Call for ‘sufficient’ access to election observersThe Carter Center has stressed the need for allowing election observers sufficient access to the vote counting centres, arguing that restricted access in “a considerable number of counting centres” had limited the transparency of the poll process.
The Carter Center has stressed the need for allowing election observers sufficient access to the vote counting centres, arguing that restricted access in “a considerable number of counting centres” had limited the transparency of the poll process.
Making public its preliminary findings on Friday, the Center said that a final report that includes recommendations to help strengthen the conduct of future elections in Nepal would be published early next year.
“The presence of observers is integral to ensuring the transparency and integrity of an election, and provisions should always be in place to allow them adequate access,” the Center said in a statement. During the counting, Carter Center observer teams
were present in 27 districts throughout Nepal, including Phase 1 and Phase 2 districts.
The Center noted that in the centres where observers had sufficient access, ballot counting took place in a manner that was “generally consistent with international standards, despite widespread deviations from established procedures”.
However, a considerable number of counting centres restricted Carter Center observers’ access, according to the statement.
The decision to hold the federal parliamentary and provincial assembly elections in two phases meant that ballot boxes from Phase 1 needed to be stored for 10 days before being opened, “creating the risk of ballot-tampering”.
Polling in the first phase was held on November 26 and on December 7 in the second phase.
But in Phase 1 districts where Carter Center observers were present, the statement said, ballot boxes were safely secured and were under the close scrutiny of political party agents. The Carter Center reported no incidents related to the storage of ballot boxes.
The Center observed that after Phase 1 polling, the Election Commission of Nepal issued directives outlining official counting instructions.
“These were widely ignored, however, as most returning officers chose instead to work with political party agents to reach consensus on vote-counting procedures.”
In the counting centres where Carter Center observers were present, the deviations from the directives were intended to increase efficiency and avoid possible grievances and did not compromise the integrity of the count.
While these local-level agreements ensured overall acceptance of the process and results, they also led to inconsistencies, particularly regarding the determination of the validity of ballots, the Center said.
Party and candidate agents were consistently present in the counting centres and followed the process closely. Party agents reportedly did not make substantive complaints about the conduct of counting in the centres where Carter Center observers were present.
Sixteen of the 27 districts in which Carter Center observers were present provided full access to observers. The other 11 restricted access to varying degrees, according to the statement.
“Limiting observer access to this crucial aspect of the process is contrary to international standards, to the expressed intent of the ECN directives, and to the terms of observer accreditation.”