07 August 2013
On the occasion of the harmonised elections in Zimbabwe on 31st July 2013, Citizen Democratic Watch Seychelles was requested to field observers from the following organisations:
1. SADC Secretariat, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
2. SADC CNGO , through the membership of LUNGOS
3. SADC Electoral Support Network (SADC ESN)
CDWS responded promptly to the requests and mobilised trained and qualified observers from its pool of members.
CDWS also organised a half day training session for its observers to refresh their knowledge and skills in the areas of election observation. Individuals from other organisations were invited to participate in the spirit of building capacity locally for election observation.
CDWS membership to SADC ESN:
During the Zimbabwe observation mission, SADC ESN held a meeting for its members. CDWS was admitted as a member of SADC Electoral Support Network and will participate actively within the region in SADC electoral processes. The SADC-ESN is a network of civic organisations who actively participate in electoral issues within the SADC region. As a network, the aim is to build capacity of members and share regional best practices, through mutual reinforcement and dialogue.
Seychellois observers were deployed in various rural and urban districts in Zimbabwe. The observers met with political parties, stakeholders, voters and election officials.
The objectives of the Observer Mission were generally as follows:-
(i). To assess whether the elections were conducted in accordance with the country’s own Constitutional and legal framework, as well as the African Union, SADC and other principles, guidelines and standards governing the conduct of democratic elections.
(ii) To observe the relevant aspects of the preparation, organization and conduct of the 2013 Harmonised Elections in Zimbabwe.
(iii). To provide an opportunity for observers to learn from Zimbabwe’s Electoral Process and also share lessons and best practices in democratic governance in general and the electoral process in particular,
(iv). To make recommendations that would improve the conduct of future elections in
Zimbabwe and other SADC countries.
The exposure in Zimbabwe has provided CDWS members with experience in elections observation within SADC member states and this experience can be utilised in Seychelles.
The experience of the observers within the Zimbabwe context has indicated the following:
1. It is important for a country to have robust electoral laws and systems in place well before an election. This is important so that a level playing field can be established for the players.
2. Laws should particularly address the use of state funded media and also political campaign financing.
3. A credible voter register is essential and this should be accessible by political parties, well ahead of an election.
4. Local observers are more inclined to provide an extensive coverage of events during elections, as has been shown by ZESN, the local observer group which delivered a comprehensive preliminary report.
5. Voter education is crucial to counter threats and intimidation.
6. The peaceful participation of voters during election period is vital to the successful hosting of polling day events.
CDWS therefore supports the Electoral Commission of Seychelles in submitting recommendations to Government based on the work of the Seychelles Electoral Forum.
CDWS takes the opportunity to urge government to promptly address the recommendations so that the legal process of drafting can be conceived in due course. This is vital in establishing a level playing field well in advance of an election. It is also vital to providing confidence in the electoral processes.