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Commonwealth agrees on new guidelines for observing elections

Friday, April 20, 2018

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LONDON, United Kingdom (CMC) — Commonwealth leaders have agreed on new guidelines for observing elections within the 53-member grouping including taking into account the freedom of the campaign and the balance and tone of the media coverage.

“Election observations are a core activity for the Commonwealth, integral to its work in advancing democratic values and principles in member countries,” said former Prime Minister of the Bahamas Hubert Ingraham, who chaired the High Level Election Observer Review Group that met here in February to review the guidelines for Commonwealth Observer Groups that were first adopted by Commonwealth Heads of Government in 1991.

Since that time, the Commonwealth has observed 137 elections in 38 countries.

“Since 1991, there have been many developments in approaches to election observation and in the conduct of elections, notably with regard to the use of information and communication technology for the management of elections, women's political participation and new media,” said Commonwealth Secretary General, Dame Patricia Scotland.

“So it is timely for there to be thorough reconsideration and revision of the guidelines. This is the first time in a generation that Commonwealth members have collectively re-examined and refreshed this important aspect of our work,” she added.

The guidelines adopt best practice, as also reflected in the Declaration of Principles on International Election Observation, and will ensure the on-going integrity, value and impact of Commonwealth observer missions as they continue to support the strengthening of electoral democracy and the political rights of Commonwealth citizens.

According to the new guidelines, when a Commonwealth Observer Group (COG) is conducting its analysis and in making it overall assessment of an election, it will take account of factors such as the inclusivity of voter registration, freedom of candidate nominations, participation rights for women, youth, minorities and persons with disability, the neutrality of officials and the integrity of voting and procedures.

The COG will also ensure the right of voters to cast a secret ballot, incidences of violence and intimidation, integrity of the vote count and results tabulation.

Former New Zealand governor general, Sir Anand Satyanand, who was also part of the review group, said “it's good that these observation processes are every so often reviewed and the method of working re-engineered and expressed in a way that is relevant to the present”.

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