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African Union observer mission to the legislative elections of 20 March 2016 in the Republic of Cabo Verde

By African Union Commission (AUC)

I. INTRODUCTION

According to the relevant provisions of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance and the Guidelines for African Union Electoral Observations and Monitoring Missions of 2002, the President of the African Union Commission (AUC), H.E.Dr. NkosazanaDlamini-Zuma, sent an observation mission to the parliamentary elections of 20 March 20 2016 in the Republic of Cabo Verde. This African Union Observation Mission (AUEOM) is the second observation mission that the African Union sends to the Republic of Cabo Verde.

Led by Mrs.Zainabo Sylvie Kayitesi, former President of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR), of Rwandan nationality, the AUEOM is composed of 20 observers, including parliamentarians of the Pan-African Parliament, members of the election management bodies and members of civil society and human rights organisations. These observers represent 12 countries, namely: Algeria, Angola, Burundi, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Seychelles, Swaziland, Togo and Tunisia.

The mission is supported by a team of experts from the AU Commission, the Pan- African Parliament and the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA).

Present in the Republic of Cabo Verde from 16 March, the AUEOM will remain in the country until 24 March 2016.

Through this statement, the AUEOM presents its preliminary findings and recommendations based on its analysis of the legal and regulatory framework, their consultations with electoral stakeholders, and the observation of voting and counting of votes. The mission will subsequently publish a final report containing a detailed review of the conduct of the electoral process in the Republic of Cabo Verde.

II. OBJECTIVES AND METHODOLOGY OF THE MISSION

The AUEOM aims to assess the consistency, credibility and fairness of the 20 March2016 elections in the Republic of Cabo Verde, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, the Declaration of the OAU / AU Declaration on the principles governing democratic elections in Africa, the Guidelines for African Union Electoral Observations and

Monitoring Missions, and the African Peer Review Mechanism. This assessment of the electoral process is also based on the national legal framework for parliamentary elections in the Republic of Cabo Verde.

During their stay in Cabo Verde, the AUEOM met with several national institutions. On 18 and 19 March 2016, the AUEOM organised an orientation and training session for their observers on the legal framework and the political and electoral context in the Republic of Cabo Verde. Observer teams were deployed to four islands, namely Santiago, Santo Antão, São Nicolau and São Vicente, on 19 March 2016.

On election day, 8 AUEOM teams observed the opening of polling stations, voting, closing and counting of votes in the following constituencies: North Santiago, South Santiago, Santo Antão, São Nicolau and São Vicente.

III. PRELIMINARY FINDINGS

A. Legal Framework

Cabo Verde's Constitution enshrines all the fundamental freedoms and civil rights. The right to vote is recognised by the fundamental law for all citizens over 18 years. The Constitution guarantees the right to be elected, the principle of universal, free, direct and secret suffrage, and the right not to be discriminated against based on race, origin, sex, language, religion, socio-economic situation, and political and ideological views.

Cabo Verde's Electoral Code creates a regulatory framework for the organisation of transparent and inclusive elections. However, the AUEOM noted that Articles 105 and106, regulating the electoral activity of the media and the use of professional musicians during election campaigns, were submitted to the Constitutional Court, at the request of the President, for a judgment on its constitutionality.

The AUEOM welcomes Cabo Verde's legal provisions and mechanisms for early voting by people on duty and outside their usual areas of residence on election day, as well as for hospital patients and prisoners.

The AUEOM is of the opinion that the legal framework for the elections of 20 March 2016 in Cabo Verde is conducive for the exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms by Cabo Verdean citizens, and complies with relevant international standards in this area, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.

B. Election Management

The AUEOM noted that the members of the National Elections Commission (CNE) are selected by a qualified majority of the members of the National Assembly, which reflects a consensus of the main political forces. According to the findings of the Mission, the CNE is seen by all electoral stakeholders as an independent, qualified and competent body.

C. Voter Registration and Voters' Register

The AUEOM notes with satisfaction that voter registration is a continuous process based on the use of biometric technology. The Mission was informed that all voters had sufficient time to consult the electoral register and request corrections if necessary. The AUEOM noted that electoral stakeholders trust the integrity of the voter registration process and the voters' register.

Cabo Verde has taken the necessary steps to allow its citizens living abroad to be registered in the electoral roll and vote. The AUEOM welcomes the inclusion of this significant segment of the population in the electoral process. Cabo Verde is therefore part of the small group of African countries who work for the inclusion and participation of citizens living abroad in the electoral process, despite the financial cost that this entails.

However, the voters' register in five countries in the diaspora was not updated in five countries1, thus depriving some Cabo Verdean citizens resident in those countries of the right to vote.

D. Candidate Lists

The Mission noted that all the political parties that presented lists of candidates to the courts were allowed to participate in elections. Some lists were, however, rejected in some constituencies due to irregularities. The Mission observed that the Constitutional Court, upholding the principle of inclusion and fairness, decided to restore the right to participate of electoral lists that had initially been excluded by the lower courts for not meeting the requirements for the minimum number of alternate

candidates.

E. Women's Participation

The AUEOM noted the good representation of women in election management bodies. It also noted, however, the under-representation of women as candidates and as leaders of parties at national level. Only 21% of candidates were women and women were at the head of only 14.6% of the lists. Only one of the six parties in dispute had a woman as candidate for prime minister.

F. Media

The Mission welcomes the legal steps taken to ensure the impartial election coverage by the media and welcomes the public media efforts to grant political parties comprehensive,fair and balanced coverage of their campaign activities. The Mission also welcomes the efforts of the Regulatory Authority for Social

Communication.


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