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Vanuatu General Election Interim Statement

23 January 2016
Statement by: Rt Hon Hubert Ingraham, Chair, Commonwealth Observer Group
“We congratulate the citizens of Vanuatu for participating peacefully and orderly in their 2016 General Election.”

The Commonwealth Observer Group was invited here by the Vanuatu Government. I was asked by the Commonwealth Secretary-General to lead this group of Commonwealth citizens from the Caribbean, Africa, and the Pacific to observe your general election.

The Group has been in the country since 15 January; we have been warmly welcomed by the people.  We met with the President of Vanuatu, His Excellency Baldwin Lonsdale, the caretaker Prime Minister, Honourable Sato Kilman, the Electoral Commission, leaders and representatives of the political parties, civil society groups, women and youth groups, media, and members of the Diplomatic Corp.

Our team members were deployed to Tanna, Santo, Efate and Port Vila.

We are finalising our report, which will contain our final conclusion and recommendations. This report will be submitted to the Secretary-General who will in turn submit it to the Government of Vanuatu, the Electoral Commission, political parties and to member Governments of the Commonwealth.

This is our Interim Statement providing an outline of our key findings to this point, and in recognition that results for all the 18 constituencies have yet to be officially declared.

Key interim findings

We congratulate the people of Vanuatu for turning out to vote on 22 January. The process was conducted in a peaceful and orderly environment. The voters were able to cast their votes freely without fear and intimidation.

The Group noted that this general election followed wide scale destruction from Tropical Cyclone Pam as well as a challenging political environment in 2015. Vanuatu should be proud of its peoples’ resilience and desire to uphold and abide by the rule of law.

We commend the Vanuatu Electoral Commission for preparing for and conducting the 2016 General Election under difficult circumstances, given the early dissolution of Parliament.

We also commend the police for their role and for the security arrangements that were in place for this election.  The visibility of the police and the support provided to the Electoral Commission during polling day and the count, gave confidence to the people to exercise fully their democratic rights.

We welcomed the call by His Excellency the President encouraging the citizens of Vanuatu to turn up and engage in the electoral process.

We welcomed the peaceful campaign activities by the candidates we observed and noted that the different candidates generally acted with civility to one another.

The Group discussed with stakeholders the importance of participation of women in the political process. It is the view of the Group that measures should be put in place to ensure the representation of women in Parliament.

The Group commended the media for the positive role it played in creating awareness of the election issues and the campaign. The Group noted the role of social media in allowing members of the public to express their views in an open and frank manner.

The Group was of the general view that polling officials 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. We particularly welcomed the high number of female Presiding Officers at many of the polling stations we visited.

We commend the role played by the party and candidate agents who displayed patience throughout the whole polling process, whilst ensuring the procedures for the vote were adhered to by the voters and polling officials. They were also very welcoming to the presence of members of our Group at the polling stations we visited.

The count was transparent and well organised. Consideration should be given to developing a more efficient counting process.

The Group is encouraged that the Electoral Commission has acknowledged that the voters list needs urgent revision and updating.

The Group noted that a percentage of the youth who were eligible to register to vote in this election had not done so.

We recommend that the Electoral Commission be mandated to:

  • undertake a continuous voter’s registration process;
  • develop an electronic and alphabetical register;
  • provide for photographic voter identification; and
  • remove deceased persons from the register.

The Commonwealth’s long-standing commitment to Vanuatu’s democracy and development will continue. The Commonwealth’s support to the country’s planned political reform must continue, and I encourage the Secretary-General to provide the required resources to this important initiative in partnership with the Government and the leaders of Vanuatu.

We will finalise our report over the next two days and this will include a set of recommendations with a view to further improving the country’s electoral process.

The Commonwealth attaches the highest importance to the conduct of credible and peaceful elections.  An election is a critical democratic process during which citizens are given the opportunity to choose their leaders. I encourage the citizens of Vanuatu to continue to hold the leaders that they have elected accountable to them. I also encourage you to work together to strengthen your democratic processes.

I wish the people of Vanuatu all the very best as you prepare to welcome your newly elected leaders to the next Parliament. 

Tankyu tu mas!

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