Our Vision is to Improve Future Electoral Processes, says EU Mission

Our Vision is to Improve Future Electoral Processes, says EU Mission

Members of the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) have explained that the essence of their engagement will significantly impact on future electoral processes in the country. Speaking on their mission when a two-person delegation visited the International Press Centre (IPC), Lagos, on Friday, Mr Marek Mracka, its media/digital communications analyst who revealed that

Members of the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) have explained that the essence of their engagement will significantly impact on future electoral processes in the country.

Speaking on their mission when a two-person delegation visited the International Press Centre (IPC), Lagos, on Friday, Mr Marek Mracka, its media/digital communications analyst who revealed that the EU has deployed an Election Observation Mission to Nigeria since 1999, said their final report will “offer recommendations to improve future electoral processes.”

He further said that the mission’s mandate is to provide an expert assessment of the electoral process. “The EU EOM assesses Nigeria’s compliance with the international commitments it has made through various human rights instruments. It also considers requirements in national legislation, as well as international good practices for elections.”

Mracka who was accompanied by Ms Inta Lase, media analyst, disclosed that the mission “will issue preliminary statements after each election day, assessing the electoral process up to that point” while “the overall conclusions will be presented in a final report only after the end of the electoral process, usually a few months after.”

The EU EOM is led by Chief Observer, Ms Maria Arena, a member of the European Parliament from Belgium. A core team of 11 election analysts whose primary task is to analyse political, electoral, legal and other issues relating to the electoral process, arrived on January 5th.

The long-term observers LTOs consisting of 40 persons drawn from EU member states, Norway and Switzerland arrived Nigeria on January 13th and will be deployed across the country in a team of two persons each.

The LTOs are expected to observe all aspects of the electoral process in their areas and report back to the core team in Abuja. The EU EOM will observe the elections in all six geo-political zones, meeting with as many people as possible.

Over the election days, the mission will be joined by a delegation of seven members of the European Parliament, and diplomatic staff from EU member state embassies, as well as those of Norway, Switzerland and Canada.

Explaining their rules of engagement which is in accordance with the ‘Declaration of principles for International Election Observation’ adopted at the United nations in 2005 by a number of international bodies involved in election observation, Mracka explained that the “mission is neutral and impartial, and EU observers do not in any way interfere in the electoral process, including by offering advice and assistance.”

“The EU EOM does not legitimise the electoral process nor does it validate the election results. All EU election observers are bound by a strict code of conduct that guarantees their neutrality and impartiality.”

The EU has an established long-term methodology for observing elections. Since 2000, it has deployed over 130 EOMs across the world. The EOM is independent from the EU Delegation to Nigeria, EU member states, and all EU institutions.

International election observation, says the Declaration of Principles, “assesses election processes in accordance with international principles for genuine democratic elections and domestic law, while recognising that it is the people of a country who ultimately determine credibility and legitimacy of an election process.”

Since arriving Nigeria, Ms Arena has had a series of meetings, including with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, security agencies, political parties and candidates, civil society organisations, members of the legal profession, and religious leaders.

The Chief Observer emphasised the importance of transparency and accountability at all stages of the electoral process. “These elections are an opportunity for Nigeria to build on what was achieved in 2015 and to further strengthen the country’s democracy,” she said.

“Transparency and accountability of all the institutions involved are essential for public trust and confidence in the process. Further I hope that state bodies and political parties all play their part in promoting a fair and peaceful process before, during and after Election Day,” Arena noted.

Responding, the IPC Director, Mr Lanre Arogundade who revealed that his organisation was implementing component 4b of support to media under the European Union Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN) project, said his organisation has undertaken the training of 400 journalists on how the media can help to deliver a credible election and on hate speech and conflict sensitive reporting.

Explaining that his organisation has done a review of the Media Code of Election Coverage 2015 in collaboration with several other stakeholders, the IPC director disclosed that “we’ve had close to 200 endorsements of the Media Code of Election Coverage 2018”.

Arogundade also said his organisation has trained 120 female politicians in four locations, Uyo (south East), Ibadan (South West), Abuja (North West & North Central) Yola (North East) on how to access and use their media for their campaigns.

While stressing that the media has done better on “equitable coverage” of the parties and their candidates in 2019 than it did in 2015, he conceded that achieving “equitable coverage” for motley of parties which are really not pushful in their campaigns, can be a hard nut.

Also outlining the work of his organisation on monitoring of the print and online media reporting of the elections, with the focus on under reported groups like women, youth and persons living with disabilities (PLWDs), he disclosed that the second quarterly report will be presented to the media next week. Another area of focus, he said was the tracking of campaign promises so that “we can ensure that politicians are held against their pact with the electorates.” “Election reporting,” he said, “should not stop with elections, what the politicians do when they get into office is also very crucial.”

Arogundade also told the EU mission that the focus of its online publication, the Nigerian Democratic Report (NDR) is to produce model reports and elevate the reporting of under reported groups.  Although he frowned at the preponderance of fake news being spread by political actors and support effort to check this practice, the IPC director said that “we are also mindful that the media is not intimidated against publishing stories that are critical of the government.”

The team was later conducted round the different offices and work areas of the IPC by Mr Arogundade.  The EU team was particularly excited with the work of the monitors as they shared ideas and other interesting issues with the lead monitor, Mr Raji Rasaq, who also revealed that his team has so far monitored a total of over 29,000 reports. Also present during the visit was the IPC project Manager, Mr Sanmi Falobi.

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