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Solomon Islands elections: Commonwealth Observer Group interim statement

22 November 2014
Statement by: Sir Mekere Morauta, Chair of the Commonwealth Observer Group

Conditions existed for the people to vote freely and decide their representatives in the next Parliament. We congratulate the citizens of Solomon Islands for participating peacefully in their 2014 national election.

I am privileged to have been asked by the Commonwealth Secretary-General to lead this group of experienced citizens of the Commonwealth to observe your national election at the request of Solomon Islands Electoral Commission. We were invited by the Secretary-General in our individual capacities to undertake this mission as representatives of the wider Commonwealth family.

Members of the Group have been in the country since 9 November. We have been warmly welcomed by the people of Solomon Islands and have met with the Electoral Commission, Political Parties Commission, representatives of the political parties and independent candidates, civil society groups, women and youth groups, media, the Commissioner of Police, the leadership of the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands, and diplomats.

Group members were deployed to Western Province, Isabel, Central Province, Malaita, Guadalcanal and Honiara City.

The Group has interacted with other regional and international observers during the polling and the ongoing count. Our final report will be submitted to the Commonwealth Secretary- General for transmission to the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission, the Government, and key stakeholders.

This is the Group’s Interim Statement, providing an outline of our key observations up to this point, and in recognition that the count is still ongoing, and the results for all 50 constituencies are to be declared.

 

Initial Observations:

  • The people of the Solomon Islands are to be congratulated for turning out to vote on 19 November. The election process observed by the Group was conducted in a peaceful environment and voters appeared generally able to cast their votes freely on Election Day.
  • The Biometric Voter Registration process has raised confidence in the integrity of the electoral roll. A credible voters’ register is a key foundation for conducting elections with integrity. However, there were reports that not all eligible citizens were able to register during the registration period.
  • The Group warmly welcomes the call by some community leaders encouraging voters to engage in the process peacefully, and accept the results of the vote. These messages, together with the Government’s alcohol ban, went a long way to ensuring that both the vote and the count proceeded in a peaceful and calm environment.
  • The Group was disappointed that, despite passage of the Political Parties Integrity Act and Solomon Islands’ ratification of international agreements encouraging greater participation of women in the electoral process, there remain significant impediments to women successfully standing for election.
  • The Group was impressed by media freedom and the positive role the media played in raising awareness about the election.
  • The Group observed that while voters generally understood the voting process, there were apparent misconceptions surrounding the secrecy of the ballot.
  • The Group heard expressions of strong concern regarding the absence of out-of-constituency and pre-poll voting arrangements.
  • The legal requirement to complete voting by 5pm caused issues at some polling stations. The Group observed that some polling stations had too many voters and/or too few staff to enable voting to be completed in the time allowed.
  • The Group was of the view that polling officials generally displayed professionalism and integrity, and ensured the voting process was well organised and that voters were able to cast their votes in an orderly manner.
  • The Group commends the dedication demonstrated by the counting officials and notes that the counting process is ongoing in a number of constituencies.
  • However the Group did observe some variations in practices adopted by polling and counting officials.
  • The Group recognised the significant logistical challenges faced by the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission in organising and delivering election materials to all the polling stations. The SIEC is to be congratulated for preparing the country’s 2014 elections.
  • Finally, we commend the role played by the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force, supported by the Participating Police Force, and the security arrangements that were put in place for the election. The high visibility of RSIPF during polling day and the ongoing count gave confidence to the people to exercise fully their democratic rights in the country’s political process.

We will finalise our report over the coming days and this will include the Group’s conclusion and set of recommendations to further improve the country’s electoral processes.

The Commonwealth’s long-standing commitment to democracy and development in Solomon Islands will continue. The full declaration of results will be known shortly. The Group encourages all the citizens and the elected leaders from this election to continue working together in ensuring your country’s democracy and development continues with the full active participation of the citizens.

Read the Observer Group's arrival statement

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