International election observers have called on politicians defeated in Kenya’s fiercely contested polls to concede gracefully without taking their struggle to the streets. The statements by delegations from the EU, the African Union and the US came as opposition groups accused electoral officials of hiding the true results of Tuesday’s elections, which they said showed their leader, Raila Odinga, had won by 300,000 votes. Provisional results released by Kenya’s election commission have put the incumbent president, Uhuru Kenyatta, ahead by 54.2% of votes counted, to 44% for Odinga. A final verified declaration of results based on returns signed by agents from all parties at polling stations and constituencies is expected on Friday.
Papua New Guinea: ‘Make election less disruptive’, pleads commissioner ahead of PNG ballot | Asia Pacific Report
More than 800 election monitors will be deployed nationwide to observe and make independent reports on Papua New Guinea’s national election starting this Saturday. Electoral commissioner Patilias Gamato says international and local monitors will report back to their respective organisations, heads of governments and the government itself on the credibility of the PNG election process. “We have invited international election monitors or observers to visit during the months of June and July to see whether we have planned well for the election and also see if we followed the rule of law and the election laws on conducting the 2017 national election,” Gamato said in a statement.
Albania’s political leaders on Thursday failed for the second time to reach a compromise as the opposition has boycotted the parliament and the June 18 parliamentary election. Following intensive meetings with Western diplomats, Prime Minister Edi Rama, leader of the Socialist Party, and Lulzim Basha of the main opposition Democratic Party met again Thursday night. Rama said the government offered direct monitoring of the voting with a task force of opposition representatives accompanied by monitors from the European Union, the United States and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
International election monitors have criticized a Turkish referendum that has brought sweeping new powers to the presidency, saying the campaign was conducted on an “unlevel playing field” and that the vote count was marred by late procedural changes. Observers from the OSCE and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) said in a joint statement on April 17 that the legal framework for the referendum “remained inadequate for the holding of a genuinely democratic referendum.” Turkey’s Central Election Committee (CEC) late on April 16 declared the “yes” camp as the winner with 51.3 percent of votes.
Up to 2.5 million votes could have been manipulated in Sunday’s Turkish referendum which ended in a tight ‘Yes’ vote for greater presidential powers, Alev Korun, an Austrian member of the Council of Europe observer mission, told ORF radio on Tuesday. The mission of observers from the 47-member Council of Europe, the continent’s leading human rights body, had already said the referendum was an uneven contest. Support for “Yes” dominated campaign coverage, and the arrests of journalists and closure of media outlets silenced other views, the monitors said. But Korun said there were questions about the actual voting as well.
This year’s presidential election will be the first in a half-century without the significant presence of federal observers at polling places. That’s because in 2013 the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, and when the court wiped out that section, the statute that provided for election observers went, too. The landmark decision in Shelby County v. Holder doesn’t mean civil rights officials are totally disarmed. The Justice Department will still send out “hundreds” of “monitors” to oversee Election Day compliance. But the number is smaller than it was before, and monitors can only enter the polling place if local officials agree. Observers, by contrast, had a statutory right to be inside polling places. They were trained specifically for the task. There also were many more of them, and they had far more authority than monitors.
As the election draws closer and the race narrows, there are rising concerns about the integrity of the vote count. For one congressman, that means having more federal observers at polling stations come November. Rep. John Lewis, (D) of Georgia, brings a lifetime of commitment to voting rights to the 2016 election. He was a leader in the civil rights movement and later directed the Voter Education Program, which added 4 million minority voters to election rolls during his tenure. During a roundtable on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, he expressed concern about voter ID laws and decried what he described as, “a deliberate, persistent, systematic effort to make it … more difficult for the disabled, students, seniors, minorities, for poor and rural voters to participate in the democratic process.” Representative Lewis says that having federal election observers in Georgia, Ohio, Florida, Arizona, and maybe other southern states would help prevent discrimination and intimidation. But a change to the Voting Rights Act means that the Justice Department no longer determines which states get election observers. Instead, a federal court has to rule that they are required.
Seychelles: International observers call for reform of electoral commission and regular revision of voter register | Seychelles News Agency
International observers monitoring the Seychelles’ sixth National Assembly election have called for the reform of the electoral commission and regular revision of the voter register for a more credible election. Three international observer missions — SADC-Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM), Electoral Commissions Forum of SADC (ECF-SADC) and an all-women mission from the African Union — presented their preliminary reports Monday. “We find that there is a general lack of confidence in the electoral commission by a range of stakeholders, particularly the opposition and civil society,” said Augustine Mahiga, the head of the SADC Electoral Observation Mission. Mahiga said that Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean, should consider implementing policy measures to improve confidence in the electoral commission.
Seychelles: International, local observer missions gear up for parliamentary elections | Seychelles News Agency
Two international observer groups – the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) — have so far confirmed their presence in Seychelles for parliamentary elections set for September 8-10. Two local observer groups — Citizens Democracy Watch Seychelles (CDWS) and the Association for Rights, Information and Democracy (ARID) — are also gearing up for the polls. Headed by the Tanzanian Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, Dr Augustine P Mahinga, the SADC observer mission was launched on Friday at the Avani resort on the western side of the Seychelles main island, Mahé. Dr Mahinga said that the SADC mission is being guided by the revised SADC principles and guidelines governing democratic elections, adopted in 2015.
As we near another historic presidential election, the fog of anxiety about the election is returning on a scale we haven’t seen in decades. Donald Trump has repeatedly suggested that the general election may be “rigged” nationwide. He has called on his supporters to monitor the polls on Election Day, and said that voting locations should “have the sheriffs and the police chiefs and everybody watching.” Trump’s running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, doubled down on Trump’s suggestions, telling a New Hampshire audience that “the integrity of ‘one person, one vote’ is at the core of democracy, and that happens one precinct at a time.” Trump and Pence are partly correct: There is great value in having elections monitored. Poll watching helps to preserve an open, transparent democratic process by ensuring that elections are administered in a manner that protects access while inviting scrutiny. Poll observers can ensure the law is followed, provide support for voters and poll workers in navigating often confusing and ever-evolving election regulations. But in nearly a decade of organizing vote-monitoring efforts around the country, I have seen firsthand how volunteer monitors—often positioned as “challengers” at the polls—can intimidate and harass even the most seasoned poll workers and voters, interfere with the process, delay voting, and potentially alter the election’s outcome.
National: OSCE rights group requests 500 international observers to monitor US presidential vote | Reuters
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe aims to send 500 international observers to observe November’s US presidential election, a tenfold increase from the number the group deployed in 2012. A coalition of more than 200 US civil rights groups urged the OSCE in a letter released on Tuesday to provide even more than the 500 observers the OSCE requested based on an assessment it conducted in May. The actual observers will be dispatched by the international security and rights organization’s 57 participating states. The letter from the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said the OSCE’s role was “even more critical” in light of the US Justice Department’s July announcement, first reported by Reuters, that it would deploy election observers to far fewer polling sites this year than in previous elections. Civil rights advocates say voters are more likely to face racial bias at the polls in November than they have in 50 years, because of voting laws that several states passed after the US Supreme Court struck down part of the landmark anti-discrimination 1965 Voting Rights Act three years ago. Supporters of the laws say they are necessary to combat voter fraud.
Federal election observers can only be sent to five states in this year’s U.S. presidential election, among the smallest deployments since the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965 to end racial discrimination at the ballot box. The plan, confirmed in a U.S. Department of Justice fact sheet seen by Reuters, reflects changes brought about by the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to strike down parts of the Act, a signature legislative achievement of the 1960s civil rights movement. Voting rights advocates told Reuters they were concerned that the scaling-back of observers would make it harder to detect and counter efforts to intimidate or hinder voters, especially in southern states with a history of racial discrimination at the ballot box. The Supreme Court ruling undercut a key section of the Act that requires such states to obtain U.S. approval before changing election laws. The court struck down the formula used to determine which states were affected. By doing so, it ended the Justice Department’s ability to select voting areas it deemed at risk of racial discrimination and deploy observers there, the fact sheet said.
After waiting months for official accreditation, the head of a nonpartisan domestic election monitoring group said he was dismayed to learn Monday that no Thai organizations would be granted status for the upcoming charter referendum. Pongsak Chan-on of We Watch said allowing foreign organizations but barring Thai groups such as his made no sense and amounted to discrimination. “It’s perplexing. Last week they told us we could still apply. I am very disappointed and don’t understand the rationale. We Watch is not partisan. And if you give the accreditation to international observers, why not recognize Thai observers too? This is a discriminatory practice.” Election Commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn said it might have been a misunderstanding that led We Watch to be believe it might win approval. He said commission officials might have seen its English-language name and mistaken it for an international organization.
In Uganda, heated controversy still surrounds President Museveni’s re-election with just over 60 percent of the vote two months ago. At a press conference on February 20, the European Union election observation mission presented its preliminary report on how the election had been conducted. The controversy surrounding the race, and the claim by the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) that the polls had been rigged, ensured a charged atmosphere. But despite finding that the number of votes it counted did not correspond to the official results in 20 percent of observed polling stations, the mission refused to answer a question about whether the elections were “free and fair.” Instead, they pulled their punches, directing the audience to read the report “and draw their own conclusions.” International election observation missions — when small teams of foreign nationals are sent to watch over elections under the auspices of groups such as the European Union, African Union and the Carter Center — are intended to deter foul play and ensure free and fair polls. In practice, these monitors are not generally known for toughness or frank criticism.
The international election observation mission led by the OSCE and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, PACE, on Monday declared that the elections in Serbia were generally conducted in accordance with the law, but admitted problematic issues at polling stations. “The design of the voting screens and the layout of the PSs [polling stations] did not ensure the secrecy of the vote, which is not in line with OSCE commitments and other international obligations and standards,” an official statement said. The OSCE/PACE mission said it had received reports about the intimidating presence of members of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party, SNS, in and around some polling stations.
It means this nation, which has just celebrated the 700th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta, could be faced with the humiliating prospect of joining the ranks of Russia and Azerbaijan in having independent experts ensure fairness. Concerns will be raised at a meeting of the Council of Europe, a human rights organisation of 47 member nations which predates the EU, when it convenes on Monday. The call, by Tory MP Nigel Evans, was partly prompted by the Government’s decision to spend £9m of taxpayers’ money on pro-EU leaflets. Speaking to the Sunday Express, the MP for Ribble Valley said: “The Council has great expertise in monitoring elections – in a week’s time, I will be monitoring elections in Serbia.
Opposition politicians in Chad have claimed fraud during Sunday’s presidential election, but African Union (AU) observers say the poll, while flawed, was fair. Former Malian president and head of the AU observer mission to Chad, Diouncounda Traore, said issues included the late opening of polling stations in hard-to-access areas and poorly trained polling officers. He said he doesn’t know what will happen after the proclamation of the results, but the AU is urging all candidates and their followers to accept the verdict. He said those who are not satisfied with the results should contest them in the courts. Kamalloh Salifou Tourabi, leader of the Pan African Institute for Election Assistance observer mission, said that despite irregularities, voter participation was estimated at 85 percent. The opposition said there was fraud, including ballot stuffing.
The Pacific Islands Forum is “in consultation” with the government of Nauru over its forthcoming election but would need to be invited to send electoral monitors. This week the two former presidents, Marcus Stephen and Sprent Dabwido, accused the government of trying to manipulate the election. Among their grievances were new laws that require a candidate to pay $2,000 – a 20-fold increase in the entry fee – and to resign their public service job three months before polling day. This meant “the current government will be the only one who can afford to run an election campaign”, Dabwido told Guardian Australia.
More than 200,000 voters across Vanuatu have cast their ballots in a snap election that international observers have described as successful despite challenges in the lead-up to the polls. The country’s Parliament was dissolved in November by President Baldwin Lonsdale after 14 MPs, including a former prime minister, were jailed for bribery. The political breakdown in Port Vila followed a period of instability with four changes of prime ministers in the past four years. A total of 264 candidates are vying for 53 seats, with foreign election observers remaining in Vanuatu until Monda
Voters in Vanuatu go to the polls on Friday for a snap general election called after 14 government MPs were jailed for corruption. A total of 264 candidates, standing in 52 seats, have had little more than seven weeks to campaign. Most are members of 36 political parties, many of which have formed in the lead-up to the election. There are still more than 50 independents in the mix. Observers have said one of the issues with the snap poll was that there were thousands of dead people still eligible to vote — some reports claiming as many as 55,000 registered voters were no longer alive.
The ink on his thumbnail was supposed to be a fraud-proof deterrent, a sign that he had already voted in Haiti’s critical presidential and legislative elections. But hours after the adviser to Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council cast his ballot in the now disputed Oct. 25 vote, the indelible ink stain was barely visible, more resembling a fading birthmark than an electoral safeguard. Nearly two months after the pivotal balloting and three weeks before the scheduled Dec. 27 presidential runoff, Haiti remains at an impasse. Allegations of ballot tampering, fraudulent tabulations and widespread procedural breakdowns — such as failing ink that led to multiple voting — have fanned a widening chorus of doubt about the credibility of the results.
Vote-buying and other misuses of campaign funds accounted for most violations of election rules during the second round of Egypt’s parliamentary elections, according to various bodies responsible for observing the poll. Observers highlighted several types of infringement related to the use of political funds by candidates over the two-day voting period. These included the distribution of money bribes, food and drinks, posters and flyers, as well as the use of microbuses to advertise the candidates and transfer voters. Children were also seen wearing campaign t-shirts outside polling stations. Mohamed El-Shentnawy, manager of the parliamentary observatory mission led by the Maat foundation, told Daily News Egypt: “The candidates were well prepared for this round. They avoided repeating the mistakes of the first round, and used creative methods of bribery which resulted in the improved turnout of 17% in this round, compared with around 11% to 12% in the first round.”
International election observers endorsed Myanmar’s landmark election as credible, but warned that a transition of power would be limited despite what is shaping up to be a historic loss for the military-run government. As of Tuesday evening, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy had secured 107 seats in the 664-seat legislature, according to official results, with only seven for the army-linked incumbent party and a handful for smaller ethnic minority parties. Soe Thane, the economics minister in the cabinet of Myanmar President Thein Sein, also won a seat, though he was running as an independent rather than with his party. A final count isn’t expected for several more days.
The European Union has deployed 30 long-term election observers to join its core team already in Myanmar to monitor the country’s upcoming general election scheduled for Nov. 8, an official report said Monday. The long-term observers will cover all regions, states and territories in both urban and rural areas and will observe the entire electoral process prior, during and after the election. They will be also joined by another 62 short-term observers and a delegation of the European Parliament shortly before the election, so that a total of 150 observers from all the 28 EU member states as well as Norway, Switzerland and Canada will be deployed on the election day along with EU diplomats.
The EU said Tuesday it will for the first time deploy observers in Myanmar’s upcoming elections when the opposition led by Aung San Suu Kyi is expected to make significant gains against the military-dominated government. National League for Democracy chairwoman Aung San Suu Kyi delivers a speech during a voter education campaign in Shan State on Sept 5, 2015. “The mission confirms the European Union’s continued commitment to the democratic transition of Myanmar,” EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini said in a statement. “Elections held in a peaceful and inclusive environment will help to consolidate irreversible reforms in the country,” Mogherini said.
Russia: ‘Cruise’ Voting, Mirror Parties, And A Missing Corpse: Spotting Russian Election Abuses | RFE
Russia’s political opposition dispatched a small army of volunteer election observers to keep lookout for voter fraud in Kostroma Oblast, where, having been barred from the ballot everywhere else in the country, the opposition was vying for a small victory in regional elections on September 13. Russian officials quickly touted the Kostroma voting and thousands of other contests across the country as models of “clean elections.” By 11 p.m. on election night, however, independent election-monitoring NGO Golos had clocked 1,736 allegations of election violations, compared to 901 on Russia’s nationwide voting day in 2014 and 747 in 2013. The opposition’s version of events differed sharply from the official version in Kostroma, 350 kilometers northeast of Moscow, where the opposition party Parnas was vying for seats in the regional legislature with activist Ilya Yashin atop its candidate list.
After a gap of 10 years, the European Union (EU) has decided to send a 70-member delegation of observers to Sri Lanka for the August 17 parliamentary polls. The observers have been drawn from 17 member-countries of the EU. Apart from a core group of eight persons, the team has short-term and long-term observers and at least six Members of the European Parliament. Local observers, who are from the European diplomatic community in Sri Lanka, will also join the team, according to Cristian Preda, Chief Observer and a Romanian member of the European Parliament.
The Catholic Church in Burundi has criticized upcoming elections, while the European Union’s election observers are downing tools until the situation improves. Fair elections are “impossible,” the opposition claims. The European Union suspended its observer mission in Burundi on Thursday because of the crackdown on the opposition and the media, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said on Thursday. The team, which the EU sent to Burundi over a month ago, can no longer fulfill its role of helping with “peaceful, credible and fair” elections, according to the EU’s top diplomat. “The election process continues to be seriously marred by restrictions on independent media, excessive use of force against demonstrators, a climate of intimidation for opposition parties and civil society and lack of confidence in the election authorities,” Mogherini said in a statement.
Tunisia has voted in historic elections to choose its first parliament since the overthrow of long-time ruler in 2011 that sparked the ‘Arab Spring’ protests. Votes were being counted across the country on Sunday as Tunisians cast their ballots in parliamentray elections, four years after the ouster of autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Many polling stations reported high turnouts and long lines early in the day, with an estimated 60 percent of the 5.2 million registered voters turning out to vote for the 217-seat parliament. “The spotlight is on us and the success of this [vote] is a guarantee for the future,” Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa said as he cast his ballot. US President, Barack Obama called the election an “important milestone in the country’s historic political transition”. “In casting their ballots today, Tunisians continued to inspire people across their region and around the world,” Obama said.
A federal judge in Anchorage ruled Wednesday morning that the state elections division violated the U.S. Voting Rights Act by failing to provide ballot and candidate information in Native languages to Yup’ik and Gwich’in speakers in three rural regions of Alaska. In a big victory for Native rights advocates, U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason rejected the state’s assertions that it had done enough in Southwest Alaska and the Interior by providing bilingual poll workers and “outreach” personnel. Gleason said the state’s effort failed to provide “substantially similar” information in Native languages as it does in English. While the plaintiffs — two Yup’ik-speaking elders and four federally recognized village tribes — had sought to have all election materials made available in Native languages, Gleason focused on the official election pamphlet sent to all residents of Alaska in English. The state didn’t do enough to help voters with limited English proficiency gain access to the information in the pamphlet, she said.