Friday, 14 November 2014 8:31 AM

Towards Free and Fair Elections

As the Commonwealth Observer team organizes itself for the upcoming elections, it is perhaps an ideal time to assess what it is that they will be looking for.

Sir Mekere Morauta, former Prime Minister of PNG and Chair of the Commonwealth Observer team, has indicated some of the yardsticks that will be used – it must be peaceful, free and fair.

A more concise definition is provided for in Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that elections must be periodic, genuine, organized according to universal suffrage, and by secret ballot.

All of the above requirements seem simple enough. We have periodic elections, it is, or at least appears to be genuine, there are no impediments to registering or voting for any citizen, and voting is a secret i.e. voters are alone in the voting booth. But this is not a thumbs up thumbs down sort of exercise.

Perhaps a key test for our young democracy (if one considers 36 years young) is the transfer of power – from one government to another – the process needs to be credible.

Seen in that light, we can say we have successfully registered a good number of political parties - but there are also a good number of independents.

On paper it appears no single party will form government, it needs to be a coalition of several minor parties. Independents will have a huge say on what form the government will take, so basically it will be business as usual after the elections –camps, lobbyists and financiers.

The elections will most certainly be free and fair, but perhaps the same cannot be said for the formation of government – the process needs to be credible, open and transparent.

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