Tunisia's elections under scrutiny

Article Summary
Tunisian civil society is gearing up for parliamentary elections by preparing election monitoring mechanisms to report violations in real time.

In the run-up to the parliamentary elections of 2014, four days before a decisive vote for the future of Tunisia, Tunisian civil society is getting active and carrying out its observation missions in the field. The observation network, Mourakiboun, has been working for months to put in place a quick vote-count platform on which it will rely to observe the upcoming presidential and legislative elections.

On Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014, Mourakiboun chose to have Tunis as its headquarters, through which all observation operations will be monitored and centralized. A simulation of the voting day was carried out to lay down a parallel vote tabulation (PVT) mechanism. For this purpose, 4,000 NGO observers deployed throughout Tunisia sent text messages to Mourakiboun’s headquarters, which including a code related to the polling station where they are assigned.

The PVT to be used by Mourakiboun is a mechanism that will allow the NGO to receive real-time data and quickly turn it into figures on the conduct of the electoral process. Speaking during the simulation, Mourakiboun’s general coordinator, Rafik Halouani, said that the program will ensure monitoring all election stages, from the opening of the polls until the announcement of results and supervising compliance with legal procedures. Such a procedure is conducted internationally and has been recognized for its reliability in verifying the integrity and transparency of the electoral process in countries in democratic transition. Observers will examine the voting and counting at polling stations and will consequently draft an instant report on local results. From these reports, the election observation NGO will verify the official election results based on a representative statistical sample studied in the polling stations.

Anis Smaali, head of Mourakiboun's central team, explained, “The observers will be deployed in pairs and must be present for the opening hour of the polling station until the results are announced, i.e., from 6 a.m. until midnight or later. They will have a single and simple standardized form so that data is uniformly received in real time at the headquarters.” The PVT is a meticulous operation and we learned that observers had to undergo a one-month training to master the technique. “The fastest means to receive instant reports is through SMS. The observer fills in his/her form and sends the coded report by short messaging to the data collection center equipped with a central computer for receipt and analysis of the regularity of the data,” explained Smaali. Thus, Mourakiboun may collect reports from 4,000 observers in no time from all regions of Tunisia. In addition to the observers, the network has mobile teams constituting the supervision and coordination structures at the level of electoral districts.

These teams will ensure the smooth running of observation operations and verify that observers are present in the polling stations. The mobile teams will, where appropriate, replace absent observers to ensure a 100% representation of Mourakiboun. On the other hand, the command center, located in Tunis and fitted with a data-management system, will receive the observers’ SMS and analyze the regularity of the data. All observers are required to send their report at a specific time. These reports answer a number of questions included in the form, from the time of opening of the polling station, to the various violations likely to affect the electoral process, and obviously the election results.

Halouani asserted that the network’s central team will analyze the flow of instant data whenever it arrives and will monitor the results of the reports, for the purpose of holding, throughout election day, briefing sessions for the media at regular intervals to keep the public and interested parties posted on the voting process. According to him, the PVT is a sure-fire method that will minimize the margin of error and strengthen the credibility of the entire electoral process. “The PVT will reveal any tampering of votes and highlight the problems accompanying the voting process and the resulting negative impacts,” said Halouami. On the other hand, this mechanism will find solutions to electoral complaints in a peaceful way by minimizing political conflicts.

Tunisian civil society is actively participating in the observation of the 2014 elections. The Mourakiboun network has deployed considerable efforts and resources in this respect: The priority is to disclose any violation in real time and in full impartiality. The fruit of the work of organizations on the proper conduct of elections should materialize on election day.

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Found in: tunisia, technology, politics, north africa, elections, democracy
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