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South Sudan: Carter Center Praises Progress on Legal Framework,
Urges Informed Debate on Electoral Bill
Following a series of public hearings, South Sudan's National Legislative Assembly (NLA) is in the final review stages of a national elections bill to establish the framework for political competition in future elections in South Sudan. Taking into account that passage of an elections bill is needed to move forward with by-elections for vacant legislative seats at the state and national level, The Carter Center encourages all stakeholders to continue to contribute to a thorough debate on the draft bill.
In advance of the third reading of the legislation, the Center would like to raise several key issues to contribute to the discussion by members of the assembly, as well as for interested citizens, civil society, political parties, and other stakeholders. The Center offers these suggestions in the spirit of supporting parliament to craft a robust and credible electoral law that helps ensure South Sudan meets international standards and best practices for democratic elections:
Recent public hearings hosted by the Committee on Legislation and Justice on the draft elections bill indicate the assembly's eagerness to consult with citizens, civil society, and political parties. The hearings reflect positively on the Government of South Sudan's commitment to uphold the right of access to information and freedom of expression, as required by the Transitional Constitution. The Carter Center commends the committee's leadership in organizing the hearings, as well as those participants who offered clear and informed views and constructive feedback to the committee, which resulted in several positive changes to the legislation. Further, the hearings are a welcome sign of the assembly's commitment to foster a climate of transparency, inclusion, and participatory government.
Thus far, debate has been open and well-attended by government policymakers and has included views from a range of political parties and civil society representatives. This openness in light of other pressing concerns, most notably an austerity budget and negotiations with Sudan over oil pipeline fees and other issues, demonstrates South Sudan's commitment to establishing a legal framework for a democratic government that reflects the will of the people. The recent passage of the Political Parties Bill on Feb. 29 offers further evidence of this commitment. As the national elections bill goes through the final stages of debate, The Carter Center urges all interested stakeholders to continue to take part in the process and to ensure that important issues raised in the debate are carefully considered. South Sudanese are encouraged to exercise their democratic rights as citizens to express their thoughts and concerns regarding the framework for future elections.
Given South Sudan's recent history and ongoing internal conflicts, initial efforts at creating a credible and open democratic legal system should be encouraged and strengthened. Passing laws that meet South Sudan's international and national obligations is only the first step; an equally important second step is to ensure these laws are faithfully implemented and widely understood across South Sudan. While this will present an ongoing challenge, it would be an encouraging sign if South Sudan's lawmakers can continue to show their resolve to support democratic laws and reforms, even in tough times. Looking ahead, The Carter Center recommends the government ensure the public is widely informed of the national elections bill's content once it is passed, so as to guarantee that all citizens have a genuine understanding of their election system in advance of the debates that will occur during the review of the permanent constitution.
Background on the Carter Center Mission
Following observation of the 2010 national elections and 2011 referendum, The Carter Center has been working in South Sudan since January 2011 to monitor the transition period, including the constitutional reform process, at the invitation of President Salva Kiir and the government. The mission is supported by a joint Memorandum of Understanding between The Carter Center and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation on behalf of the Republic of South Sudan. The mission assesses the transitional process in South Sudan based on the country's obligations for democratic practices and civic participation contained in national legislation and regional and international agreements to which the majority of countries in East Africa have supported, including the African Charter on Human and People's Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Center issues periodic statements on its findings, available at www.cartercenter.org.
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. A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, the Center has helped 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 to increase crop production. The Carter Center began working in Sudan in 1986 on the Sasakawa-Global 2000 agricultural project and for more than 20 years its health and peace programs have focused on improving health and preventing and resolving conflicts in Sudan. Please visit www.cartercenter.org to learn more about The Carter Center.
 This follows upon similar public consultations held by the Ministry of Justice in October 2011. Both sets of hearings were supported by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).
 Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan 2011, Article 24(1).