With some 15-20 parties running in three simultaneous elections – for president, congress and Andean parliament, there is always something going on. Photo: NORDEM

Søren, long-term observer to Peru

Published 07. Mar 2022
Søren Munch served as an long-term observer with the EU to Peru

-What is the main focus of your work? What is your typical day at work like? 

Working as an LTO our main focus is on everything that leads up to election day. We follow and assess the preparations of the election administration, the campaign activities in our area, the financing of parties, the media coverage and the security and human rights situation. We meet with local electoral authorities, candidates, media representatives, political analysts, civil rights groups, national observers and others to get a full view of what’s going on in our area in the pre-election period.  

Every workday is different, and usually something unexpected happens. But typically, I will start my day going out to the local newspaper stand to get the latest on current affairs in our region. During breakfast, my partner and I will discuss the day’s agenda: Perhaps we have scheduled a trip to an electoral precinct two hours away, in which case we will spend a good part of the day in the field, meeting with electoral district coordinators and others. We may also go to a training session for polling station staff.  

After lunch, we visit the judicial electoral authority to address a series of questions we received in the daily brief from the legal analyst of our core team, about the possible exclusion of congressional candidates. In the afternoon, we go back to the hotel “office” to discuss today’s findings, compare notes and do some writing for the weekly report. In the evening, we go to observe a rally, a march or a political meeting. At 21 h we are back at the hotel, we fill in a rally report on our phone or computer and notify the security team of the operation about our planned movements for the following day.  

-What do you find most challenging in your assignment? 

We covered a vast Andean area in the northernmost part of Peru, where road conditions are variable, distances are long (up to 16 hours from our base) and altitudes reach 4500 meters. Landslides were common, and roads were occasionally blocked by anti-mining demonstrators. All of this made our journeys hard to plan, and it was virtually impossible to visit all 13 provinces in our Area of Responsibility. During the mission we managed to visit 11 provinces. 

-Which achievements are you most satisfied with? 

Despite these and other challenges – and the fact that we did not have a local driver for the first round, we manged to get a very good overview of the political and electoral situation in our region. The information we provided was relevant to the findings and recommendations of the preliminary statement and final report of the mission. My Hungarian partner and I had a very good working dynamic, and communication with core team as well as with local authorities and other interlocutors was very smooth.  

-What has made the strongest impression on you during your work? 

The peculiarities of local politics. For example: The governor of our region was in jail during the entire campaign and election period. Yet he ran for president and won 40 % of the popular vote in our area in the first round. Why? Much of it has to do with local issues that mobilize the electorate: Farmer’s land rights vs the mining interests of major companies. From an observer point of view, understanding how people think and how they vote is very interesting. I also feel privileged that I got to know a part of Peru largely ignored by most people who visit the country, despite being so rich in history, culture, human and natural resources.  

I have always been interested in international politics and I had a strong wish to work internationally. As a linguist, taking on assignments as an election observer gave me a unique possibility to use the languages that I master; French, Spanish and English as working languages. After joining NORDEM my interest in elections and electoral processes has increased and I now also work with elections in Norway. During the last elections, I served as Deputy Head of a polling station in my home municipality.

Election Observation with the European Union 

The EU views genuine elections as an essential basis for sustainable development and a functioning democracy as well as an important driver for peace, security and conflict prevention. EU’s support to democratic electoral processes takes the form of electoral assistance projects and EU election observation missions of which NORDEM is a key partner.