For shorter or longer periods, Björn is on secondment from the FBA to election observation missions organized by the EU or the OSCE. During November-December 2015 he was a long-term observer in Burkina Faso during the general election.
Since January 1 2016 FBA recruits, trains and deploys personnel to international election observation missions. Ever since the late 1980s Sweden has participated in somewhat 20 missions each year and deployed more than 100 observers annually.
What does your mission as election observer mean?
– Election observation aims to follow the election process in order for the mission to obtain a clear picture of it and its compliance with the legal framework, both national laws and international obligations. As a long-term observer I cover a certain region of the country together with a colleague from another member state. I try to meet as many as possible of the involved actors such as political parties, election authorities and voters. All the findings are analysed and reported to the mission's core team. They express their findings in a preliminary declaration and later a final report in which they also include recommendations for possible improvements in the process.
What do you do if you observe election fraud or other wrongdoings?
– Our role is never to intervene—only to observe. If we hear rumours or allegations of improper behaviour we try to see if it can be substantiated, and if we see something that is not in line with the regulations we take note and report it to the mission core team. They can then evaluate if it is an isolated incident or part of a systematic pattern.
Why do you want to work as an election observer?
– I have worked as election officer in Sweden and always enjoyed taking such a practical part in the process and thereby in some very small way contribute to the promotion of democracy and human rights. Working as an election observer gives me the possibility to do this also in countries that often have experienced conflict and turmoil.
Why is election observation important?
– Election observation shows the interest of the international community in the promotion of democratic values, and the people I meet are often positively surprised that other countries actually care about what happens in their country. Even though we do not intervene directly to stop election fraud, our mere presence tends to deter many from wrongdoings, and local actors often express that they feel safer to take active part in campaigning with observers present. The possibility for the international community, including donors, to use the findings of the mission to put pressure on the country can lead to long-term improvements.
Photo: EC/Marvaux Fred, OSCE/Michael Forster Rothbart