GASABO - Following an invitation from the government, the European Commission (EC) launched its Election Observer Mission (EU EOM) in the country yesterday at Hotel Novotel.
Michael Cashman, the EU’s chief observer for Rwanda revealed that the EU has deployed 80 observers for the parliamentary elections scheduled for September 15–18.
Cashman stressed that the EU team is the largest single group of international observers for the upcoming elections, a fact that demonstrates “keen interest by the EU” in the country’s process of democratic transformation.
“A delegation of my colleagues from the European Parliament will also be joining us shortly before the elections,” he added.
“We will analyse the election environment both at a central and local level in all four provinces,” he told reporters, adding,;“In this respect, we welcome contact from all stakeholders.’’
He pointed out that their (observers) assessment is based on international standards for elections, and that they will refer to the best practices for democratic elections.
As part of its comprehensive observation, the EU EOM will assess eight areas of the electoral process: the legal framework, voter registration, electoral commission’s work, campaigns, political party and candidate registration, in addition to the media environment among other things.
Also key in their evaluation will be the voting, counting and tabulation of results in addition to the complaints and appeals procedure.
“Following the elections, the mission will issue a preliminary statement within 48 hours,” Cashman said.
He pointed out that important elements of the electoral process – finalisation of results, complaints which may arise and appeals procedures – will take place immediately after the preliminary stage.
“Thus a final report will be issued one to two months later. This will provide a comprehensive assessment of the entire electoral process and will include a thorough set of recommendations where necessary,” he said.
Cashman, however, did not want to comment on some seemingly controversial questions, arguing that it was important to maintain his neutrality.
“I have to answer your questions very carefully,” he said during the Q and A session that ensued, “and this is because I have to maintain my impartiality.”
He underscored that so far, the meetings he held with government were open and constructive.
“Given that we are here on the invitation of the Rwandan government, I think it portrays confidence in the process,” Cashman responded.
The EU sent an observer mission to the 2003 parliamentary elections and made a number of recommendations in its final report. Cashman said his team will analyse the extent to which these have been adopted.
He also commended the High Council of the Press for its recent initiative of setting up media guidelines for election coverage.