorities; (7.7) ensure that law and public policy work to permit political campaigning to be conducted in a fair and free atmosphere in which neither administrative action, violence nor intimidation bars the parties and the candidates from freely presenting their views and qualifications, or prevents the voters from learning and discussing them or from casting their vote free of fear of retribution; (7.8) provide that no legal or administrative obstacle stands in the way of unimpeded access to the media on a non-discriminatory basis for all political groupings and individuals wishing to participate in the electoral process; (7.9) ensure that candidates who obtain the necessary number of votes required by law are duly installed in office and are permitted to remain in office until their term expires or is otherwise brought to an end in a manner that is regulated by law in conformity with democratic parliamentary and constitutional procedures.

The main principles as outlined above are guiding not only your assessment of the information you receive from your observers, but also your assessment of the national legislation. The rationale behind is the following: (1) elections are to be held in line not only with the national legislation, but also in line with the international standards. (2) These national standards are not always written in clear and unambiguous language. Quite often they contain conflicting provisions between constitutional norms, electoral laws, by-laws, instructions and directives of Election Management Bodies as well as codices of conduct. Integrate international standards into your reporting! Once you have assessed whether the reported incidents have violated national legislation and international

standards, you should consider how to incorporate international standards into your interim and/or final reports. It is advisable to include international standards • • • at the beginning of the report, for each single chapter of the main part of your report, and in the findings and recommendations.

Refer to international standards at the very beginning of the report! At the very beginning, you outline against which international standards you will make your assessments in your election report. This can be done the following way:
The election was assessed for its compliance with OSCE commitments and international standards for democratic elections, as well as with national legislation.

Refer to international standards in your executive summary! In your executive summary you identify the main trends and tendencies of the election process, and ultimately you assess to what extent the election process was conducted in accordance with international commitments and universal principles for democratic elections and the extent to which it complied with domestic law. This can be done the following way:
Important previous recommendations by the OSCE/ODIHR and the Council of Europe`s Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) were implemented, including granting the right to vote to some categories of prisoners, permitting independent candidacy and reducing residency requirements. or The election Code underwent substantial amendments shortly before the elections, contrary to good electoral practice.

Refer to international standards in each section of your report! When you describe a specific aspect of the elections (e.g. the campaign environment), always make it clear which are the international standards for this specific aspect. The following lines may serve as an example:
The campaign environment The campaign environment was competitive and characterized by respect for the fundamental freedoms of assembly, association and movement; contestants were able to campaign without hindrance, and rallies remained free of incidents. Or Instances of continued blurring between state institutions and party interests challenged paragraph 5.4 of the 1990 OSCE Copenhagen Document and paragraph I.2.3 of the Venice Commission’s Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters. Allegations of vote-buying and pressure on public-sector employees, including instances of forced rally attendance and dismissal from employment, assessed as credible, negatively impacted the pre-election environment.


Refer to international standards when citing single cases! International standards should be referred to in election reporting: first stating the facts, then indicating the violation of the respective international standard. Here is an example:
Numerous instances of detention and arrest of supporters of the opposition political parties and their relatives were reported during the pre-election period. … An activist of the opposition party was detained in the capital on 22 August. The police did not give information on the reason for his detention and the charges. … Anyone arrested for a misdemeanour offence is entitled to due process, and their basic rights in detention must be respected. However, in the above mentioned cases none of those deprived of liberty enjoyed their full due process rights and received a fair trial regardless of whether the charges against them are administrative or criminal.

Refer to international standards in your recommendations! In your recommendations you provide information for all key stakeholders on how the process might be improved or brought more closely into line with international standards. This can be done the following way:
Campaign Finance In order to improve the transparency and accuracy of reporting on campaign financing, the law could be amended to introduce meaningful control and oversight mechanisms, as well as effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions for potential infringements.


How do you formulate recommendations?
Why recommendations are so important? Most commonly, final reports – not so much interim reports – contain a recommendation section. This section is the last section of your final report. It comes after the main part and before annexes which might include election results and a description about your organisation. Through recommendations, observers can make their views known and suggest a line of action. Recommendations provide suggestions on how the overall process or elements of the process might be improved. They are proposals, i.e. not imposing any legal obligation on those to whom they are addressed. If they are not implemented, there are no legal consequences. Recommendations are offered with a view to enhancing the conduct of elections in the country and bringing them fully in line with the Venice Commission Code of Good Practice, OSCE commitments and other international standards for democratic elections. There are two aspects to writing recommendations: content and style. The content is more important, but the style matters for consistency and ease of reading. Recommendations must be clear, specific and concise, so everybody can easily understand them. Style Number your recommendations! If you have more than one recommendation, it is advisable to number your recommendations so that it is easy for readers to refer to them. Here is an example:
Number your recommendations! The authorities could consider conducting an audit of the voter registers, including a detailed comparison of entries in the voter registers and the source information held in the Ministry of Interior registers… Authorities should consider introducing measures to ensure greater confidentiality in the signature collection process and consider taking steps to safeguard the privacy of citizens’ data when giving support to prospective candidates… Electoral legislation should be amended to include specific provisions that clearly address the role of the media during a presidential campaign… …


Insert sub-headings! Recommendations should have sub-headings so that it is easy for readers to get an overview of what the recommendations are about. This can be done the following way:
Legal Framework Consideration should be given to eliminating ambiguities in the electoral law….

Election Administration In order to further increase the transparency and accountability of the election administration, the SEC could consider… Voter Registration To provide a genuine opportunity for seeking legal redress and to ensure consistent application, the Law on the Voter Register should be amended… Candidate Registration The electoral law could be amended…

Use the subjunctive! As recommendations provide suggestions and proposals, they should be formulated in the subjunctive. This could be done the following way:
It is recommended that ... Consideration should be given to… The authorities could consider… The transparency of the Constitutional Court would be enhanced… Provisions of the Election Code on vote buying should be reviewed/amended…

Don’t be too short! Recommendations can be longer than one sentence. If they are too short, they might not be clear to all readers Here is an example of a sentence that is too short:
It is recommended that campaign finance legislation be clarified.


Recommendations are better formulated the following way:
The working group tasked with reviewing the regulatory framework for campaign finance should consider addressing the gaps and ambiguities identified, as well as by the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO). Especially, the criminal liability of voters in cases of vote buying should be reviewed.

Base your recommendations on your findings and conclusions! Don’t invent recommendations. Don’t come up with recommendations that clearly lack any link to your findings and conclusions. Recommendations are based on the findings and conclusions that you came up with in the main part of your final report. For example, if you concluded that “the applicable legal framework for party and campaign financing contained gaps, ambiguities and disproportional sanctions” and you enumerated these deficiencies in the main part of your final report, then you could formulate the recommendation that “the law should provide an exhaustive list of irregularities and applicable sanctions that are proportional, effective and dissuasive”. Refer in your recommendations to your findings and conclusions! Your recommendations should have an introductory sentence referring back to the problem that they address. For instance:
Given the identified deficiencies, substantial changes to the applicable legal framework for party and campaign financing should be introduced.

Be constructive! Aim at providing advice on how to improve the election standards in your country! “Recommendations should be (…) formulated with a view to offering constructive suggestions for improving the electoral process.” (OSCE/ODIHR Handbook for Domestic Election Observers, p. 120) The following sentence does not serve this purpose:
PEC members should stop their hostile attitude toward election observers in the process of complaints review.

Alternatively, the recommendation could be formulated the following way:
There is a need for further training PEC members, emphasizing code of conduct regulations.

Be precise! Propose a concrete course of action! The recommendations could be formulated in a very general way; for further hands-on post-election action, however, it would be better if they contain very concrete suggestions for further improvement of the election process. Recommendations might include suggestions for changes in the election legislation, for improvement of election administration practices or of other stakeholders’ performance. They even might recommend concrete election assistance projects (see blue box below).


Make clear to whom you address your recommendation! Formulate recommendations for election authorities, political parties, civil society, and the international community. This could be done the following way:
Local civil societal organizations could carry out wide-scale voter education programs for ethnic minority groups…; Educational establishments could include elements of voters’ education in the curricula of the secondary schools…; The Election administration should continue training PEC members with ethnic minority background…; Political parties could seek political dialogue with minority representatives at the local level.


• • • • • • Authors Abbreviations List of key phrases Further readings ODIHR Code of Conduct for Observers CoE Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters


Sinisa Bencun
Master in international relations (Belgrade), started studies in same field; since 2001, with the Bosnian NGO Centres for Civic Initiatives (CCI), first as coordinator of CCI’s domestic election monitoring network in the municipalities of North-East Bosnia, then as project manager of CCI’s EU funded projects on local governance and election issues; with CCI being one of the founders of ENEMO, joined election observation missions as STO and core team member; trainer of Iraqi ad-hoc networks for local elections in spring 2013; member of Association of election officials of BiH (AEOBIH); certified AEOBiH/IFES elections trainer, and certified EOQ project manager.

Giorgi Chkheidze
Lawyer, holding an LLM in International Human Rights Law (UWE, Bristol); presently Deputy Chief of Party of the USAID funded “Judicial Independence and Legal Empowerment Project”; Chair of the Board of the Open Society – Georgia Foundation (OSGF); former Executive Director (2009-2010) and a Chairman (20062008) of the Georgian Young lawyers’ Association (GYLA); former Deputy Public Defender (Ombudsman) of Georgia (2009); election observer and head of domestic observation missions (including the 2003, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010 elections in Georgia).

Igor Gaon
University Professor, Progamme Adviser in the Council of Europe Directorate General II on election issues; former Special Representative of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe to Georgia; first Ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Council of Europe; former mayor of the municipality Centre Sarajevo; with more than 10 years of experience in election assistance (observer training; capacity building of the election administration; strengthening position of women and young politicians in the electoral process); election observer; co-editor of two CoE books on 2006 and 2008 elections in Georgia; editor of the CoE book on 2010 election in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Marie-Carin von Gumppenberg
Political scientist, holding a PhD from the Munich Ludwig-Maximilians-University; with 10 years of working experience with OSCE in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Georgia and FYROM; expert in election assistance (legal reform, capacity building of the election administration; observer training); election observer in Central Asia and the Caucasus; consultant for CoE and EU/UNDP election projects; co-editor of two CoE books on 2006 and 2008 elections in Georgia.

Lela Taliuri
Lawyer (BA at Tbilisi State University; MA in Human Rights at University of Essex); Member of Georgian Bar Association; with Georgian Young Lawyers` Association (GYLA) since 2004 as Head of Telavi Office (20042008); Election observer for GYLA (for the 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010 elections in Georgia); Board member (2010-2013); Election Projects Coordinator at GYLA since 2010; Lawyer at Transparency International – Georgia (2010).


CEC CoE CT DEC EC EU E-Day ENEMO IFES IRI LTO NDI NEEDS NGO Central Election Commission Council of Europe Core Team District Election Commission European Commission European Union Election-Day European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations of the European Commission International Foundation for Electoral Systems International Republican Institute Long-term observer National Democratic Institute for International Affairs Network for Enhanced Electoral and Democratic Support Non-Governmental Organisation Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights


Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe Council of Europa Parliamentary Assembly Precinct Election Commission Parallel Vote Tabulation Short-term observer United Nations United Nations Development Programme United States Agency for International Development Council of Europe European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission)

List of key phrases
The elections were competitive with active citizen participation throughout the campaign, including in peaceful mass rallies. While freedoms of association, assembly and expression were respected overall, instances of harassment and intimidation of party activists and supporters marred the campaign and often ended with detentions or fines of mostly opposition-affiliated campaigners, contributing to an atmosphere of distrust among contestants. The new Election Code, the key legislation regulating the conduct of elections, is generally conducive for democratic elections, although notable shortcomings remain that are at odds with OSCE commitments. The election administration enjoyed a high level of confidence and managed the preparations for the elections in a professional manner. Or The CEC made obvious efforts to work in an active and more transparent manner, to conduct a more efficient voter information campaign on different aspects of the election process. The training of members of DECs and PECs was assessed positively by the election observers. One of the major concerns during previous elections was the misuse of administrative resources by authorities. Some alleged cases of such practices were still reported by the election observers, especially in rural areas. The media environment was diverse. Some private television channels had limited coverage within the country, preventing full voter access to a wide variety of information. The election observers’ media monitoring indicated that only the Public Broadcaster provided politically balanced news coverage of the campaign. Complaints and appeals procedures were simplified and clarified to some extent, but remained complex and ambiguous. A three-stage procedure was introduced in order to create a clearer procedure system. However, some confusion was noted by observers. The election administration in general failed to exercise its broad authority to investigate and address campaign violations on its own initiative. Overall, Election Day was calm and peaceful throughout the country and the process was assessed positively by international observers. Procedures were generally adhered to, although counting and tabulation received a less positive assessment. The elections took place in a severely polarized political climate, characterised by a considerable lack of trust between the contesting parties and low-level confidence among the population towards the electoral process.


Further readings
Campaign Finance Open Society Justice Initiative (2004): Monitoring Election Campaign Finance. A Handbook for NGOs,

Code of Conduct for Observers Global Network of Domestic Election Monitors (2012): Declaration of Global Principles for Non-Partisan Election Observation and Monitoring by Citizens Organizations and Code of Conduct for Non-Partisan Citizens Election Observers and Monitors, Election disputes International IDEA (2010): Electoral Justice. The International IDEA handbook,

OSCE/ODIHR (2000): Resolving Election Disputes in the OSCE Area: Towards a Standard Election Dispute Monitoring System, in: The Carter Center (2010): Guide to Electoral Dispute Resolution, in:

Election Management Bodies International IDEA (2006): Electoral Management Design. The International IDEA Handbook, http://www.

E-Day Observation NDI (2002): Quick Count and Election Observation, Guidelines for Observers New Tactics in Human Rights/Election Monitoring (2009) in:

NDI (1995): How domestic organizations monitor elections, OSCE/ODIHR (2003): Handbook for Domestic Election Observers, OSCE/ODIHR (2007): Handbook for Long-Term Election Observers,

OSCE/ODIHR (2010): Election Observation Handbook, 6th edition, University of Oslo/Norwegian Centre for Human Rights: Manual on Human Rights Monitoring (2008). Chapter 9; Election Observation Handbook, in:

International Standards CoE/VC (2002): Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters,

CoE/VC (2011): Revised Interpretative Declaration to Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters on the Participation of People with Disabilities in Elections,

Needs/European Commission (2007): Compendium of International Standards for Elections, 2nd edition,

OSCE/ODIHR (2003): Existing Commitments for Democratic Elections in participating States, http://www.

Legal Review OSCE/ODIHR (2001): Guidelines for Reviewing a Legal Framework for Elections,

NDI (2004): Promoting legal frameworks for democratic elections, Media Monitoring OSCE/ODIHR (2012): Handbook on Media Monitoring for Election Observation Missions, http://www.osce.

NDI (2002): Media Monitoring to promote Democratic Elections, Political Parties CoE/VC (2009): Code of good practice in the field of political parties,

Reviewing Legal Frameworks International IDEA (2002): International Election Standards. Guidelines for Reviewing the Legal Framework of Elections, Voter Registration OSCE/ODIHR (2012): Handbook for the Observation of Voter Registration, Vulnerable Groups OSCE/ODIHR (2004): Handbook for Monitoring Women’s Participation in Elections,

OSCE/ODIHR (2001): Guidelines to Assist National Minority Participation in the Electoral Process, http://


OSCE/ODIHR Code of Conduct for Observers
• Observers will maintain strict impartiality in the conduct of their duties and will, at no time, publicly express or exhibit any bias or preference in relation to national authorities, parties, candidates, or with reference to any issues in contention in the election process. Observers will undertake their duties in an unobtrusive manner and will not interfere in the electoral process. Observers may raise questions with election officials and bring irregularities to their attention, but they must not give instructions or countermand their decisions. Observers will remain on duty throughout Election Day, including observation of the vote count and, if instructed, the next stage of tabulation. Observers will base all conclusions on their personal observations or on clear and convincing facts or evidence. Observers will not make any comments to the media on the electoral process or on the substance of their observations, and any comment to the media will be limited to general information about the observation mission and the role of the observers. Observers will not take any unnecessary or undue risks. Each observer’s personal safety overrides all other considerations. Observers will carry any prescribed identification issued by the host government or election commission and will identify themselves to any authority upon request. Observers will comply with all national laws and regulations. Observers will exhibit the highest levels of personal discretion and professional behaviour at all times. Observers will attend all required mission briefings and debriefings and adhere to the deployment plan and all other instructions provided by the OSCE /ODIHR Election Observation Mission. •

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Source: OSCE/ODIHR LTO Handbook, p. 5


Venice Commission Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters
GUIDELINES ON ELECTIONS adopted by the Venice Commission at its 51st Plenary Session (Venice, 5-6 July 2002)] I. Principles of Europe’s electoral heritage The five principles underlying Europe’s electoral heritage are universal, equal, free, secret and direct suffrage. Furthermore, elections must be held at regular intervals. 1. Universal suffrage 1.1. Rule and exceptions Universal suffrage means in principle that all human beings have the right to vote and to stand for election. This right may, however, and indeed should, be subject to certain conditions: a. Age: i. the right to vote and to be elected must be subject to a minimum age; ii. the right to vote must be acquired, at the latest, at the age of majority; iii. the right to stand for election should preferably be acquired at the same age as the right to vote and in any case not later than the age of 25, except where there are specific qualifying ages for certain offices (e.g. member of the upper house of parliament, Head of State). b. Nationality: i. a nationality requirement may apply; ii. however, it would be advisable for foreigners to be allowed to vote in local elections after a certain period of residence. c. Residence: i. a residence requirement may be imposed; ii. residence in this case means habitual residence; iii. a length of residence requirement may be imposed on nationals solely for local or regional elections; iv. the requisite period of residence should not exceed six months; a longer period may be required only to protect national minorities; v. the right to vote and to be elected may be accorded to citizens residing abroad. d. Deprivation of the right to vote and to be elected:

i. provision may be made for depriving individuals of their right to vote and to be elected, but only subject to the following cumulative conditions: ii. it must be provided for by law; iii. the proportionality principle must be observed; conditions for depriving individuals of the right to stand for election may be less strict than for disenfranchising them; iv. the deprivation must be based on mental incapacity or a criminal conviction for a serious offence. v. Furthermore, the withdrawal of political rights or finding of mental incapacity may only be imposed by express decision of a court of law. 1.2. Electoral registers Fulfilment of the following criteria is essential if electoral registers are to be reliable: i. electoral registers must be permanent; ii. there must be regular up-dates, at least once a year. Where voters are not registered automatically, registration must be possible over a relatively long period; iii. electoral registers must be published; iv. there should be an administrative procedure - subject to judicial control - or a judicial procedure, allowing for the registration of a voter who was not registered; the registration should not take place at the polling station on election day; v. a similar procedure should allow voters to have incorrect inscriptions amended; vi. a supplementary register may be a means of giving the vote to persons who have moved or reached statutory voting age since final publication of the register.

1.3. Submission of candidatures i. The presentation of individual candidates or lists of candidates may be made conditional on the collection of a minimum number of signatures; ii. The law should not require collection of the signatures of more than 1% of voters in the constituency concerned; iii. Checking of signatures must be governed by clear rules, particularly concerning deadlines; iv. The checking process must in principle cover all signatures; however, once it has been established beyond doubt that the requisite number of signatures has been collected, the remaining signatures need not be checked; v. Validation of signatures must be completed by the start of the election campaign; vi. If a deposit is required, it must be refundable should the candidate or party exceed a certain score; the sum and the score requested should not be excessive.

2. Equal suffrage This entails: 2.1. Equal voting rights: each voter has in principle one vote; where the electoral system provides voters with more than one vote, each voter has the same number of votes. 2.2. Equal voting power: seats must be evenly distributed between the constituencies.

i. This must at least apply to elections to lower houses of parliament and regional and local elections: ii. It entails a clear and balanced distribution of seats among constituencies on the basis of one of the following allocation criteria: population, number of resident nationals (including minors), number of registered voters, and possibly the number of people actually voting. An appropriate combination of these criteria may be envisaged. iii. The geographical criterion and administrative, or possibly even historical, boundaries may be taken into consideration. iv. The permissible departure from the norm should not be more than 10%, and should certainly not exceed 15% except in special circumstances (protection of a concentrated minority, sparsely populated administrative entity). v. In order to guarantee equal voting power, the distribution of seats must be reviewed at least every ten years, preferably outside election periods. vi. With multi-member constituencies, seats should preferably be redistributed without redefining constituency boundaries, which should, where possible, coincide with administrative boundaries. vii. When constituency boundaries are redefined – which they must be in a single member system – it must be done: - impartiality; - without detriment to national minorities; - taking account of the opinion of a committee, the majority of whose members are independent; this committee should preferably include a geographer, a sociologist and a balanced representation of the parties and, if necessary, representatives of national minorities. 2.3. Equality of opportunity a. Equality of opportunity must be guaranteed for parties and candidates alike. This entails a neutral attitude by state authorities, in particular with regard to: i. the election campaign; ii. coverage by the media, in particular by the publicly owned media; iii. public funding of parties and campaigns. b. Depending on the subject matter, equality may be strict or proportional. If it is strict, political parties are treated on an equal footing irrespective of their current parliamentary strength or support among the electorate. If it is proportional, political parties must be treated according to the results achieved in the elections. Equality of opportunity applies in particular to radio and television air-time, public funds and other forms of backing. c. In conformity with freedom of expression, legal provision should be made to ensure that there is a minimum access to privately owned audiovisual media, with regard to the election campaign and to advertising, for all participants in elections. d. Political party, candidates and election campaign funding must be transparent. e. The principle of equality of opportunity can, in certain cases, lead to a limitation of political party spending, especially on advertising.


2.4. Equality and national minorities a. Parties representing national minorities must be permitted. b. Special rules guaranteeing national minorities reserved seats or providing for exceptions to the normal seat allocation criteria for parties representing national minorities (for instance, exemption from a quorum requirement) do not in principle run counter to equal suffrage. c. Neither candidates nor voters must find themselves obliged to reveal their membership of a national minority. 2.5. Equality and parity of the sexes Legal rules requiring a minimum percentage of persons of each gender among candidates should not be considered as contrary to the principle of equal suffrage if they have a constitutional basis. 3. Free suffrage 3.1. Freedom of voters to form an opinion a. State authorities must observe their duty of neutrality. In particular, this concerns: i. media; ii. billposting; iii. the right to demonstrate; iv. funding of parties and candidates. b. The public authorities have a number of positive obligations; inter alia, they must: i. submit the candidatures received to the electorate; ii. enable voters to know the lists and candidates standing for election, for example through appropriate posting. iii. The above information must also be available in the languages of the national minorities. c. Sanctions must be imposed in the case of breaches of duty of neutrality and voters’ freedom to form an opinion. 3.2. Freedom of voters to express their wishes and action to combat electoral fraud i. voting procedures must be simple; ii. voters should always have the possibility of voting in a polling station. Other means of voting are acceptable under the following conditions: iii. postal voting should be allowed only where the postal service is safe and reliable; the right to vote using postal votes may be confined to people who are in hospital or imprisoned or to persons with reduced mobility or to electors residing abroad; fraud and intimidation must not be possible; iv. electronic voting should be used only if it is safe and reliable; in particular, voters should be able to obtain a confirmation of their votes and to correct them, if necessary, respecting secret suffrage; the system must be transparent; v. very strict rules must apply to voting by proxy; the number of proxies a single voter may hold must be limited;

vi. mobile ballot boxes should only be allowed under strict conditions, avoiding all risks of fraud; vii. at least two criteria should be used to assess the accuracy of the outcome of the ballot: the number of votes cast and the number of voting slips placed in the ballot box; viii. voting slips must not be tampered with or marked in any way by polling station officials; ix. unused voting slips must never leave the polling station; x. polling stations must include representatives of a number of parties, and the presence of observers appointed by the candidates must be permitted during voting and counting; xi. military personnel should vote at their place of residence whenever possible. Otherwise, it is advisable that they be registered to vote at the polling station nearest to their duty station; xii. counting should preferably take place in polling stations; xiii. counting must be transparent. Observers, candidates’ representatives and the media must be allowed to be present. These persons must also have access to the records; xiv. results must be transmitted to the higher level in an open manner; xv. the state must punish any kind of electoral fraud. 4. Secret suffrage a. For the voter, secrecy of voting is not only a right but also a duty, non-compliance with which must be punishable by disqualification of any ballot paper whose content is disclosed. b. Voting must be individual. Family voting and any other form of control by one voter over the vote of another must be prohibited. c. The list of persons actually voting should not be published. d. The violation of secret suffrage should be sanctioned. 5. Direct suffrage The following must be elected by direct suffrage: i. at least one chamber of the national parliament; ii. sub-national legislative bodies; iii. local councils. 6. Frequency of elections Elections must be held at regular intervals; a legislative assembly’s term of office must not exceed five years.


II. Conditions for implementing these principles 1. Respect for fundamental rights a. Democratic elections are not possible without respect for human rights, in particular freedom of expression and of the press, freedom of circulation inside the country, freedom of assembly and freedom of association for political purposes, including the creation of political parties. b. Restrictions of these freedoms must have a basis in law, be in the public interest and comply with the principle of proportionality. 2. Regulatory levels and stability of electoral law a. Apart from rules on technical matters and detail – which may be included in regulations of the executive –, rules of electoral law must have at least the rank of a statute. b. The fundamental elements of electoral law, in particular the electoral system proper, membership of electoral commissions and the drawing of constituency boundaries, should not be open to amendment less than one year before an election, or should be written in the constitution or at a level higher than ordinary law. 3. Procedural guarantees 3.1. Organisation of elections by an impartial body a. An impartial body must be in charge of applying electoral law. b. Where there is no longstanding tradition of administrative authorities’ independence from those holding political power, independent, impartial electoral commissions must be set up at all levels, from the national level to polling station level. c. The central electoral commission must be permanent in nature. d. It should include: i. at least one member of the judiciary; ii. representatives of parties already in parliament or having scored at least a given percentage of the vote; these persons must be qualified in electoral matters. It may include: iii. a representative of the Ministry of the Interior; iv. representatives of national minorities. e. Political parties must be equally represented on electoral commissions or must be able to observe the work of the impartial body. Equality may be construed strictly or on a proportional basis (see point I.2.3.b). f. The bodies appointing members of electoral commissions must not be free to dismiss them at will. g. Members of electoral commissions must receive standard training. h. It is desirable that electoral commissions take decisions by a qualified majority or by consensus.


3.2. Observation of elections a. Both national and international observers should be given the widest possible opportunity to participate in an election observation exercise. b. Observation must not be confined to the Election Day itself, but must include the registration period of candidates and, if necessary, of electors, as well as the electoral campaign. It must make it possible to determine whether irregularities occurred before, during or after the elections. It must always be possible during vote counting. c. The places where observers are not entitled to be present should be clearly specified by law. d. Observation should cover respect by the authorities of their duty of neutrality. 3.3. An effective system of appeal a. The appeal body in electoral matters should be either an electoral commission or a court. For elections to Parliament, an appeal to Parliament may be provided for in the first instance. In any case, final appeal to a court must be possible. b. The procedure must be simple and devoid of formalism, in particular concerning the admissibility of appeals. c. The appeal procedure and, in particular, the powers and responsibilities of the various bodies should be clearly regulated by law, so as to avoid conflicts of jurisdiction (whether positive or negative). Neither the appellants nor the authorities should be able to choose the appeal body. d. The appeal body must have authority in particular over such matters as the right to vote – including electoral registers – and eligibility, the validity of candidatures, proper observance of election campaign rules and the outcome of the elections. e. The appeal body must have authority to annul elections where irregularities may have affected the outcome. It must be possible to annul the entire election or merely the results for one constituency or one polling station. In the event of annulment, a new election must be called in the area concerned. f. All candidates and all voters registered in the constituency concerned must be entitled to appeal. A reasonable quorum may be imposed for appeals by voters on the results of elections. g. Time-limits for lodging and deciding appeals must be short (three to five days for each at first instance). h. The applicant’s right to a hearing involving both parties must be protected. i. Where the appeal body is a higher electoral commission, it must be able ex officio to rectify or set aside decisions taken by lower electoral commissions. 4. Electoral system Within the respect of the above-mentioned principles, any electoral system may be chosen.