Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Foreign observers score presidential election high

The three major international observers, in separate preliminary press conferences, yesterday scored the conduct of the last Saturday presidential election across the country high. They, however, noted that some challenges remain to be addressed.

The leader of the European Union observers, Alojz Peterle, noted that there had been substantial improvement over the National Assembly elections.

Mariya Nedelcheva, head of the four-member strong delegation of the European Parliament, which joined the EU EOM before the presidential elections said: "Saturday's elections are a convincing proof that the Nigerian authorities, institution and electorate are determined to remain owners of their destiny and to run even better elections in the future."

According to the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs led by the former Prime Minister of Canada, Joe Clark, the election "represent a step forward with seriously flawed elections of the past and hold the promise of setting a new standard for integrity in Nigeria's electoral process."

The International Republican Institute (IRI) said the ability of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to address some deficiencies in the electoral process between the April 9 National Assembly elections and the presidential election was praise-worthy.

The leader of IRI, former Prime Minister of Slovenian, Hon Janez Jansa, noted the role of women during the election but said the extent to which women are fully participating in the political process needs to be addressed.

Both organisations also commended the professionalism and independence of INEC, the leadership ability of the INEC chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, and the overall integrity of the electoral process.

They, however, cited a number of problems that need to be addressed before the upcoming state elections and in the longer term. It recommended that actions be taken by INEC, political parties and security services before the next election, which are to split all polling places with over 500 voters into sub-units to improve efficiency and access to the process.

"Standardise implementation of procedures in all states and local government areas while ensuring security, sufficient staff and adequate facilities for collation centres, protect the rights of INEC accredited citizen observers, including their right to move freely on election day and rigorously follow and abide by provisions of the Code of Conduct prohibiting acts of violence, intimidation of voters and other violations of the Electoral Act.

Mr. Peterle encouraged voters to remain confident in the electoral process while calling on all stakeholders in the elections to maintain a peaceful and positive atmosphere and not to allow any intimidation. Some of the shortcomings, however, were the inconsistent implementation of procedures and attempts to influence voters. This, it said, could have negative impact on the trust of voters in the integrity of the electoral process.

Both observers promised to present it final findings after the whole elections in a final report reflecting a comprehensive analysis and suggestions.

The National Democratic Institute's (NDI) International observer mission has called on candidates and their supporters to utilise peaceful and legal means to resolve election-related complaints.

The delegation made this call yesterday at a press conference in Abuja even as it noted that pockets of violence trailed the just concluded presidential election in various cities.

Speaking through the co-leader of the delegation, the former President of Niger and former Speaker of ECOWAS, Mahamane Ousmane said the delegation notes with grave concern multiple incidents of violence in the post-election period that has resulted in the loss of lives and properties.

"On election day, two separate explosions struck Borno State. Two bombings occurred in Kaduna and a shooting in Jos left one person dead. Tensions between party supporters led to serious incidents of violence after the close of polls," Mahamane remarked.

He further noted that mob violence broke out in a number of states where party supporters damaged property and physically harmed and killed members of opposing parties or INEC officials.

Giving short-term recommendations, the co-leader and former prime minister of Canada, Joe Clark, submitted that political parties should rigorously follow and abide by provisions of the code of conduct prohibiting acts of violence, intimidation of voters and other violations of the Electoral Act.

He further recommended that political parties should adopt transparent candidate choosen, campaign and party finance processes in compliance with 2010 electoral act and to refrain on extra-judicial and violent rejection of election results but to use peaceful and legal means to resolve electoral disputes.

Some of the long-term recommendations include that the government should finalise the legal framework at least six months before the election as stipulated by article 2.1 of the ECOWAS protocol for democracy and good governance.

It advised INEC to organise regular capacity training for its permanent and ad hoc staff.

He further recommended that civil society organizations should build on the accomplishments of the 2011 elections to strengthen involvement in the political process.


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