2007 Mission to Norway (municipal and regional elections)

A mission to observe municipal and regional elections in Norway on 10 September 2007 was the first - pilot - mission within the framework of the Election Observation: Theory and Practice Project. The mission was organized by Silc (Swedish international liberal centre) with the help of EHU students and the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Vilnius.
Prior to the mission, the participants attended an academic course on the electoral procedures and other aspects of election monitoring. The course empowered future observers with theoretical knowledge to facilitate the actual observation.
During the mission, 19 young observers from Belarus visited 45 polling stations in Bergen, Oslo, Verdal, Tromso and their respective counties. They were accompanied by 3 Swedes. While in Norway, the project participants did not only observe the elections but also had a chance to talk with politically active youth, follow the campaign and meet local politicians.
The presence of international observers seemed quite unusual for Norway and the group attracted quite a bit of media attention. Several newspapers published stories about Belarusians observing elections in Norway.
As the result of the mission, the group compiled a recommendations report that caused many discussions on different election-related topics in Norway. Based on the mission findings, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs held a conference about the report presented by the group. The most discussed issue of all mentioned in the report was the return to the system of envelopes previously used in Norway during the voting. Just before the elections this system, according to which each ballot should be put in an envelope, was removed. This change confused the voters and created a lot of instances when voters failed to fold the ballot properly and made their choice public. However, the envelope system was not re-introduced.
Positive feedback from the participants motivated organizers to continue the project. At present, the project is being implemented by four different organizations - the United Centre of Initiatives for Belarus (JuBIC), Swedish International Liberal Centre (Silc), European Humanities University (EHU) and Belarusian Human Rights House in Vilnius (HRH).