EU Election Observation Mission aims for election fairness [Archives:2006/973/Front Page]

August 17 2006
Chief Observer Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne at the press conference.
Chief Observer Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne at the press conference.
Dana Patterson
SANA'A, Aug. 16 ) Having arrived yesterday in Yemen, Chief Observer, Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, a Member of the European Parliament (MEP), stated in a press conference yesterday that the European Union Election Observation Mission (EOM) being deployed to Yemen in the coming days and weeks for the upcoming Sept. 20 presidential and local elections seeks to ensure free, fair and democratic Yemeni election process.

The SCER invited the EU to observe the elections because, “This is an important election for Yemen's movement forward,” Nicholson noted, “so we are present for the long term and not just for election day.” The EOM's mandate is to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the electoral process and offer an impartial, balanced and informative assessment of Yemen's elections.

“This observation work is an important part of EU policy promoting human rights and democratization throughout the world,” Nicholson added. She intends to hold meetings with various officials, political parties, candidates, civil society representatives and the media.

“It's essential that all candidates and Yemeni voters be able to exercise their democratic rights in the entire political process fully, freely and peacefully,” Nicholson stressed.

The EOM will observe the entire election process, including the legal framework and its implementation, the work of the election administration, campaign activities, media conduct, voting, ballot counting and tabulation, as well as the general environment in which the elections are being conducted.

The observers are from 22 EU member states, representing nearly all member states except three, composed largely of election experts. Forty long-term observers arrive tomorrow and then 40 short-term observers will arrive nearer to the election. Nicholson will be in Yemen much of the time, working with the 11-member core team of key election experts.

“There's a huge range of expertise; it's the most extraordinary and interesting team. They're all from the different perspectives on elections, whether law, tabulation, methodology, etc. All of those aspects must be understood fully for the purposes of observation,” she explained.

In his opening remarks, Dr. Ralph Dreyer, European Commission Charge d'Affaires, stated, “Democracy is very important nowadays in Yemen and there's no way around it. We as the European Union appreciate the direction the Republic of Yemen has taken, not only for our interests, but in the interests of the Yemeni people as well.

“Indeed, this country needs more democracy and good governance in order to attract foreign investment and make Yemenis invest in this country,” he added, noting that Yemen's economy will have to feed approximately 40 million citizens in 20 years and free and fair elections will contribute to investment and building trust in the nation's economic and political system. “The EU stands ready to assist the Yemeni government in that effort and, in particular, with this observation,” he concluded.

Nicholson assured that observers will be deployed in each of Yemen's 21 governorates, in many districts and as many polling stations as possible. “So you can be confident that our results will be statistically viable and correct,” she asserted, “Our election experts have been tried and tested in many countries in many different elections and environments, so we are absolutely confident, and you can be absolutely confident, that what we put in our report will be accurate, sound, honest and true.”

Deputy Chief Observer Richard Chambers stated that Yemen's civil society organizations will be “very key” to gaining access and deploying observers in distant areas somewhat limited by tribal constraints. “We don't expect any [election] violations and we encourage all individuals not to undertake such violations. If we see them, we'll report them,” he added.

“We have a hugely experienced team – one of the best teams of election observers ever – so we're aware of such [tribal] sensitivities and will behave appropriately,” Nicholson noted, “We hope to get the maximum benefit of understanding the local situation.”