In addition to party delegates, national and international observers may take part the observation of elections to ensure their transparency and integrity. Article 85 of the Electoral Code determines the role and mandate of party representatives in polling stations. They can enter the polling station freely and can include in the minutes all of their observations and/or claims. Despite their limited resources, political parties usually make the effort to send representatives to all polling stations where they have a running candidate.
The logistical costs for deploying all these representatives embody a large portion of the parties’ budgets. According to some political leaders, this is the reason why parties use all sorts of means to mobilize the maximum amount of resources, including what might be seen as questionable methods. The supervision and control of polling stations is a major undertaking for political parties. During the last general elections, a fierce debate took place on this issue and the Permanent Secretariat of the CNDP proposed a consensus-based draft law to the Government which sought for the State to pay the transportation costs of party delegates to monitor polling stations.
As for national observers, they are mainly from civil society organizations (Niger’s Association of Human Rights, the Consortium for the Protection of Human Rights, The Consortium for the Protection of the Rights to Energy, The Committee for Independent Orientation and Thinking On The Safeguarding of Democratic Legacies, The Independent Electoral Observatory). These organizations are often supported by international organizations (UNDP, USAID, NDI) and some states (Denmark, Canada, the United States). Given their limited resources, these civil society organizations tend to have observers in urban centers and areas that are easily accessible. Some political leaders have questioned the neutrality of these observers given that they are funded by foreign organizations and governments.
Regional and international observers are permitted to certify elections in Niger. The European Union’s observation efforts are the most significant, followed by ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), the African Union (Africa’s continent-wide political organization), the International Organization of French Speaking Countries (OIF), and the Inter- Parliamentarian committee of WAEMU (West African Economic and Monetary Union). All of these organizations deploy observers into the field and produce reports detailing the conduct of the elections, noting deficiencies as well as recommendations on how to remedy them. At the end of their report, they assess the quality of the elections (free and transparent, or not). It is these assessments that will define the elections nationally and internationally. If these international observers do not participate in an election, the election will often not be viewed as credible.
In the field, observers use a number of criteria to evaluate the conduct of elections. These are the pre-electoral atmosphere, the logistical organization of the election, the conduct of the ballot, the conditions under which the ballots are counted, and the proclamation of the results.
Observers tend to put a particular emphasis on hot-button issues, such as disloyal attempts by candidates or parties to influence voters, incompetent staff members at polling stations, ploys to deprive citizens of their right to vote, voter fraud, logistical problems, or lack of civic education.
In addition, given their experience and the important means available to them, international observers tend to bring material and technical support (including training) for the national observers.
Since 1993, national and international observers have often worked together under the coordination of the United Nations. For instance, they have used identical evaluation forms and have held jointly organized information and training sessions. This has led to an improvement of the quality and the standardization of the evaluation methods of elections.
Useful links and documentary resources
- The ACE Electoral Knowledge Network, Election Observation Portal: Niger: http://aceproject.org/electoral-advice/dop?country=Niger&organization=&year=&election=&mission=&report=&keywords=
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