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Int’l observers say elections ‘efficient’, with isolated problems

Monitors call for rebalancing distribution of voters, urge boosting women representation

By Mohammad Ghazal - Sep 21,2016 - Last updated at Sep 21,2016

AMMAN — The Lower House elections were efficiently organised and took place in a largely peaceful atmosphere, but some shortcomings were observed, international monitors said on Wednesday. 

The International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute sent a mission of 45 observers from 26 countries to monitor polling stations on Tuesday, co-led by former Kosovo president Atifete Jahjaga.  

“While there were isolated problems, most voters were able to exercise their rights,” Jahjaga said at a press conference.

A key issue was the presence of campaigners and campaign material near polling stations, the mission said in a statement. The Elections Law bans campaigning within 200 metres of voting centres, but the restriction was routinely flouted, according to the observers.

“Active campaigning was observed directly outside many polling stations, and in some cases, campaign materials were observed inside,” the mission’s statement added.  

“Candidates’ supporters, including young children in many instances, distributed flyers or coffee to voters in front of the centres, and some wore shirts, hats and vests displaying the name and photo of their candidates,” the mission added.

The secrecy of the vote was not always respected, as observers noted numerous instances of “public voting”, where voters announced whom they had voted for or displayed their ballots, the mission said. 

While polling station staff willingly provided assistance to people with disabilities inside voting centres, many polling locations had very limited access for disabled voters, the statement noted.  

Vote count was slow in some polling stations due to the longer ballot required by the new electoral system, and also because voters could cast multiple votes in this year’s poll.  

Due to the longer counting and verification process, results were announced 24 hours later than in previous elections.  

Observers reported significant differences in voter participation. Very few young voters were seen in the majority of visited centres, the delegation said.

“Some voters were sent away as they were not on the list for that centre or did not bring their IDs. In some cases, voters’ names did not appear in the nationwide voter registry, though they claimed to have voted in the 2013 elections.”

The joint mission issued a set of recommendations calling for key decisions to improve voter education and information sharing. 

The Independent Election Commission should consider investing in additional training for polling and counting officials to better ensure observer access and the transparency of election day processes, and to fully protect the secrecy of votes.

Further, the mission said, the distribution of voters per seat should be rebalanced to ensure a more equitable representation of voters in Parliament. 

 

Additional measures are also needed to increase the representation of women in political life and party leadership, the mission recommended.

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