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Carter Center Urges Tunisia to Guarantee Independence of Election Management Body

Contact: In Tunis Marion Volkmann +216 506 666 49; In Atlanta, Deborah Hakes +1 404 420 5124

The Carter Center supports efforts undertaken by the Tunisian government to create a permanent election management body (EMB), and urges the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) to enhance key aspects of the draft law recently submitted for its consideration to guarantee the legitimacy, independence, and transparent functioning of the future EMB.

In a July 10 statement, The Carter Center encouraged Tunisian authorities to launch a broad and transparent consultation process, including all relevant stakeholders, to build consensus on the key features of an independent body entrusted with future elections in Tunisia.[1] Before submitting its draft law to the NCA, the government held a series of discussions with the General Union of Tunisian Workers, the Tunisian League for Human Rights, and the Bar Association. These organizations had prepared jointly a draft law on the creation and functioning of an independent election commission. Despite efforts to achieve consensus, disagreements persisted on the mechanisms of selection and appointment of EMB members and the government presented its own draft to the NCA on July 27.

The government's official referral to the NCA hopefully will provide an opportunity for broader consultations with relevant stakeholders to uphold the right of citizens to participate in public affairs.[2] Consultations within the NCA should include political parties and Tunisian election observers' groups, many of whom already have prepared commentary on the draft law. In this context, The Carter Center wishes to reiterate its previous recommendations to assure the legitimacy, independence, and the transparent functioning of the future body.

While international standards do not prescribe whether an EMB should be composed of political or technical representatives, the appointment mechanism of members should aim to achieve broad support and confidence in the EMB's integrity to implement activities in a neutral manner.[3] The mechanisms proposed in the government's draft – based on an absolute majority vote – may not assure broad political support and could affect the perceived legitimacy of a future EMB.

According to the draft, a subcommittee within the NCA composed of the heads of parliamentary groups would preselect 16 candidates – either by consensus or, if none can be reached, by absolute majority. During a plenary session, each member of the assembly would then choose eight names from the preselection list and the eight candidates obtaining an absolute majority and the highest number of votes would be elected. The Carter Center encourages Tunisian stakeholders to consider adopting, at least at the level of the special committee, a qualified majority vote as a way to ensure that members enjoy broad political support.[4] Consideration also should be given in the law to mechanisms ensuring a gender-balanced membership.[5]

The independence of the EMB also could be enhanced by ensuring that the institution is endowed with the necessary resources and powers to perform its duties without relying on the goodwill of the government and the State administration. While the conduct of an electoral process requires the availability of human and material resources from the government, the draft law only requires the public administration to make statistics and data available, potentially hampering efforts to implement the electoral process. The Carter Center encourages Tunisian authorities to create a mechanism allowing the EMB to request human and material resources necessary for the conduct of the electoral process from public administrations. The inter-ministerial committee that supported the 2011 elections proved an essential and efficient mechanism to address issues and needs arising in the course of the electoral process in a timely manner. The Carter Center supports the renewal of a similar high-level mechanism rather than the creation of an administrative coordination and follow-up committee linked to the prime minister's office, as foreseen by the draft law.

Mechanisms to ensure transparency – essential to build confidence among stakeholders and meet international standards for the EMB's operations – should be spelled out more specifically in the law.  In its current shape, the draft stipulates only the publication of the rules and procedures in the official gazette and mentions the existence of a website. However, transparency is multifaceted and implies access to information, proactive, regular, and timely communication on decisions, activities, and technical aspects of the electoral process.[6] It also means consulting participants of the electoral process on a regular basis to promote their understanding and to verify their acceptance of decisions.[7] Measures to assure the principles of transparency and accountability should be included in the law.

Following its observation of the NCA elections, The Carter Center is monitoring the constitution drafting process and developments related to the establishment of institutional and legal frameworks for subsequent elections. The Center assesses these processes against Tunisia's national laws and international treaty obligations to which the country has obligated itself, including, among others, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The Carter Center has been following developments related to the establishment of a permanent EMB in Tunisia as envisioned by Tunisia's Constitutional Act. On July 10, The Carter Center published a report encouraging Tunisian authorities to promptly ensure broad consultations and the passage of the law creating a permanent EMB. The Center's reports and statements on Tunisia may be found at www.cartercenter.org


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"Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope."

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 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 to increase crop production. Visit www.cartercenter.org to learn more about The Carter Center.

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[1] "The Carter Center Encourages to Promptly Ensure Broad Consultations and Passage of Law Creating Permanent Independent Election Commission," July 10, 2012.

[2]International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, art. 25(a); Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, art. 8(1), 2.

[3] UN Human Rights Committee, General Comment 25 on "The Right to Participate in Public Affairs, Voting Rights and the Right to Equal Access to Public Service," para. 20.

[4]A qualified majority requires decisions to be made by a broader consensus (2/3, 4/5…). Electoral Management Design: The International IDEA Handbook, Chapter 4 "The Composition, Roles and Functioning of an EMB," 2006, p. 85.

[5]Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, art.3; CEDAW Committee, General Recommendation No. 5, para. 15.

[6]ICCPR, Article 19 para.2; UNHCR, General Comment 34,  para. 19.

[7]  Code of Conduct for the Ethical and Professional Administration of Elections, IDEA (1997), para. 15-17.

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