Time to bring Northern Irish Elections under international standards…

I was an observer in only one polling station last Thursday, but anecdotal evidence from candidates and activists at the Belfast count suggest that some of the abuses mentioned below were widespread.

Furthermore, election results confirm that which should be an antithesis of democracy: “vote management was good,” to quote the words of one teller.

May I therefore call, again, for all parties to come to a voluntary agreement on the conduct of elections, so that future contests do comply with international standards.

1 Outside the polling stations:

  • a) no campaigning from at least 24 hours before the start of voting;
  • b) all environs up to 50/100 metres to be totally neutral – no activists, no banners, no nothing – except for the use of unadorned vehicles and personnel ferrying old and/or infirm voters;

2) Inside the polling stations:

  • c) no collation of information by party agents as to who votes and who not; in a corner, incommunicado from both officials and voters, agents may observe the polling process in the round, but they should not be allowed access to information on the presence or otherwise of individual voters;
  • d) no assistance to these agents from polling station officials, stating (or sometimes shouting) the voters’ numbers from the electoral register and, in effect, assisting the party concerned in its campaign;
  • e) no transfers of this information by these agents to persons outside.

Of the above, all but the last are legal.  I saw two infringements and reported both, but no action was taken.  Furthermore, as noted above, such deeds may be widespread.

If, however, the above voluntary code were to be adopted, it would reduce the possibility of at least this form of cheating.

Peter Emerson was Election Observer for the Organisation of Security and Co-operation in Europe, OSCE, in over 20 elections in Central and Eastern Europe, 1996 – 2014.  Ambassadorial adviser to the OSCE in Bosnia, 1999.  International Trainer in Kosova, 2001.

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