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By Brian Sokutu

Senior Print Journalist

Poll observer plea ‘futile’ – IEC electoral officer

This after the DA sent a letter to the US government requesting assistance to beef up international observers in the May polls.

Amid the political storm triggered by a letter from the Democratic Alliance to the US government, requesting assistance to beef up international observers in SA’s May polls, the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) yesterday clarified the criteria for approving applications for observers.

It, however, refrained from commenting on the party’s move.

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IEC electoral officer Mawethu Mosery said the commission was governed by a set of regulations and laws in accrediting local and international observers – in line with the Electoral Act 73 of 1998.

“We have criteria to approve applications for domestic and international observers.

“We are neither influenced by the views of political parties nor of governments.

“It is also not likely that lawmakers of other countries will want to be ordinary citizens observing elections in our country – as there is no diplomatic status accorded to an observer,” explained Mosery.

The process starts with an elaborate application form and those subsequently accredited are required to abide by the IEC code of conduct as spelt out in the regulations on the accreditation of observers.

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The code requires accredited observers to:

• Observe the polls impartially and independently of any registered party or candidate contesting the election;

• Remain nonpartisan;

• Be competent and professional in observing the election;

• Provide the commission with a comprehensive review of the elections considering all relevant circumstances including the degree of impartiality shown by the commission, political parties’ level of freedom to organise, move, assemble, express their views publicly and the opportunity to have their agents observe all aspects of the electoral process;

• The accredited observer and any person appointed by that observer should avoid “doing anything that would indicate or be seen as indicating partisan support for a candidate or registered party”; and

• Observers are obliged to disclose to the IEC any relationship that could lead to conflict of interest concerning performance of their duties or with the process of observation or assessment of the election.

They should not:

• Accept any gifts or favour from a political party, organisation or person involved in the election process;

• Participate in any function or activity that could lead to a perception of sympathy for a particular candidate or political party;

• Express a view or opinion on any matter which is the subject of electoral campaigning;

• Influence or attempt to influence the choice of a voter regarding any party or candidate; and

• Wear, carry or display any registered party symbols or colours.

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Observers keep an eye on the voting process at voting stations, vote counting, the final counting, determination and declaration of results.

The role they play is crucial in ensuring that elections are transparent, free and fair, with the outcome accepted by voters, political parties and candidates.

According to the United Nations: “When observers issue positive reports, it builds trust in the democratic process and enhances the legitimacy of governments emerging from elections.”

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