By staff

Foreign Office and development ministers will today outline a new rulebook guiding British officials on how to support and monitor elections overseas.

Stephen O’Brien from the Department for International Development (DfID) and Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne will stress the importance of free and fair elections in encouraging democratic ideals.

Mr Browne is expected to say: “Elections are important for two fundamental reasons: firstly, so that individuals can make choices about how their lives are governed; and secondly, so that individuals can hold the state to account.

“Credible elections enable this; they reflect the views of the population and ensure that those views are respected by those chosen to represent them.”

DfID and FCO staff will be expected to use the new guidelines in their posts overseas as part of a soft power drive to stimulate the rule of law, moving from “short-term assistance to long-term support to all actors whose effective participation in elections is essential for a democratic outcome”.

There is also a security element to today’s announcement, with the ministers focusing on the necessity of encouraging the rule of law and democratic institutions as crucial to stabilising countries such as Iraq.

The guide also calls for “lessons to be learned” from experiences of unstable and violent elections – such as those in Kenya in 2007.

Mr O’Brien will add: “The right to vote is a fundamental human right regardless of where you live. Many of the world’s poorest people have no power – no power to shape their own life, no power to make sure government policy meets their needs and no power to hold their leaders to account.

“Democracy can help pull countries out of poverty and this guide is a practical tool for aid workers and diplomats to provide assistance based on where countries have succeeded and failed when running elections.”