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In pictures: Commonwealth election observers

A Commonwealth Observer Group was present in Mozambique from 9 to 22 October 2014 to observe the organisation and conduct of the Presidential, Parliamentary and Provincial Assembly Elections.

Over 10 million people were eligible to vote in Mozambique’s fifth multiparty elections on Wednesday 15 October 2014.

Voters were asked to choose a new President as well as 250 members of the National Assembly and 811 members of Provincial Assemblies.

Three presidential candidates and 30 political parties and coalitions contested the elections. Opposition parties RENAMO and MDM were among those competing against FRELIMO, which has governed Mozambique since independence.

Following an invitation from the National Electoral Commission of Mozambique, a Commonwealth Observer Group was constituted by Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma.

The Secretary-General asked Rt. Hon. Hubert Ingraham, who was Prime Minister of the Bahamas for 15 years, to serve as Chair of the observer group.

The Secretary-General sent a three-person assessment mission to Mozambique from 28 July to 1 August to assess the political situation before observers were deployed.

Made up of 14 Eminent Persons drawn from across the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth Observer Group comprised electoral experts, current and former politicians and diplomats, as well as civil society and media experts.

The group’s mandate was to observe the organisation and conduct of the elections in accordance with Mozambique’s electoral laws as well as the international standards to which the country has committed itself.

A Commonwealth Secretariat staff support team of six persons arrived in the capital Maputo between 3-6 October, with the observers arriving a few days later on 8-9 October.

After their arrival, the observers met with the chairperson of the National Electoral Commission, and the main political parties, civil society organisations, the media, the police, as well as other international and national observers.

At an arrival press conference, the Chair urged all stakeholders to act with integrity. “An election is a massive national undertaking and its success depends on constructive contributions from all Mozambicans,” he said.

A staff support team from the Commonwealth Secretariat managed the logistical arrangements for the observers and provided communications support.

Observers received briefings on the elections observation process and the political, electoral and media context in Mozambique.

The Chair met with the three presidential candidates in the lead-up to polling day.

Following their briefings, the observers deployed in teams of two, by plane and car, to seven provinces across Mozambique.

Provinces covered include Cabo Delgado, Gaza, Maputo Province, Nampula, Sofala, Tete and Zambezia, in addition to Maputo city.

In Maputo city, the Chair shared observations with the heads of other international election observer missions in Mozambique, including the African Union, European Union, Carter Centre, CPLP, EISA and SADC.

Voting began on 15 October at 07:00 and closed at 18:00.

Travelling from one polling station to the next, the observers were able to witness the voting process across the country.

In total, the observers visited 235 polling stations and witnessed counts at 29 polling stations.

The observers noted that polling staff were, on the whole, well-trained and carried out procedures in a transparent manner.

The observers witnessed the enthusiasm and determination of the people of Mozambique to exercise their franchise.

Local and international journalists reported on the voting process throughout the day.

The counting went into the early hours. Large numbers of women and youth participated in the process, not only as voters, but also as polling staff and party agents

The day after voting, international election observer missions met to share their observations. Meanwhile the tabulation process began.

The observer group called a press conference on 17 October to deliver its interim statement on the elections. “Our preliminary conclusion is that the elections were generally peaceful and relatively well conducted,” Chair Ingraham said.

After arriving back in Maputo, the observers started work on their final report. Considering all factors relating to the credibility of the electoral process, the report looks at the pre-election period, polling day, and the post-election period.

Once finalised, the Commonwealth Observer Group report is submitted to the Secretary-General, who will share it with relevant political and civil society stakeholders before making it public.

Shining a spotlight on how Mozambique’s elections were organised and conducted, the report contained recommendations for local stakeholders to consider.

As the Secretary-General has said, “conducting credible elections is a collective strength of Commonwealth member states, and our Charter recognises ‘the inalienable right of individuals to participate in democratic processes.”