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Observing elections

The challenge

The Commonwealth Charter recognises the ‘inalienable right of individuals to participate in democratic processes, in particular through free and fair elections in shaping the society in which they live’.

As governments, political parties and civil society organisations seek to uphold the democratic tradition in their own countries, citizens expect that an election will be free and fair, and the outcome will be a credible and accurate reflection of the choice of voters.

The Commonwealth has observed more than 130 elections in 36 countries since 1980.

Commonwealth action

What began as a trial endeavour in 1980 has today become a core part of the Commonwealth’s work. To date, we have observed more than 130 elections in 36 countries.

Each Commonwealth Observer Group is constituted by the Commonwealth Secretary-General upon the invitation of a country’s election commission or government. Composed of eminent persons – from former Heads of Government and Ministers, to serving and former election commissioners, parliamentarians, and representatives of civil society, human rights bodies and the media – our observer groups are renowned for their independence and impartiality.

Every Commonwealth election deployment – from larger Observer Groups to mid-size Observer Missions to smaller Observer Teams – not only makes an independent assessment of an electoral process; it also results in recommendations for practical action to strengthen the quality of future elections.

Our work in elections observation supplements the long-term assistance we provide to national electoral commissions, including support for the Commonwealth Electoral Network and training for junior election professionals.

Global value

The Commonwealth has set a global standard for elections observation, with our election observers contributing to the entrenchment of democratic practices across the world.

Many regional and intergovernmental organisations now observe elections, with more international and domestic election observer teams worldwide than ever before. A large proportion of these groups have drawn on the Commonwealth’s success and approach of providing an objective judgement backed by recommendations.

Thanks to the presence of election observers, voters can have confidence that an independent, impartial and public view will be taken on the integrity of an electoral process, and that the culture of democracy in their country will be strengthened as a result.