Election Observation and Electoral Assistance

Election Observation

The most important international organisations with election observation activities are the United Nations (UN), the Euroepan Union (EU) and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

UN Election Observation

In connection to elections the UN mainly provides electoral assistance. This activity also includes election observation. Further information: https://www.un.org/undpa/en/elections

EU Election Observation: Part of the European Security and Defence Policy

The European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP)has three different objectives; 1) military and 2) civil capabilities for crisis management and 3) conflict prevention. EU developes civilian crisis management on four main areas that are mutually dependent. These areas are

police cooperation: possibility of providing up to 5 000 policemen (including 1 000 within 30 days) for tasks ranging from restoring order in cooperation with a military force to the training of local police;
strengthening the rule of law: possibility of providing up to 200 judges, prosecutors and other experts in the field for various tasks;
civilian administration: possibility of providing a team to establish or guarantee elections, taxation, education, water provision etc.;
civil protection: possibility of assisting humanitarian actors, e.g. through emergency operations.

Further information: https://eeas.europa.eu/topics/election-observation-missions-eueoms/421/election-observation-missions-eueoms_en .

OSCE Election Monitoring

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is an organisation with 55 participating states, all of which have the same status. The member states include European, North American countries, as well as former Soviet Union countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia. The OSCE deals with a wide range of security-related issues including arms control, preventive diplomacy, confidence- and security-building measures, human rights, democratisation, election monitoring and economic and environmental security.
Further information: www.osce.org  and www.osce.org/odihr .

Involvement in election observation tasks

In Finland participation in international election observation activities is co-ordinated by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Contact information:

Election observation activities in general: Political Department, Unit for OSCE, Council of Europe and Civilian Crisis Management, e-mail: [email protected] and
Election observation activities in developing countries: Department for International Development Cooperation, e-mail: [email protected]

Election observation practices in Finland

In Finland, election observation can be carried out by election observers who represent Finnish or international election observation organisations and have been authorised by the Ministry of Justice. Election observers have the right to be present when election authorities referred to in the Election Act perform their duties. As for the observation of the counting of advance votes, it should be noted that election observers cannot leave the count venue in the middle of the vote count but must wait until it has been concluded, in the same manner as everyone else present. 

The Ministry of Justice does not compensate for any costs incurred from election observation.

The Ministry of Justice grants authorisations for election observers upon application. The application must contain the following information:

- the elections concerned and the purpose of the observation,

- the election observation organisation that the observers represent,

- the name, date of birth and nationality of the election observers.

A personal visit to the Ministry of Justice is a requirement for being granted an authorisation.

Observation or visit?

Polling stations and other election authorities can be visited without holding an authorisation for election observation, if the authority in question gives consent to this and the visit does not disturb the conduct of the elections in any manner. Visits must be agreed upon in advance with the authority concerned.

Electoral Assistance

In addition to the United Nations, the IFES (International Foundation of Electoral Systems) and the IDEA (International Democracy and Electoral Assistance) are organisations working to promote democracy and processes closely related to democracy, such as holding elections, all around the world. The objective of the operation is to increase knowledge and enhance learning about democratic processes, especially in those countries in which these are still under development (For instance, countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America). Further information:

The Venice Commission, the Council of Europe's expert body on constitutional matters, issues statements and assists the Member States of the Council of Europe in matters related to elections legislation, among other things. The Venice Commission has also published recommendations on good practices in election matters, and it maintains a database of the effective elections legislation of the Member States.