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For a truly free and fair election

  • Published at 07:07 pm November 15th, 2018
Is anyone monitoring them?
Is anyone monitoring them? MAHMUD HOSSAIN OPU

Election monitoring is imperative to maintaining a democracy

Recent developments in our politics have paved the way for a sense of inclusiveness. Voters have witnessed enthusiasm among party activists and aspirants, where media has been covering the electoral developments intensively.

Elections are vital to any democratic system, and in order for the elections to be free and fair, it is of utmost importance to examine whether the voters are free to exercise their rights to make the right choice in an informed manner -- guaranteeing a voter’s freedom of expression is a prerequisite to an acceptable democratic election.

Most importantly, the judiciary must be free to perform impartially and effectively and the media, another important institution for democracy, must enjoy equitable freedom to disseminate accurate and objective information creating an informed citizenry capable of making an informed decision.

Media and public opinion have always been connected when it comes to elections, as they both reflect pressing issues in any particular society. The same holds true of social media, perhaps more so than the other two. Social media has now become the de facto platform where citizens are able to participate in debate freely.

The presence of impartial citizens’ groups helps build public confidence in the electoral process. If citizens do not have adequate information and freedom to choose the right candidate, the elections will not be truly meaningful. Social media is a natural evolution of the concept of citizens’ group.

The EC has recognized the observations of impartial citizens’ groups as an important tool to ensure fairness within the electoral process. Following a thorough review of the compliance criterion and public scrutiny of the neutrality and capacity to observe elections, the EC has accredited a number of citizens’ groups to observe the election.

Staying politically neutral is a must.

Election monitoring organizations often seek accreditation to observe elections in constituencies where the organizations do not have regular program interventions. In such cases, the organization with permission from the commission engage local NGOs, who actually are not qualified to carry out any observations themselves -- but it questions the entire election observation philosophy and poses serious threats to ultimate quality of the observation reports.

Such practices must be stopped now, and the EC should not allow organizations to observe elections in the constituencies where the accredited organizations do not have direct program interventions, and this can be done through offering observers identity card. 

Earlier, the EC adopted a “guideline for election observers,” limiting election monitoring at a polling booth during the day of the election. 

The human rights aspect of election observation has been clearly laid out in Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is applicable to all member states. In a society where the fundamental rights of citizens are not maintained, there remains little scope for holding free and fair elections

Only long-term mechanisms of election monitoring designed in a coordinated way can provide a systematic basis to assess the characteristics of the entire electoral process in accordance with a neutral basis to evaluate the fairness of the recommended process. 

Pre-election monitoring is essential in maintaining the integrity of the electoral process, and to ensure democratic outcomes. 

Sadrul Hasan Mazumder is a policy activist and can be reached at [email protected]