Since the 1990s, election observation has become a vital tool of the international community to support democracy and assess the legitimacy of governments. Observers receive better pre-deployment training and briefings, funding is more readily available, and methodologies have grown more sophisticated. Yet, as the election observation industry has become more professional, democracy is in decline.
The European Union needs to be more strategic as both a donor and a provider of election observation. This policy brief, authored by the external policy team of the Open Society European Policy Institute, proposes six areas of reform, which include monitoring of the political processes leading up to polling day; improving collaboration with observers at a local level; strengthening and supporting the role played by civil society; setting stronger guidelines for the digital arena; developing guidelines for technology used; and finally, striking a new balance between the observation missions’ technical and political mandates.