A Pre-Election Assessment Report, March 30, 1992
At the request of the Malagasy Government, a team of elections experts was sent by IFES to Madagascar from February 23 to March 6, 1992 to perform an assessment of conditions and prospects for up-coming elections. Madagascar, after profound political change over the past year, is in the process of laying the foundations for its Third Republic. A new constitution is presently being decided upon and three sets of elections - a referendum on the constitution, local/legislative elections, and presidential elections - are to take place before year end.
The IFES team met with a broad cross-section of people, including members of both the new (transitional) and former governments, representatives of all the major political parties, the media, observer groups, church groups, and representatives of the foreign donor community.
The IFES team concluded that the potential exists for free and fair elections in Madagascar, but found that political conditions are not ideal because of sharply different views on all sides of the political spectrum about the existing constitutional system as well as the procedure for preparing and ratifying the next constitution. Also, there appears to be much mistrust between competing political forces. The team believes, however, that the conditions for democratic elections could be greatly enhanced by changes in the electoral code, and the provision of additional materials and funding for electoral operations. The team was impressed by the existing administrative structure responsible for elections (primarily the Ministry of Interior), which appeared adequate to handle its task. The elections officials the team met appeared competent and professional. As a result of its findings, the team has made recommendations, summarized in the last chapter, for procedural changes and the provision of election materials.
The principal changes regarding the mechanics of the elections would be to the Electoral Code and voting practices. These include:
• Restoring the government's responsibility for transporting the ballots all the way to the polling stations (presently, they are sent only as far as the 111 SubPrefectures; the candidates are then responsible for getting them to the polls);
• Retaining the used ballots in sealed envelopes for the purposes of a recount;
• Requiring that voters' thumbs be marked with indelible ink after voting to prevent double-voting;
• Facilitating procedures for appeal in the case of suspected irregularities.
The IFES team recommends material assistance in the form of:
• Voting screens (preferably cardboard variety);
• Locally-made ballot boxes;
• Computers to speed up compilation of elections results;
• Indelible ink.
The team also recommends training of high-level elections officials in Western electoral methods and technology.
The IFES team made contact with observer groups that are preparing to take an active role in monitoring the up-coming elections. The best-established of these is the CNOE (National Center of Election Observers). While CNOE was found to be composed of competent, articulate and well-intentioned individuals who truly want to advance democratic principles and practices, the team was not totally convinced of CNOE's impartiality. The Malagasy seem to agree that the presence of international observers would be beneficial. Our recommendation is that international observers be sent for the next elections (or referendum), but that they not be placed under the control of CNOE or other local observer groups.
Lastly, the team exposed its findings to the international donor community in Madagascar and recommended close coordination between the donors of all support activities to maximize the effectiveness of any assistance they will provide for elections in Madagascar.
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