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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Election observation and its role in democracy building : a case study of the Canadian observation mission to the South African election, April 1994 Nelems, Martha


The post-cold war era of the 1980s and 1990s has witnessed a rapid increase in the number of democratically elected regimes in the world. The steady growth of democratically elected regimes in the past five years has brought into focus the role of international observers in legitimizing the outcomes of these elections. This thesis explores the relationship between the practice of international election observation and the growth of democratically elected regimes. In order to achieve this end, this thesis begins with a theoretical discussion of international election observation as understood by international lawyers Thomas Franck and Gregory Fox. After establishing an analytical framework, this thesis proceeds with a case study of the Canadian government's approach to international election observation, as evidenced by the work of Canada's official observation mission to the South African election in April 1994 (CANOMSA). This includes a discussion of Canada's foreign policy framework for this mission. The case study of CANOMSA suggests there is what Franck refers to as 'an emerging right to democratic governance' which is validated by the international community. The Canadian government used its' observation mission to South Africa to support that country's democratic transition; in doing so, it believed that democratic values would be better served in South Africa by a regime that was democratically elected. Implicitly, CANOMSA also served to build the norm that 'only democracy validates governance'. However, the experiences of CANOMSA suggest the practice of election observation is not yet standardized and much can be done to improve its effectiveness. In order to further 'the global entitlement to democracy', Canada should be explicit in its support for this norm. Despite the risks involved in doing so, including a hardening of the division between liberal and non-liberal states, this is a laudable foreign policy goal which Canada should actively pursue through democratic development initiatives such as international election observation. To this end, it is important that one view the work of international election observation on the middle of a continuum which begins with activities such as peacekeeping and ends with what is increasingly referred to as 'peacebuilding'. The reason why Canada engages in all of these activities is the same; the belief that the international community has the moral authority to act because it has a profound stake in building an international order that promotes human security and furthers human dignity.

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