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New transparency group to monitor Tunisian elections

By Jamel Arfaoui for Magharebia in Tunis – 03/08/09

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A new institution will observe Tunisia's upcoming legislative and presidential elections to ensure the transparency and fairness of the process. Announced on July 27th, the National Observatory for Elections will operate under the guidance of Tunisian Arbitration Centre Chairman Abdelwaheb El Behi.

El Behi revealed the full composition of the 27-member observatory on Thursday (July 30th). Membership includes 20 men and seven women from a variety of disciplines, including journalists, legal experts, doctors and university professors.

"Our mission is to attend to the good conduct of the next elections," he said at a press conference on July 27th. "We hereby undertake to do our duty according to the law and our consciences."

The observatory director stated that his appointment by Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who is up for re-election, would not affect his neutrality. "Ben Ali has called for the formation of a national observatory for elections not as a candidate, but as the head of state," he said.

Not everyone is convinced on this point. In a statement to Magharebia, elections monitoring expert Sami Naser expressed doubts over the neutrality of the observatory, noting that "they are of the same colour: the members belong to the ruling party or are close to it".

Naser, who has participated in monitoring efforts in elections in Morocco, Yemen and Bahrain, said: "If you give the monitoring task to the ruling party or people close to it, their role will be to recommend the election results. Meanwhile, if you give it to the opposition... they will cast doubts over their integrity. Therefore, what we need is an observatory neutral from all parties in accordance with internationally-recognised standards."

Sofiene Chourabi, a journalist with the opposition weekly Attariq Aljadid, called for drawing the observatory’s membership from within non-governmental organisations and associations. "I think that the creation of the National Observatory for Elections could play a major role in monitoring the violations and breaches taking place during the election period, provided it consists of representatives of independent associations".

Chourabi said that El Behi "won't represent a significant addition unless he tries to ensure absolute neutrality towards all political parties that take part in elections, and dares, without fear or reservations, to reveal the breaches that may take place during the next elections".

El Behi stressed the neutrality of the new organisation, saying it was not a "part of the electoral scene".

"It is only an element to activate guarantees for the electoral law and constitution," he continued. "The Tunisian judiciary alone can determine the validity of procedures and resolve disputes that may arise after the announcement of the results."

The National Observatory for Elections has several tasks already on its agenda, most important of which are monitoring the formation of electoral lists and the distribution of election cards to eligible voters, as well as ensuring that the campaign is conducted in compliance with electoral law.

Speaking to Magharebia about the funding and mandate of the observatory, El Behi said the government would bear the transportation and accommodation expenses of members, and that the national body seeks to train monitoring specialists. "However, this hasn't happened yet, so we depend on the experience of members and their knowledge of the law," he concluded.

The campaigns for the presidential and legislative elections will run from October 11th-23rd, leading up to a vote on October 25th. The full results are expected to be announced the following day.

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  1. Anonymous_thumb

    Tounsi 2009-10-20

    Once again, a waste of resource and gray matter by Tunisians. This so called independent observing body is nothing but a bunch of useless and "Fake" people who at the end of the day they will play an exact and predefined role in this bizarre theatrical play defined to them by Ben Ali, who continue to perpetrate this non sense on his people once every 5 years. He should declare himself King and Leila Queen and save us the aggravation. Tunisia never saw and will never see democracy, as long as Tunisians, who are very pacifist compared to other Arab/Muslim realize that this is a non ending play. Once Ben Ali is done, he will appoint his heir (son in law - husband of his daughter - Sakhr Metri). Sakhr will rule be another 30 years, then possibly (depending on how he grows up to be) he will pass the presidency back to Ben ALi line (Ben Ali son Mohamed Zine ben li is too young to rule now - he is like 5 years old) Absolutely maddening and we're in the 21st century...


  2. Anonymous_thumb

    سامي 2009-9-4

    I don't know how do these people who attribute themselves to Tunisian opposition measure the degree of democracy? Democracy is a very complicated issue and is stretched according to many socio-cultural data as well as the population and historical structure. The Tunisian opposition has no comprehensive political platform. It is just an opposition which has split up from the ruling party. We all know the causes of this rupture. Some of the causes are getting a chair in the first rank of the internal structure of the ruling party. There are also regional representation conflicts. The achievements realized by Ben Ali for the country, with the testimony of foreigners, weren't realized by the strongest democracy. Democracy isn't shouting morning and night. It is ensuring for people suitable housing, developed education, health and security for all. Stop complaints and sniveling. Opposition which is crying from outside should rather return to the country and struggle in order to impose its platform, if it has one. It shouldn't just sit in the British and Swiss paradise, manipulate feelings and expectations of poor people inside. They shouldn't imagine themselves returning one day on the backs of tanks as it happened in Iraq. If these are their hopes, we tell them they are very forlorn.


  3. Anonymous_thumb

    Judge Dredd 2009-8-30

    HOW CAN YOU HAVE A TRANSPARENCY GROUP TO MONITOR ELECTIONS WHEN The observatory director stated that his appointment by Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who is up for re-election, would not affect his neutrality??? HOW CAN YOU HAVE A TUNISIAN MONITOR APPOINTED BY THE PRESIDENT WHO IS UP FOR RE-ELECTION...Im no political activist but this smells of something fishy.


  4. Anonymous_thumb

    mouldi maaroufi 2009-8-13

    Who will look after the tunisian people,the needy and the poor the old and the young ,who would make the arabic dream come true, who would strive for world harmony and peace.Who would give the shine to tunisia the old tunisia and the new tunisia.Who would achieve the dream of the old and the hope of the young of tunisia today and tomorrow.Tunisia is the land of the greats from phoenician civilisation ,carthage hannibal ,kairouan ibn nafaa to bourguiba and last but not least ben ali may he achieve his hearts desire.


  5. Anonymous_thumb

    yezzi 2009-8-5

    To start with, I am addressing myself to the head of electoral monitoring to notify him that Mr Ben Ali’s electoral campaign began at the beginning of time. Take a look at the slogans he has hung over all of Tunisia’s territory (e.g., the Tunis-Hammamet Highway), all of which were paid for with public money.


  6. Anonymous_thumb

    Anonymous 2009-8-4

    Let us be serious. All Russians (except the fascists) agree today that Stalin was, together with Hitler, the greatest criminal and worst dictator of the 20th century. But these two criminals used when they were in power to get the same wonderful results as Ben Ali during his elections. To be honest, not exactly the same, because Ben Ali does slightly better. But they had the decency of not nominating any Observatory to monitor their elections and not inviting any foreign observers to witness that everything was transparent. Dictators of the 20th century had still some decency and some style. But is there anybody who really thinks that the presence of national or international monitors would have led to defeat Stalin or Hitler at the polls? In totalitarian regimes many people if not the majority will vote for the dictator because of fear. Tunisia has been experiencing more than 50 years of dictatorship, repression and humiliations. This situation has produced a frightened nation with little or no democratic education. Tunisia is still considered as an underdeveloped country. Democratically, it is very, very underdeveloped. But despite that the regime continues to cheat and manipulate the results. Not because this is needed but as a matter of arrogance and defiance. The only Arab dictator who did better than Ben Ali at the polls was Saddam who got 100% votes in his last presidential election. Ben Ali never went beyond 99,99%. Did he know beforehand that 100% would lead to the hanging of Saddam?


  7. Anonymous_thumb

    Anonymous 2009-8-3

    This so-called "monitoring" is just a revived old hoax to throw powder in our eyes. The head of the monitoring already did the same thing during the last presidential elections in 2004, to the satisfaction of his master. The members are pseudo-intellectuals or pseudo-journalists who have been selling their souls to the devil for a long time now in order to make a career. This is the way you climb the ladder in a dictatorial and corrupt country. When Abdelwahab Béhi was president of the Bar Association, he managed to build a cell in the inside order of the party in power that had to remain far from politics. But, the party's cells were cancerous and began to spread throughout all of the social tissues of Tunisia and eat it away to the point of death. What neutrality can we expect from Mr Béhi or the zealot Amna Soula, appointed by Ben Ali to be senator and the Chief Council of Communication or, in other words, government propaganda? The rule in Tunisia is well known: "I scratch your back; you scratch mine." This also applies to foreign observers in search of profit such the former Algerian minister Miss Ben Hbiles, who showed no embarrassment in receiving an award for human rights with Ben Ali's name on it - considered one of the worst Arab dictators, which does say something. International human rights organisations no longer know what to do with him. Another human rights admirer of Ben Ali's mould is the Italian Gaitana Pace, who dedicated a laudatory book to him on the Tunisian presidential website. She even coordinated with a bunch of Italian accomplices in order to come to Tunisia and bring Ben Ali a human rights award. And this comes in spite of his prisons spewing forth tortured political detainees.


  8. Anonymous_thumb

    عدنان الحسناوى 2009-8-3

    Members of the observatory are figures who are associated with the ruling party and knowing for their loyalty to the president (candidate of the ruling party). They cannot be impartial or objective. This observatory is a temporary propaganda body and not an observatory to monitor elections according to international standards. As of the sources of its funding and fate of the report it will issue, we understand that it has no independence and thus no credibility. Why was its membership not made from an agreed list representing all legal parties which will participate in the electoral process???