Commonwealth observers to be deployed on Tanna, Santo, Efate and Port Vila

Statement by: Rt Hon Hubert Ingraham, Chair, Commonwealth Observer Group
18 January 2016, Port Vila, Vanuatu
I am honoured to serve as Chair of the Commonwealth Observer Group to the 2016 General Election in Vanuatu.
Our five-member Group was constituted by the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Mr Kamalesh Sharma, following an invitation from the Government of Vanuatu. Technical support to the Group is being provided by four staff members from the Commonwealth Secretariat.
Commonwealth observers were last deployed to observe Vanuatu’s General Election in 2004. The Commonwealth Secretariat has however, maintained a strong working relationship with the Government and the political leaders of Vanuatu. Our presence here reaffirms the Commonwealth’s ongoing support to Vanuatu and its democratic processes.
Members of our Group were selected from across the Commonwealth, and include political, election, media and gender experts. Our mandate is to observe the electoral process and consider the factors that could impinge on the credibility of the electoral process as a whole. This includes observing the pre-election environment, polling day, and the post-election period.
We will observe whether the elections have been conducted according to the standards for democratic elections to which Vanuatu has committed itself, including the country’s constitutional framework and national legislation as well as Commonwealth and other international commitments. We will be objective, independent and impartial.
The Group began its briefings yesterday and expects to meet a wide range of people, including the Vanuatu Electoral Commission, senior officials of the Electoral Office, leaders and representatives of the political parties, civil society organisations, the diplomatic community, and other international observer groups.
On 20 January, our teams will be deployed to Santo, Tanna, Efate and Port Vila to observe the pre-election environment and preparations for polling. On 22 January we will observe the opening of the polls, voting, closing of the polls, counting of votes and the transmittal of results. We will collaborate with other international observers in the country.
We will issue an interim statement of key findings shortly after the election. A final report will be prepared in Vanuatu prior to our departure on 25 January. It will be submitted to the Secretary-General, who will forward it to the Government of Vanuatu, the Electoral Commission, leaders of political parties, and thereafter to all Vanuatu General Election 22 January 2016
Commonwealth Governments. It will also be made available to members of the public.
This is a significant election for the people of Vanuatu in view of recent developments and the constant political challenges in the country. The Commonwealth attaches the highest importance to the conduct of credible and peaceful elections as a means of giving the citizens an opportunity to choose their leaders and to hold them accountable. I urge all the citizens of Vanuatu, in particular the women and youth, to participate in this election, and to play their part to ensure the process is peaceful, inclusive and transparent.
The Commonwealth Charter ‘recognise the inalienable right of individuals to participate in democratic processes, in particular through free and fair elections in shaping the society in which they live.’
The Commonwealth Observer Group stands in solidarity with the people of Vanuatu as they prepare to exercise their democratic right to vote.

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