Tunisia Live Cites Findings of IRI’s Election Observers in Tunisia

All-around Praise for Tunisia’s Presidential Election Process
Tunishia Live
By Natasha Turak

International election observer groups convened at Tunis’s Hotel Africa on Monday for press conferences on their findings from Tunisia’s presidential election weekend.

“We would like to extend our congratulations to the Tunisian people for another successful election—this election is a strong example of Tunisia’s commitment to democracy,” began Scott Mastic, Regional Director of the International Republican Institute (IRI).

Representatives from both the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) fielded speakers from the US Congress, the Canadian and Portuguese Parliaments, and other government and non-governmental entities. Their preliminary conclusions from Tunisia’s first free presidential election in its history were, like those from October’s legislative elections, overwhelmingly positive.

“I am continually impressed and heartened by the Tunisian people and leaders. These elections are all the more impressive when one considers the potential dangers and threats of terrorism facing Tunisia right now,” said Mastic.

“We have seen many improvements since the legislative elections one month ago. Election workers were very professional, organized, and learned from the first round of elections,” noted NDI country director Nicole Roswell.

Improvements from the previous election included a facilitation of the sign-in process at polling stations, a speeding-up of the voting procedure, and better accuracy of voter registry overseas, which saw less voters turned away from polls this time than in October.

The panelists discussed room for improvement, particularly in areas such as sequential registration. Voters are assigned polling stations according to their ID number, which goes by year of birth—this results in concentrations of elderly voters at the same polling stations, which often means more work for election workers, rather than an even distribution of ages. Another recommendation was a reform of the campaign finance law, which was described as “complex, ambiguous, rigid, and limiting” and almost “invited violations” because it was so difficult to abide by.

NDI Vice President Sherri Brian stressed that candidates should offer “clear and detailed policy platforms to help voters make informed decisions.” The panels further recommended that parties and media outlets implement televised debates for future contests. Like the organizations’ press conferences following the October 26th elections, observers noted and lamented the substantial lack of youth present at the polls. “The revolution was made by young people—it is absolutely essential that they are brought into the process,” stressed Canadian Parliament member Olivia Chow.

“We want to encourage a higher turnout of young people—and we recognize that this is a worldwide problem. Engagement of youth depends on the opportunities they see available to them,” Chow said.

The conference concluded with reiterated praise for a successful, democratic election and declarations of continued support. “No matter the outcome, all Tunisians should take pride in this process,” asserted Congressman David Price. “We look forward to another democratic election in December,” referring to the runoff vote between the top two presidential candidates, Beji Caid Essebsi and incumbent president Moncef Marzouki. “Our country and our congress stand beside Tunisia on both of these fronts, and we stand ready to engage.”

The NDI and the IRI are non-profit, non-partisan NGOs working with Tunisia’s civil society at the national and local level to support political transition and help improve democratic governance. This is their third election in Tunisia since October 2011.

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