The right to free elections is guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights. Of all the democratic safeguards against the abuse of political power, it is one of the most fundamental. The ability of individuals to express their identities and choices peacefully, at the ballot box, is central to stability in any society, and so to Europe’s democratic security too.
The tasks performed by election observers are therefore extremely important. Elections must be prepared with diligence and integrity, and observers must perform their duties in an unbiased and transparent manner. Their presence and professionalism helps ensure the confidence of voters, as well as of the international community. The Council of Europe and our partner organisations therefore strive to assist organisations conducting observations to do so to the highest standards.
This handbook draws on methods for electoral assistance developed by our Organisation over many years. It aims to help observers to become more efficient and to produce reports which are more effective. Our starting point is that, far from
watching passively from the sidelines, observers play an active role in developing national electoral procedures through their advice and recommendations. It is therefore vital that mission reports and advice issued to national authorities are easily
understood and can be translated into concrete action. There are also a number of important principles to which we believe observers should pay special attention during an election, including the participation of women, young people, national minorities and people with disabilities.