International election observers: the watchdogs with no bite

14 Nov 2017

Most elections are now monitored by international election observers, whose presence is intended to deter vote-rigging and who report on whether the vote was ‘free and fair’. But after the Kenyan Constitutional Court nullified the recent elections there despite observers having approved them, the value of these missions has been questioned. Sophie Donszelmann (LSE), Cristoforo Simonetta (University of Florence) and Natalia Shvets (Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich) – all of whom have recently served as observers – argue that, when fraud often takes place before polling day and governments like Turkey’s ignore criticism of voting irregularities, the missions increasingly pay only lip service to democracy.