Honarable Dk. Auustine Mahinga.
STATEMENT BY HONOURABLE DR. AUGUSTINE P. MAHIGA (MP), THE MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND EAST AFRICAN COOPERATION OF THE UNITED REPUBLIC OF TANZANIA (URT) AND HEAD OF THE SADC ELECTORAL OBSERVATION MISSION (SEOM) TO THE 2016 NATIONAL ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS IN THE REPUBLIC OF THE SEYCHELLES.
It is my honour and privilege to welcome you to the official launch of the SADC Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM) to the 2016 National Assembly Elections in the Republic of the Seychelles.
On behalf of His Excellency Dr John Pombe Joseph Magufuli, President of the United Republic of Tanzania (URT) and the Chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, and indeed on my own behalf, please accept my sincere gratitude for taking time to be part of this auspicious occasion.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our Mission to the Republic of the Seychelles was at the invitation of the Electoral Commission of the Republic of the Seychelles. This practice is now part of our democratic culture and tradition in the SADC region and is in conformity with the SADC Treaty; the SADC Protocol on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation and the revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections (2015).
To this end, His Excellency Dr John Pombe Joseph Magufuli, President of the Republic of the United Republic of Tanzania (URT) and Chairperson of the Organ on Politics, Defence, and Security Cooperation, constituted the SADC Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM) and mandated the Executive Secretary of SADC to prepare the logistics for its deployment.
It is noteworthy, that a substantial amount of effort has already been invested in the preparations for this important Mission, beginning with the ground work undertaken by the SADC Secretariat, the SADC Electoral Advisory Council Goodwill Mission, the Troika and other stakeholders, to ensure the realisation of the objectives and mandate of the SADC Electoral Observation Mission.
In this respect, it is significant to note that these National Assembly Elections in the Republic of the Seychelles build on an enduring culture among SADC Member States of consolidating democratic practice and institutions through, inter alia, the observation of national elections.
Over the last two decades, SADC has developed and enhanced its normative frameworks governing democratic elections which have contributed immensely to our endeavour as a region to work toward the realisation of the vision of the SADC Treaty (1992).
You will recall that on 20 July, 2015, the Ministerial Committee of the Organ adopted the revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections, which aim to strengthen our skills and capabilities of assessing the major inter-related segments of the electoral cycle in order to provide stronger evidence-based recommendations and electoral assistance to Member States.
Our revised set of Principles and Guidelines also require us to operationalise several stages to our deployment strategy which allows us to have a much better understanding of pre-election, election and post-election phases of the electoral process. The inter-related phases of deployment include the SADC Electoral Advisory Council Goodwill and pre-election assessment Missions; and the deployment of the Long Term Observers (LTOs); and the Short Term Observers (STOs).
The arrival of the SADC Electoral Advisory Council Goodwill Mission on 22 August 2016 ahead of the main Short Term Electoral Observation Mission of the SADC Electoral Observation Mission, therefore, signifies this enhanced approach to election observation, which will eventually build our capacity to develop and sustain Long Term Election Observation (LTO) Missions, as provided for in the revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.
We are, hence, informed by the SADC Electoral Advisory Council Goodwill Mission that the Electoral Commission of the Seychelles has undertaken a range of activities as part of the preparations for these National Assembly Elections. We have also taken note of the issues raised at this preliminary stage by the various stakeholders regarding these preparations and management of the electoral process. We shall therefore, through the SADC Electoral Observation Mission, consolidate this body of information in order to arrive at a considered assessment of the electoral process at the end of our Mission.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me reiterate that the work of the SADC Electoral Observation Mission is guided by the revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections adopted in 2015, which are aligned to the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (2007). In addition, the work of the SADC Electoral Observation Mission is also guided by the relevant legislation of the Republic of the Seychelles, such as her Constitution which outlines the principles of universal adult suffrage, and defines the electoral systems and processes; as well as by the country’s Electoral Laws. The emphasis of course, shall be on the provisions addressing the election of Members of Parliament.
Informed by these inter-related regional and national frameworks, the SADC Electoral Observation Mission will assess the conduct of the elections against a set of central principles stipulated in the revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections such as:
1. Full participation of the citizens in the political process;
2. Freedom of association;
3. Political tolerance;
4. Equal opportunity for all political parties to access the state media;
5. Equal opportunity to exercise the right to vote and be voted for;
6. Independence of the Judiciary and impartiality of the electoral institutions;
7. Civic and Voter education;
8. Acceptance and respect of the election results by political parties as proclaimed to have been free and fair by the competent Electoral Commission in accordance with the law of the land; and
9. Challenge of the election results as provided for in the law.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me to further explain the role of the SADC Electoral Advisory Council whose arrival preceded that of the SADC Electoral Observation Mission. You will recall that the SADC Electoral Advisory Council was established by the SADC Heads of State Summit in 2005 to advise on matters of elections, democracy and good governance. The SADC Electoral Advisory Council is composed of eminent Justices, senior advocates and distinguished scholars with immense experience in matters of democracy building and governance. As is the culture, the objective of the SADC Electoral Advisory Council Goodwill Mission was to assess the level of readiness and preparedness of the Republic of the Seychelles to hold these elections.
We are, hence, reliably informed by the SADC Electoral Advisory Council Mission that the Electoral Commission and the relevant stakeholders in the Republic of the Seychelles have taken necessary measures to ensure that the Principles for Conducting Democratic Elections as outlined in the revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections, are observed. We therefore conclude that the Republic of the Seychelles is generally prepared to hold elections on 8-10 September, 2016.
Members of the Media,
Ladies and gentlemen,
As SADC observes these elections, it encourages the Electoral Commission of the Seychelles to conduct its work to the highest professional standard; the political leadership to play an exemplary role in terms of electoral conduct; and the electorate to act conscientiously and honourably.
As the SADC Electoral Observation Mission, we are hopeful that the deployment of our observers will contribute to enhancing the credibility of the overall electoral process.
As a region, we have made great strides in ensuring participation of citizens in decision making, as a part of our efforts to promote democratic values, practices and strengthening institutions of democracy.
It is notable that our Member States continue to develop Constitutions that enshrine principles and provisions of equal opportunities and full participation of all citizens in democratic processes. In the Republic of the Seychelles, the National Assembly Elections are regulated by the Constitution, the Elections Act, the Political Parties Act (2014) and the Electoral Code of Conduct acceded to by all Political Parties.
Furthermore, the Constitution of the Seychelles underscores the need to ensure that the electoral procedures, among other aspects, guarantee citizens the liberty to exercise their political rights. It also recognises universal adult suffrage based on the equality of a vote.
The country’s laws also recognise the need for the holding of elections that are free from violence, intimidation and corruption, and the timely resolution of electoral disputes. It is in light of this that we appeal to all Seychellois, that should there be any areas of disagreement, they should follow the laid down procedures, as provided for by the laws of the land.
Having said all this, I am pleased to inform you that the SADC Electoral Observation Mission to the 2016 National Assembly Elections is now fully constituted and comprises 19 observers from 8 SADC Member States.
As the voting days of the 8-10th September, 2016 approach, allow me to mention that the outcome of this election lies in the hands of the people of the Republic of the Seychelles. The manner in which they conduct themselves will determine the outcome of this election. As alluded to earlier, we strongly call upon the political stakeholders to strictly adhere to all relevant legislation governing the elections in the Republic of the Seychelles, which are provided for in the country’s statutes.
We also urge all political parties to adhere and accept the results of the elections and lodge their complaints and grievances through the relevant institutions.
May I, therefore, take this opportunity to encourage all stakeholders to ensure that these National Assembly Elections are managed in a peaceful, free, fair, transparent and credible manner; and that the electoral process adheres to democratic values and principles; and commend all the stakeholders, for their efforts in putting in place an enabling environment for holding these Elections.
Lastly, may I also take this opportunity to invite you all to attend the release of our Preliminary Statement scheduled for 12 September 2016, at 1100hrs, at this very venue.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is now my singular honour, on behalf of the Chairperson of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, His Excellency Dr John Pombe Joseph Magufuli, President of the Republic of the United Republic of Tanzania (URT), to declare the SADC Electoral Observation Mission to the 2016 National Assembly Elections in the Republic of the Seychelles, officially launched.