Electoral support interventions by international actors have increased greatly since the 1990s. They comprise primarily of electoral observation and electoral assistance. Electoral observation should be of an impartial nature based on the principle of non-interference. It involves the gathering of information on electoral processes and making informed judgments about the character and quality of the processes. Electoral assistance, in contrast, is of an advisory nature and refers to technical or material support to electoral processes.
This helpdesk report provides a brief overview of discussion in the literature on impacts of electoral support and lessons learned. It discusses electoral support generally, and then focuses specifically on: electoral observation, electoral management bodies, civic and voter education, and media.
International electoral support has generally played an important role in improving the quality of electoral processes. Much of the literature finds that electoral and democracy assistance has been successful in creating institutions (e.g. electoral commissions) and in transferring technical skills. This same body of literature highlights, however, that such assistance has been less successful in achieving the longer term objective of strengthening democratisation.
Lessons learned include:
- Treat elections as a process rather than an event.
- Link electoral support with other democratic development policies and activities.
- Promote synergies between election observation and electoral assistance.
- Take into account the political context of electoral processes.
- Prevent election-related conflicts and violence.
- Build local capacity.
- Improve monitoring and evaluation.