In this remarkable insider account of the birth of modern election monitoring, Professor Stephen Chan discusses the challenges facing election monitors and asks the big questions: why do observers often pull their punches? Has observation has outlived its usefulness? What can be done to improve it? Read his article first on Democracy in Africa …
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The first large-scale election observation was held in 1980, at the independence elections in Zimbabwe. Since then, election observation has become a regular feature all over the world and many international organisations, official agencies, as well as non-governmental organisations, field observation teams. They all use similar methodologies, largely derived or developed from the original 1980 model. A third of a century later, has the use of electoral observation outlived its usefulness – or is it, itself, being used to mask forms of electoral cheating? This paper looks at, among others, four 21st century African elections in Kenya (2007), Zimbabwe (2008 and 2013) and Zambia (2016), and does so through the lens and reflections of one of the pioneers of observation from the 1980 prototype.