Fair elections with potential for improvement | Den norske Helsingforskomité

Fair elections with potential for improvement

Fair elections with potential for improvement

34 election observers from eleven countries in the former Soviet Union have observed this years' Norwegian parliamentary elections. The observers have received a warm welcome throughout the country, and they have observed an election with a high degree of trust in the electoral process. However, the observers see potential for improvement in Norway.

Foto: Tom Henning Bratlie

ПРЕСС-РЕЛИЗ: Справедливые выборы с потенциалом улучшения

Summary of main impressions from the election observers:

10 September 2013. First of all, the observers would like to express great gratitude for the hospitality that we were met with in all the municipalities we visited, and to those who have provided us with seminars and information during our training in Oslo. This has contributed to making the election observation in Norway a very special experience.

- Ultimately, it is not rules and control mechanism that define whether or not an election is democratic. Participation, commitment, responsibility and mutual trust by the citizens are crucial, the observers say on the day after the election.

- We are impressed with the high standard of the Norwegian democracy. Many of us have witnessed sincere democratic elections for the first time.

The voting took place in peace and order and those involved in the administration of the election showed a high degree of competence and professionalism.

We found well-equipped and well-organized polling stations without technical deficiencies that decreased the efficiency or restricted the voting process.

The voter’s lists, whether on paper or electronically, were of high quality and we observed no problems in connection with the public register.

The election laws in Norway are simple compared to what the observers are used to. However, we know from our own experience that more detailed rules are no guarantee for democratic elections.




Concrete observations made on Election Day:

The observers have visited approximately 140 polling stations, distributed over the Oslo-area, Stavanger, Bergen, Tynset, Bodø, Tromsø and Kirkenes, as well as Eidsvoll, Hole, Drammen and Øvre and Nedre Eiker and several others. The observers have been deployed in teams of two, together with at least one assistant who has been helping with technical issues and translation. Everyone received an introduction to the Norwegian rules for election procedures in advance, and at the same time they used their own experience from evaluation of elections in their own and other countries. 

Additionally, everyone possesses knowledge of the prevailing international electoral standards through several years of international election observation.

All observers have filled out forms in each of the polling stations, something that presents a systematic picture of the observations made. Although the selection is too small to produce a result of statistical value the observations should be considered an excerpt of the whole picture. Still, it should be emphasized that we have visited municipalities of different profiles, so that both small and large municipalities, central areas and districts have been covered.

In the following we draw your attention to these particular findings from the observation:

• We would like to comment on the security of ballots. In many places the ballot boxes were not sealed. Sealing of ballot boxes is important in order to ensure that no ballots are touched before the counting takes place. It is also important that observers and voters can observe that the ballot boxes are being sealed. We have also witnessed how full ballot boxes were emptied throughout the election day and cast ballots stored out of view, and that boxes were stored overnight. Law and instructions should state clear and consistent rules for safe handling of ballots, instead of stating general rules as is the case today.

• The observers have questioned the lack of ban against election campaigning and the tradition of party campaigners handing out of ballots (party lists) to voters outside polling stations. Several voters claimed they were confused by these lists and the observers recommend regulating the practice. For instance, rules on a minimum distance of the campaigning from the polling station should be set.

• Voters were identified according to the intention and according to the election act. In the polling stations observed, voters brought valid documents of identification, with very few exceptions. No serious violations of the rule of voter identification were observed.

• Disabled voters had satisfactory conditions, where observed.

• The voting card were folded and stamped according to the rules in all cases observed.

• Some cases of voters who have entered the voting booth together have been reported. This violates both the principle of the secrecy of the vote, as well as the principle that the voters should vote on an individual basis. Overall, election staff were attentive and prevented this from happening most places.

• The observers observed vote counts in 12 different premises last evening and night. The counting observed was carried out in a very good manner in most cases and in accordance with law and instructions. However, in some cases it was reported that the routines for securing the accuracy of the counting process were not fully satisfactory. In five cases out of the 12 observed smaller discrepancies between the number of crosses on the list and the actual number of voting cards were noted. The main reasons for this to happen are not known, but it could be because voters that have voted incorrectly were given access to vote again, inaccuracy in administering the crosses on the list or miscounting. In some of the premises staff were in a rush and skipped certain parts of the procedure. This contributes to mistakes and inaccuracies, and is not acceptable.



The observation of the Parliamentary Election in Norway is a project by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee financially supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This is the third time we conduct this election observation in this manner. Previously, we observed the elections in 2005 and 2009. We invited 34 observers from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.


The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is a member of the European Platform for Democracy Election (EPDE), a newly founded network of NGOs conducting election observation with the aim of improving elections in their home countries. In Norway, the observers from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan were represented by members of the network. This is the first time the of the EPDE network were able to gather so many members for an election observation.


For further information:

Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, +47 95 75 33 50

Berit Lindeman, Head of Information/Senior Advisor, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, +47 90 93 33 79

Anders Nielsen, Information Advisor, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee +47 408 44 709