On the ground, work of observer groups requires an understanding of the registration process, election campaigns, coverage from national media and other aspects relating to administration and preparation for an election.
International observer groups like ours bring a significant amount of expertise. Their profile - with members often including former Prime Ministers and Presidents - attracts worldwide media coverage. For example, Dr Kenny Anthony, who chaired the Commonwealth Observer Group in Sierra Leone, is a former Prime Minister of St Lucia, in the Caribbean.
Christiana Thorpe, Chairperson and Chief Electoral Commissioner of the National Electoral Commission in Sierra Leone, says that the international presence which groups bring, demonstrates that “a country’s democratic practices are acceptable to the whole world.” She adds that the “rigorous and strong support from the Commonwealth” gives the “local people confidence to participate in the process.”
We organised a workshop with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association on the relationship between government and opposition for Commonwealth West African countries, and Liberia, in the Nigerian capital Abuja. This workshop was delivered in co-operation with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and with the support of the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
It explored issues on: the work of government; the work of the opposition; the challenge of leadership; political parties and elections; the role of parliament; accountability, as provided for by oversight institutions, the media and civil society; and the broader context, especially regarding gender and human rights. Participants came from Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, The Gambia and Liberia.
We placed a Media Expert in Malawi’s Electoral Commission to help them better manage their relationship with the media and to monitor coverage of the election campaign. The aim is for a more transparent management of the election and a fair and free environment for election campaigns.
The expert is responsible for developing a media and communications plan; advising and supporting the Electoral Commission on communications; developing a media code of conduct; identifying and training a media monitoring team, developing a media training programme on election coverage and the role of the media in a democratic election.