available languages: english November 1, 2010

In the past, when international election observers commented on an election, they mostly referred to it as being ‘free and fair’ or not, as the case may be. This terminology has been largely abandoned for two reasons. First, the phrase ‘free and fair’ is not clearly defined, nor has it been agreed by States as a benchmark for elections. Second, the media started describing elections as ‘free and fair’ or not, which effectively rendered the findings of election observers somewhat banal. Tasked with having to summarise very complex processes, election observers try to avoid drawing any black and white conclusions, and instead prefer to maintain a sense of nuance in their reports.

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