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Future Elections: Focus on Voter Registration Logistics and Youth Participation

Tunis, Tunisia, October 30th, 2014 – “From a crisis situation to the transition of a safe and stable democracy – and an enduring transformation is what we wish for the people of Tunisia. We came to support the transparency of this historic process and we are pleased to report that our mission was successful,” said Dr. Loai Deeb, President of the Global Network for Rights and Development (GNRD).

At a press conference presenting the preliminary report of the international observation mission, Dr. Deeb stated that the mission was conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and the Code of Conduct for International Election Observers, as well as with Tunisia’s laws and regulations. Largely, the parliamentary election process itself was peaceful; there was very little interference and very few reports of misconduct. This was the second peaceful election since 2011, and the glimmer of hope for democracy in the Arab world continues to propagate from a flicker to a flame.

GNRD and IIPJHR also presented findings based on analysis gleaned from the checklists that were used to conduct the data collection portion of the observation mission. Checklists were specifically designed for this election and in accordance with Tunisia’s electoral laws and regulations.

Fifteen groups were deployed – each team consisted of two international observers, and two logistic personnel. There were 55 observers and experts from GNRD; 25 observers and specialists from the Institute of Peace Justice and Human Rights (IIPJHR). The 80 international experts and observers were from 22 countries: Norway, India, Russia, Latvia, Canada, Spain, Armenia, Jordan, Egypt, Belgium, France, Zambia, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Austria, United States of America, State of Palestine, Sudan, Australia, Iceland, South Africa and Germany.

Each team visited approximately nine to thirteen polling stations. In total, 148 polling stations were observed in 16 governorates where 67,069 voters were registered. It was concluded that more than 90% of polling stations experienced very limited issues or no problems.

Observers witnessed a high turnout of voters in most polling centres, especially among the elderly, however youth representation at polling stations was glaringly absent. One audience member at the conference requested that GNRD and IIPJHR include recommendations in the final report to address various government bodies and Tunisian authorities, to whom the report will be presented, and request that they draft a nationwide strategy to inspire youth participation in future elections.

 

It was observed that the polling centres were highly organised and administered by committed, well trained teams. Women were largely involved in administration; 30% of polling stations were led by women.

One of the major concerns of this parliamentary election pivoted around the logistical issues of voters lists. An indication that the administration of the voters lists needs improvement, as this breakdown reflected the fact that approximately 7% of voters arrived at polling stations only to find that they were not registered and therefore not allowed to exercise their right to vote. A member of the Tunisian diaspora flew from France only to find he was turned away and not permitted to vote.

The synthesis of information gathered from the mission led to additional report recommendations that requested:

  • The improvement of voters registration system that would ensure that all voters who want to vote are to be registered in the lists;
  • Enhanced enforcement and monitoring of regulations relating to the placement of voting instructions at the polling centres;
  • The creation of a policy that would simplify the voting process for the illiterate population;
  • The consideration to revise the legislation that would consider a possibility of the time extension for the voting process;
  • The creation of a national strategy that would monitor and enforce the violation of the regulation of campaigning activities in and around polling stations that occur on election day.

In the closing remarks, Mr. Magdy El Sayed Kaoud, GNRD Board Member, said, “If people willed for peace, then fate shall respond.” For this final statement, he received hearty applause.

This will for transformation clearly became reality, as Tunisians pledged their commitment to democracy and demonstrated desire for change through the use of the ballot box.