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Nauru election taskforce to assess observer recommendations

20 February 2017

An election taskforce has been set up in the Pacific nation of Nauru to assess reforms put forward by international observers from the Commonwealth and Pacific Islands Forum.

The taskforce, convened by the Nauru Electoral Commission, is composed of senior government officials, community and church groups.

International observers from the Commonwealth and Pacific Islands Forum were invited to Nauru for its parliamentary election in July 2016. After witnessing the poll, they recommended reforms covering voter registration, campaign funding, media, the participation of women, and voter and civic education.

The recommendations were formally presented by representatives of the two organisations at the taskforce’s first meeting last week between 14 and 16 February.

In a joint statement, Sarah Linton, Political Officer from the Commonwealth Secretariat, and Angela Thomas, Research Officer at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat said, “while international election observers can give recommendations based on international norms and good practice, only the people of Nauru can determine what systems and practices best suit their needs.”

“The recommendations provided by the electoral observers are part of the ongoing democratic process to improve our electoral system,” said Nauru’s Electoral Commissioner, Joseph Cain, in a statement.

“With our newly established taskforce committee now in place, we look forward to incorporating these recommendations in our strategic plan for appropriate action by the government and the commission.

“We will continue to work alongside the Pacific Islands Forum, Commonwealth Secretariat, and other member countries to ensure sustainability of just and unprejudiced electoral practices.”

The Commonwealth Observer Mission to the July 2016 election was led by former President of Kiribati Anote Tong. The group said the election was “inclusive, transparent and competitive”, however it was disappointed by the lack of women and urged efforts to boost representation in parliament.

Among the observers’ recommendations were that:

•        the Electoral Commission strengthen arrangements for data sharing with the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, to ensure accuracy of the electoral roll.

•        the government should review the mandatory three-month resignation period for public servants seeking to run for elections

•        the Commission strengthen arrangements around transferring electorates.

•        the government should lift the ban on Facebook once it had finalised its laws and guidelines on the responsible use of social media.

At last week’s workshop, Commissioner Cain also said he was grateful to the Commonwealth Secretariat for provide expert support to ensure the Nauru Electoral Commission was established in time for last year’s election. Read more.