SADC keeps close eye on elections

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Harare - The Southern African Development Community (SADC) says although it will not be physically present to observe and monitor elections in the Seychelles and Tanzania, the polls will still have to measure up to the bloc’s collectively agreed standards.

The Seychelles holds a presidential vote between October 22 and 24, 2020; and Tanzania has a general election on October 28 this year.

Under normal circumstances, SADC would have “boots on the ground” to monitor processes before, during and after the elections, but strict COVID-19 containment measures mean this is not possible at present.

SADC Council of Ministers Chair, the International Affairs and Co-operation Minister of Botswana Dr. Lemogang Kwape, said: “Whilst the incidences of COVID-19 are relatively low in the Republic of Seychelles and the United Republic of Tanzania, the regional scenario and travel restrictions, and the need to safeguard public health, have negatively affected the region’s ability to physically deploy Electoral Observation Missions in a conventional manner. 

“Nonetheless, to uphold democratic principles and to remain in solidarity with our two member states, SADC will hold virtual consultations with electoral stakeholders in these countries, and closely follow-up the electoral processes. This approach is part of our continued efforts towards upholding democratic principles despite the prevailing challenges hampering physical election observation on the ground.”

He added, “Even though SADC is not physically deploying its election observation missions to the two countries; the values enshrined in the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections (2015) remain valid as a source of guidance.

“As such, the virtual engagements were preceded by pre-election consultations with electoral stakeholders in the Republic of Seychelles and the United Republic of Tanzania. These were conducted by the SADC Electoral Advisory Council (SEAC) in August 2020, in accordance with the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections. 

“SEAC sought the views of electoral stakeholders regarding the level of preparedness for the countries to hold the elections, which included the prevailing political and security situations and the performance of Election Management Bodies. The Council members also assessed the implementation of SEOM’s previous recommendations. The pre-election consultations concluded that both the Republic of Seychelles and the United Republic of Tanzania were prepared to hold their respective elections in October 2020.” 

Dr Kwape said, in light of the limitations occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, the bloc had initiated measures to ensure the safe deployment of SEOMs during crisis situations in future. 

“To this end, on 15th September 2020, SADC considered a draft of the Guidelines for Election Observation under Public Health Emergencies, which is currently under review by Member States. Among others, the Guidelines will strengthen the region’s efforts to build democratic institutions, despite pandemics. Once operational, the Guidelines will contribute to strengthening SADC’s interventions in respect to disaster preparedness, disaster risk reduction and management, and strategic responses to pandemics,” he said.

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