Election monitoring

Whenever OSCE monitors an election, the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) creates an Election Observation Mission. An Election Observation Mission head is appointed by ODIHR and sent with a core team to prepare for the arrival of long term and short-term observers.

Election Observation Missions are entirely separate from OSCE field operations (if present in the country), but they cooperate as part of the OSCE family. Election Observation Missions report to ODIHR in Warsaw, whereas field operations report to the Conflict Prevention Center in the Vienna secretariat. OSCE/ODIHR often takes part in International Election Observation Missions together with the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and the European Parliament.


There are two types of OSCE election observers: Long term and short term.

Long-term observers monitor the:

  • Run-up to elections
  • Use of media during campaigns
  • Access of candidates to the electorate
The OSCE Spillover Monitor Mission to Skopje’s Situation Centre was the core of its monitoring activity during election day on 22 March 2009. (OSCE/Eberhard Laue)

The OSCE Spillover Monitor Mission to Skopje’s Situation Centre was the core of its monitoring activity during election day on 22 March 2009. (OSCE/Eberhard Laue)

Short-term observers are generally sent in for the period immediately prior to and during an election to monitor:

  • Access to polling places
  • Integrity of ballots
  • Secrecy of the voting process
  • Tabulation process
  • The methodology in which outcomes are determined and certified

The following is an example of how election-monitoring missions are implemented in the field.  On February 18, 2013 Armenia will hold a presidential. After the Armenian government formally invites the OSCE to observe the elections, a Long Term Election Observer (LTO) Mission will be deployed approximately one month prior to the election date. The LTO Mission is headed by an OSCE Ambassador and consists of approximately 12-15 international election experts who are based in the capital, and approximately 25 long-term observes to be deployed throughout the country, depending on the size of the country.

Observers will assess the presidential election for its compliance with OSCE commitments and other international standards for democratic elections, as well as with domestic legislation. Observers will closely monitor campaign activities, the work of the election administration and relevant governmental bodies, election-related legislation and its implementation, the media environment and the resolution of election-related disputes. The Mission will meet with election candidates and representatives from relevant authorities and political parties, as well as with representatives from the judiciary, civil society and the media.

ODIHR requests short-term observers to monitor the election-day proceedings and counting process throughout the country. Again, the number of STOs deployed depends on the size of the country, number of polling stations, and the willingness of the host country to have a large number of observers deployed. In the case of the Armenian presidential elections 250 short-term observers will be deployed four days prior to the election date. Short-term observers arriving for election day will be deployed in teams of two throughout the country to monitor the opening of polling stations, voting, the counting of ballots and the tabulation of results.

One day after the election a statement of preliminary findings and conclusions will be made public. ODIHR will issue a final report about two months after the end of the electoral process.