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At the invitation of the Government of Vanuatu, the Commonwealth SecretaryGeneral, Kamalesh Sharma, constituted an Observer Group for the 22 January 2016 General Election. The Commonwealth Observer Group was chaired by Rt Hon Hubert Ingraham, former Prime Minister of The Bahamas, and comprised five persons in total. The Observer Group was supported by a four-person team from the Commonwealth Secretariat. A full list of members is at Annex I.
Terms of Reference
The Terms of Reference of the Observer Group, as set out by the Commonwealth Secretary-General, were as follows:
“The Group is established by the Commonwealth Secretary-General at the invitation of the Prime Minister of Vanuatu. The Group is to consider the various factors impinging on the credibility of the electoral process as a whole.
It will determine in its own judgment whether the elections have been conducted according to the standards for democratic elections to which the country has committed itself, with reference to national election-related legislation and relevant Commonwealth, regional and other international commitments.
The Group is to act impartially and independently. It has no executive role; its function is not to supervise but to observe the process as a whole and to form a judgment accordingly. It would also be free to propose to the authorities concerned such action on institutional, procedural and other matters as would assist the holding of such elections.
The Group is to submit its report to the Commonwealth Secretary-General, who will forward it to the Government of Vanuatu, the Electoral Commission, leaders of political parties, and thereafter to all Commonwealth Governments.”
The Observer Group was present in Vanuatu from 15 to 25 January 2016. During three days of briefings in Port Vila, the Group met a broad range of stakeholders, including: the Vanuatu Electoral Commission; political party representatives and candidates; civil society groups; women’s representatives; youth representatives; media; Commonwealth High Commissioners; and other international observers (Pacific Islands Forum and Melanesian Spearhead Group). The Chairman also paid a courtesy call on His Excellency Womtelo Reverend Baldwin Lonsdale, President of Vanuatu, and the Group separately met the caretaker Prime Minister, Hon Meltek Sato Kilman Livtuvanu.
The Chairman of the Observer Group issued an arrival statement on 18 January 2016 at a press conference in Port Vila (Annex II). The Observer Group was deployed from 20 to 23 January 2016 to Espiritu Santo and Tanna. Two teams covered Port Vila and Efate (Annex III). The teams observed the distribution of materials and met with election officials, civil society representatives, police, candidates, members of the public and other observers in their respective areas, and built a comprehensive picture of the conduct of the process.
On the basis of the Observer Group’s initial findings, the Chairman issued an interim statement on 23 January 2016 (Annex IV).