THE head of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Observer Mission to the Vanuatu snap election, Sir Francis Billy Hilly, left for Vanuatu last Friday ahead of the January 22 polls.
The snap election, necessitated by the conviction and imprisonment of 14 of the republic’s Members of Parliament in October 2015, is scheduled for the 22nd of this month.
In Port Villa, Sir Francis will team up with the rest of the members of the MSG observer mission which includes Ruben Kaiulo of Papua New Guinea, Ratu EpeliNailitikau of Fiji and Philippe Ajapuhnya, RodrigueTiavouane and YvonFaua of the Kanak and Socilaist Liberation Front of New Caledonia.
The Special Secretary to the MSG Chair, Rence Sore also joins the MSG Observer Mission as a support member.
The MSG Observer Mission will work alongside other international election observers in monitoring, assessing, and observing the conduct of the elections in accordance with international and regional standards for elections taking into account Vanuatu’s Constitution, and other relevant legal documents as well as other guidelines and terms of references provided by the Vanuatu authorities to guide the work of the international observers.
Sir Francis said prior to his departure that he looks forward to carrying out the job he has been tasked with and working with the members of his team and those of other multi-national election observer groups.
The MSG team is expected to join observers from the Pacific Islands Forum, which is also deploying a team to the election.
The Forum Observer Team comprises Pita Vuki, Commissioner and Supervisor of Elections of the Kingdom of Tonga, and TaggyTangimetua, Chief Electoral Officer of the Cook Islands. The team is supported by the Forum Secretariat.
The Forum Observer Team will be deployed in Efate from 14 to 25 January and will meet with a wide range of stakeholders –including representatives of government, civil society, faith based organizations, development partners, regional and international agencies and the diplomatic corps – ahead of polling day to gain an enhanced understanding of the electoral and political environment in Vanuatu.
It will observe all aspects of the elections, including the opening of polls, casting of votes, closing of polling, and the count.
“The Pacific Island Forum has deployed observing missions to national elections in our Member countries for a number of years now, with the most recent being to Solomon Islands in November 2014 and Bougainville in May 2015,” said Forum Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor.
“On behalf of the Forum, I welcome the invitation from the caretaker Government of Vanuatu to observe these elections.
“I would also like to thank the Governments of the Kingdom of Tonga and the Cook Islands for making their senior electoral officials available to participate in the mission.
“This represents, in a very practical way, the Forum community’s commitment to the promotion of democratic values and good governance.”
“Electoral observation is an important aspect of elections which contribute to transparency and accountability of electoral processes,” stated Vuki, who leads the Forum team.
The Pacific Islands Forum’s electoral observation work is guided by the Biketawa Declaration (2000) under which Forum Leaders’ committed, among other things, to ‘uphold the individual’s inalienable right to participate by means of free and democratic political process in framing the society they lived’.