The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has considered a draft of the Guidelines for Election Observation under Public Health Emergencies, which is currently under review by Member States (MS).
Amongst others, the guidelines will strengthen the region’s efforts to build democratic institutions, despite pandemics.
International Affairs minister, Dr Lemogang Kwape who heads SADC virtual observer missions for Seychelles and Tanzania, revealed this in a statement.
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.
“Two Member States in our region, the SADC, will be holding elections in the month of October 2020. From October 22 to 24, 2020, the people of the Republic of Seychelles will participate in their National Assembly and Presidential Elections. On October 28, 2020, the people of the United Republic of Tanzania will be voting in their General Elections. Under normal circumstances, SADC Electoral Observation Missions (SEOMs) would have been deployed to the two SADC Member States,” he noted.
Kwape stated that the missions would by now, be physically engaging with the various stakeholders, including electoral authorities, political parties, community leaders, faith-based organisations, civil society and the media.
He added that was always done with a view to assess the readiness and conduct of the electoral processes, in order to observe the actual voting, counting, and declaration of the election results.
However, he pointed out that the outbreak of COVID-19 disrupted normal practices. He said member states like
These amongst others include quarantines, border closures, suspension of travels, social distancing and the banning of public gatherings and events.
Whilst the incidences of the coronavirus (COVID-19) are relatively low in Seychelles and Tanzania, Kwape noted that the regional scenario and travel restrictions, and the need to safeguard public health, negatively affected the region’s ability to physically deploy Electoral Observation Missions in a conventional manner.
The minister further emphasised that to uphold democratic principles and to remain in solidarity with the two countries, SADC would hold virtual consultations with electoral stakeholders in those countries, and closely follow-up the electoral processes.
The approach he stated as part of their continued efforts towards upholding democratic principles despite the prevailing challenges hampering physical election observation on the ground.
He said they launched SADC virtual engagements with electoral stakeholders in Seychelles and Tanzania.
“Through these virtual engagements, SADC will remain seized with the electoral processes in the two member states, and will be able to obtain the views of electoral stakeholders on the conduct of the elections. The virtual engagements will enable SADC to identify areas of continued support in the consolidation of democracy, and to gather information to inform other post-election interventions.”