FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Oct. 25, 2011
Contact: Deborah Hakes +216 25 33 23 18 or email@example.com, Sabina Vigani +216 23 63 49 79
Carter Center Preliminary Statement
Tunisian National Constituent Assembly Elections
Carter Center Reports Peaceful and Enthusiastic Participation in Tunisia's Landmark Elections
Read the full preliminary statement (PDF) >
In a statement released today, Carter Center observers monitoring the landmark Oct. 23 Constituent Assembly elections in Tunisia reported that the voting process was marked by peaceful and enthusiastic participation, generally transparent procedures, and popular confidence about Tunisia's democratic transition. Tunisian voters waited patiently in very long lines, determined to take part in the historic first election of the Arab Spring movements of 2011.
While the electoral process has been very successful so far, Carter Center observers reported that the process was hindered by insufficient information about the allocation of voters to polling stations, as well as a lack of detailed procedures and training for key parts of the process, including vote counting, tabulation, and election dispute resolution. The tabulation of vote counts is ongoing, and final results have not yet been released.
Key findings of the Carter Center observation mission include the following:
- Competitive elections. The National Constituent Assembly (NCA) elections provided millions of Tunisians with their first opportunity to vote freely in genuinely competitive elections following more than 50 years of authoritarian rule. Tunisians turned out to vote in significant numbers, showing great enthusiasm and determination to consolidate the achievements of the revolution.
- Independent election commission. For the first time, the elections were conducted by an independent election management body, the High Independent Authority for the Elections (ISIE), which benefited from government support at critical junctures of the process. In a relatively short time, the ISIE succeeded in building confidence among key stakeholders and being perceived as impartial.
- Election administration. While acknowledging the dedication of election officials in carrying out their duties, The Carter Center notes that the ISIE could have ensured more efficient planning by establishing a strong technical and administrative body. Essential decisions and regulations by the ISIE came often late in the process, leaving inadequate time for training of elections officials and workers.
- Voter registration. During the voter registration period in July and August, approximately 55 percent of the estimated eligible voters on the national ID card database actively turned out to verify their data; the rest were retained as eligible voters and ultimately allocated to specialized voting stations around the country.
- Voting process. Voting took place in an orderly way with polling staff largely following procedures. The processing of voters started slowly but the pace quickened over the course of the day. However, many voters who had not actively registered experienced difficulties in identifying the location of their polling station.
- Vote counting. While polling staff was diligent in following the procedural manual, the counting process was slow and laborious due to a lack of experience, insufficient training on the counting process, and the high number of candidate lists.
- Participation of candidate representatives and observers. Almost all polling stations visited had representatives of candidates and many had domestic observers. Candidate representatives and observers generally played a very positive role and contributed to increased transparency in the elections. In some stations, Carter Center observers noted that domestic observers became directly involved in the process, which despite being well intended, went beyond their mandated role.
- Tabulation. The start of tabulation was delayed considerably by the system of collection of voting materials. The tabulation process lacked detailed procedures such as who has the authority to correct mathematical errors and to quarantine results.
- Campaign period. The campaign was generally peaceful, with candidates free to assemble and to get their messages to the public. The ISIE attempted to level the playing field among candidate lists but appeared sometimes inconsistent in enforcing regulations. Carter Center observers heard allegations of campaign expenses exceeding the cap established by the law, and there were recurring reports of certain parties receiving financial support from foreign sources.
- Women participation. Tunisian women actively participated in the electoral process by casting their vote, attending campaign events, working as polling staff, and observing the elections. Given the quota on gender parity, there were many female contenders in the elections. However, women headed only seven percent of the lists.
- Voter education. Outreach by the ISIE mainly focused on basic information about the electoral process. Civil society organizations, often supported by international partners, undertook several initiatives to reach the public and explain the significance of the process. While valuable, these initiatives alone could not replace a comprehensive voter education campaign, much needed for the population to understand the election system and the mandate of a constituent assembly.
Background: The Carter Center received a letter of invitation from the ISIE to observe the electoral process in mid-July, followed by official accreditation on Aug. 4. The Center observed the NCA elections, deploying 65 observers who visited 272 polling stations in all of the state's governorates. The mission was led by former President of Mauritius Cassam Uteem and CEO and President of The Carter Center Dr. John Hardman. Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter accompanied the leadership delegation. Twenty-five different nationalities were represented on the observation mission.
The Center will remain in Tunisia to observe the final tabulation processes and resolution of electoral complaints for the NCA elections. The objectives of the Center's observation mission in Tunisia are to provide an impartial assessment of the overall quality of the electoral process, promote an inclusive process for all Tunisians, and demonstrate international support for this ambitious democratic transition. The electoral process is assessed against the Tunisian legal framework, as well as Tunisia's international obligations for genuine democratic elections.
The Center's observation mission is conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and Code of Conduct that was adopted at the United Nations in 2005 and has been endorsed by 37 election observation groups. The Center will release periodic public statements available on its website: www.cartercenter.org.
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A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 70 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; improving mental health care; and teaching farmers in developing nations to increase crop production. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide.