For three days in September, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) gathered together over 80 members of Tunisia’s election management body, the Independent High Authority for Elections or Instance Supérieure Indépendente pour les Élections (ISIE), and its regional offices, known as the Instances Régionales Indépendentes pour les Élections (IRIEs), for a comprehensive training on the control of election campaigns and campaign finance. The training was organized in coordination with the ISIE and co-funded by the U.S. State Department’s Middle East Partnership Initiative project “Public Information and Outreach Assistance to the Tunisian Election Authorities” and the United Kingdom’s Arab Partnership Fund project “Supporting Tunisian Stakeholders in the Field of Campaign Finance.”
The workshop was designed to train the regional coordinators and members of the IRIEs as master trainers on the control of campaigning and campaign finance; the participants will return to their regional offices to train over 1,000 campaign finance controllers to monitor campaigning and campaign finance during both the upcoming parliamentary elections on October 26, 2014 and the presidential elections on November 23, 2014.
Over the past several months, IFES has worked with the ISIE to develop a Manual of Procedures for Controlling Campaign Finance, field visit forms for controllers and a template for campaign accounts, along with an instructional document, for candidate lists. The training incorporated these documents as a basis for instruction and discussed how the controllers of campaign finance will use them during the upcoming elections.
The training was opened by Chafik Sarsar, President of the ISIE, and facilitated by experts in campaigning and campaign finance monitoring who divided the three days into sessions on theory and practical exercises. Four experts from the ISIE’s Campaign Control Department and Training Department delivered sessions aimed at increasing the participants’ knowledge on the principles and procedures for conducting campaign activities as well as the methods and tools for monitoring campaigns.
In order to apply the theoretical knowledge to practical situations, the experts devised scenarios involving electoral campaigns for the participants to evaluate. The participants used the monitoring mechanisms and knowledge they had just received in order to identify any violations to campaign regulations and take the appropriate action in response.
The second half of the training focused on campaign finance and two experts from the Campaign Finance Control Department of the ISIE delivered sessions on the legal framework and procedures for campaign finance and methods for observing campaign finance. Participants took part in exercises to practice applying the monitoring mechanisms and knowledge to realistic scenarios by identifying violations, reporting in accordance with procedure, and determining the correct response to the different scenarios.
Chaima Hfaydh, a participant from the ISIE, said, “I had a similar experience in 2011, but I find that this workshop is closer to reality … participants asked questions about real life situations that the laws and regulations do not mention.” The participants came away from the training with both the theoretical and practical knowledge to train and coordinate campaign finance monitors from their regional offices.
Since the 2011 national constituent assembly elections, IFES has been supporting Tunisian institutions as they build their capacity to implement elections and monitor campaign finance. Through IFES’ project funded by the Arab Partnership Fund, IFES seeks to promote transparency and increased accountability of political parties. Through IFES’ project funded by the Middle East Partnership Initiative, IFES seeks to build the professional capacity and electoral knowledge of the ISIE and provide technical advice and support to effectively organize credible elections. IFES has organized regular trainings and provided long-term advice to Tunisian institutions as they develop regulations and procedures related to campaigning and campaign finance.