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Well-run election?

Election in Germany: for the fourth time since 2009, the Bundestag election is being observed by a team from the OSCE.

Election observers will also visit polling stations.
Election observers will also visit polling stations. © picture alliance/dpa

It was a tight schedule between the 2nd and 5th of June, 2021: election experts from the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) held 13 video meetings with the German Foreign and Interior Ministries, the Federal Constitutional Court, the Federal Returning Officer and the parties represented in the Bundestag. The experts examined the pre-election period and the election preparations, then made a recommendation on the basis of their discussions as to whether an election observation should take place.

As with the 2009, 2013 and 2017 Bundestag elections, it was decided to send an observer team to Germany. The ODIHR report states that, in principle, there is a high degree of confidence in the integrity of the electoral process. Nevertheless, some interlocutors had expressed concerns, for example on the issue of campaign financing – a point on which ODIHR had already recommended more transparency when covering the 2017 election. In Germany, donors of less than 10,000 euros still do not have to be named by the parties, and in the case of donations of less than 50,000 euros only one and a half years after receipt.

Election observation is carried out by a five-member team that arrives about 14 days before the election. Postal voting is also scrutinized.

"The practice of postal voting varies greatly across the OSCE region, with some countries – such as Germany – looking back over a long history of using postal ballots,"

says ODHIR press officer Katya Andrusz. The team will also carry out spot checks on some polling stations. "Our election observation is politically neutral. We come to support and to offer recommendations to improve the election process, for the benefit of all voters in the longer term," Andrusz says.

About two months after the election, the ODHIR compiles a final report on what they have noticed and where they see room for improvement. Katya Andrusz emphasizes that they always want to be actively involved. "ODIHR always offers to take an active role after the election. We don't stand there with a wagging index finger and then disappear and leave the countries alone to follow up on our findings." The ODHIR views the election as a complex process that includes not only election day, but also the election campaign and possible subsequent complaint procedures.

Election observation dates back to the Copenhagen Document of 1990, in which the OSCE participating states undertook to invite the Office for Free Elections – which later became the ODIHR – to elections. This was the first time that the instrument of election observation by sovereign states was placed on an institutionalized foundation.


Find out more about the German landscape of political parties in our Special on the Bundestag election.


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