My Experience as an International Election Observer in Poland

Human dignity is the foundation of human rights. Democracy provides an environment that respects human rights and fundamental freedoms. From this point, supporting global democracy through election observation contributes to democracy and is a manifestation of respect to the human dignity that is intrinsic, inviolable, and is from conception to the natural death of the human person. International election observation empowers human dignity by providing democracy guardians that ensure noble uncorrupted unmanipulated elections. This results in a democratic transition that respects the freedom of each person to choose, thus their dignity.

The World Youth Alliance Declaration on Good Governance accentuates on working in solidarity to protect human dignity as the basis of good governance. Election observers, or democracy development activists, from all over the world have manifested intense solidarity, social engagement, and a commitment to protect democracy by contributing to the success of the election process. The unified leadership and activism of more than 30 international observers have been channeled to protect human dignity, good governance and democratic ethics by overseeing transparency and rule of law. 

I was in Spain volunteering for the Erasmus Plus European Solidarity Corps program. While I was surfing the internet, I found that the “AEEGE – Europe: Association des états généraux des étudiants de l’Europe” known by the “European Students Forum” has opened applications to join their International Election Observation Mission to Poland. Fueled by my interest and my duty to contribute to the global development of human rights and democracy, I applied.

A month later, I received my acceptance letter. The journey has begun, the first thing I have to undertake was a preparatory program that included the OSCE/ODIHR “Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights” e-learning course about Election Observers. This course provides and teaches the core essential elements that should be known, followed, and respected before, during and after an international election mission takes place. A crucial task before the deployment includes conducting preliminary research on the electoral process to have an overview of the past Polish election experiences, the mediatic engagement, effect and role on shaping and reflecting the elections.

The Mission to Poland took place on 8-14 October 2019. The first day, have been marked by a gathering of all the selected election observers in Warsaw, the capital of Poland. A diverse multicultural group of youth leaders committed to supporting human dignity by ensuring transparent elections. The group of election observers includes a lawyer, a doctor, a model, humanitarian activists, social workers, engineers, researchers, United Nations’ interns, European Union trainees and many more. All of these people share one thing in common: the will to contribute to a just and transparent election.

While in Warsaw, all election observers have attended meetings with the electoral authorities of Poland, international institutions and youth organizations in Warszawa(Warsaw) including an official visit to the Polish parliament, the Sejm. In the Sejm, the election observers had the honor and privilege of a guided visit by a PR Sejm representative where the history of Polish politics and the Sejm have been discussed.

After receiving training, the observers have been assigned to groups and to local interpreters. Each group has been assigned to a specific Polish region. My diverse group included myself, representing Tunisia, a gentleman leader from Belgium, and a lady leader from Germany. We have been assigned to observe in Krakow. Our train ride had been enjoyable since we discussed how we can have a positive global impact on democratic transitions around the world.

On election day, all the election observers have visited different Precinct Electoral Committees (local polling stations) in the respective area of deployment, where each one of us observed the voting and counting processes and kept track of using a dedicated smart-phone app. While observing elections in Krakow, my team and I had the chance to use local transportation to commute from one region to another within Krakow to arrive in our polling stations. This was an opportunity to explore different sides of Poland in Krakow that a tourist would never even consider discovering. Warsaw and Krakow were different from each other but were both so beautiful. In our latest polling station, we observed counting the ballots and this process took hours. After the end of the counting process, we submitted all observations for reporting, the final result of which shall be published on the website of AEGEE.   

The last day, we had a final review, and we shared feedback, to give a chance to future election observers to improve and optimize their work. The day after, this amazing group of people was ready to leave. We said goodbye to each other and each one took his flight back to their own country.

The importance of international election observation is that it is a unified activism fighting corruption. Thus, international election observation is a guardian of the inherent dignity of the human person as described in the World Youth Alliance Declaration on Good Governance. The interest of international youth to support democracy hinders the potential of any person or entity that might be actively working towards reversing the will of the people. Subsequently, an international election observation mission is an umbrella of trust and hope that spreads and protects human dignity with a solid synergetic action reinforcing the rights of the people to a just election where democracy flourishes. Election observation protects the rights of all electors, in particular, the poor, the marginalized, and minorities. International election observation sustains human dignity and is a responsibility for everyone that believes in human rights and democracy.

We all have a responsibility to advocate for human dignity and good governance through election observation. I encourage each and everyone who reads this blog article to take the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) election observation e-course. One of the best ways to support global democracy is to take part in  election observation missions, locally or globally.

Published on: February 6, 2020
Written by Mohamed Chahbi, a New York Headquarters intern from Tunisia.

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