A former Prime Minister of The Bahamas, Hubert Ingraham, will lead a Commonwealth Observer Group to Vanuatu for its General Election on 22 January.
The snap election is being held nine months ahead of schedule, following a period of political instability in which 14 Members of Parliament were convicted of bribery. The convictions led to a political deadlock between the Government and the Opposition which prompted President Baldwin Lonsdale to dissolve Parliament.
The Commonwealth’s Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma, mobilised the Observer Group at the invitation of the Vanuatu Government. He said its work would complement the Commonwealth’s ongoing effort to support democracy in the country.
“The Commonwealth has a long history of assistance to Vanuatu. We have been working with the Government and with all political leaders to strengthen democratic processes and institutions in the country,” he stated. Last year the Commonwealth facilitated a dialogue among political leaders that could lead to a roadmap for reform.
The Observer Group will contribute to this process by offering practical recommendations to strengthen Vanuatu’s electoral process based on their observations. The five-member team will examine pre-election preparations, voting and counting procedures and the announcement of results. They will assess any factor affecting the credibility of the elections and determine whether they were conducted according to international standards and the laws of Vanuatu.
The Observer Group will submit its report to the Commonwealth Secretary-General, who will in turn send it to the Government of Vanuatu, the Electoral Commission and the principal political parties. It will subsequently be released online.
The observers will be supported by a four-member staff team, led by Albert Mariner of the Political Division of the Secretariat. The staff team will arrive in Vanuatu on 13 January and depart five days after the elections.