THE FUTURE OF
ELEC TOR AL
International election observation missions helped usher in a new era of democratic governance in the Americas. Are they up to a new set of challenges presented by countries like Venezuela?
by Rubén M. Perina
Free and fair elections are the accepted litmus test of a well-function- ing democracy. For na- tions experiencing the difficult rite of passage from nondemocratic re- gimes, the presence of outside election moni- tors who can assure the
world—and a country’s citizens—that
the electoral process was indeed free
and fair is crucial.
Since the early 1990s, the United
States and European countries have
used international electoral observations to promote and consolidate
democracy, particularly in countries
transitioning from authoritarian or
dictatorial regimes to democratic governance. In this hemisphere, as most
of Latin America began returning to
the democratic fold during the 1980s,
members of the Organization of American States (OAS) in 1989 authorized the
secretary general to organize and dispatch election observation missions
to states that request them. The OAS
has sent more than 160 election observation missions to 24 member states.
Such missions are a key collective, multilateral instrument for promoting and
sustaining representative democracy.
But what is their impact? Have
these election observation missions
strengthened electoral and even
democratic processes? Can they be
improved to meet a new set of challenges in the hemisphere?
Measured by their frequency and
the diplomatic and public attention
devoted to them, election observation
missions have brought about a major
change in the hemisphere’s approach
Americas Quarterly SPRING 2012