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University of California Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation

Not Free or Credible: Why Regional Election Observers Failed Chad and Benin

April 22, 2021
Christina Cottiero


In analysis for Political Violence At A Glance, an IGCC-supported blog dedicated to political violence and its alternatives, Christina Cottiero, Postdoctoral Fellow at IGCC, analyzes election observation missions and their potential bias.

Welcoming election observation missions has become routine for governments organizing polls around the world. In the days or months before an election, observers sent to represent international organizations and governments monitor the electoral process. They report on efforts to register voters, fairness of media coverage, behavior of security forces, and the overall quality of preparations. After summarizing their findings, observers announce whether an election was objectively “free and fair.” This stamp of approval from election observers can carry significant weight, shaping local and international perceptions of an election’s legitimacy.

Political scientists and policy experts are increasingly raising concerns, however, about whether and when election observers are actually free to write fair reports. A significant number of regional organizations’ post-election reports do not reflect the reality described by citizens and media coverage. Instead, they gloss over repressive tactics that incumbents use months or years ahead of elections to predetermine their outcomes.

Read full analysis on Political Violence At A Glance.

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