The 2015 SADC Election Guidelines: can they work?

SADC's new guidelines for election observation could transform election observation into a powerful tool for early warning and conflict prevention.

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SADC’s new guidelines for election observation, adopted in 2015, are intended to fill some of the gaps from its earlier version, which was published more than a decade ago.

The 2015 Revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections encourage observers to begin their work at least three months before the polls, to be present during the election and to remain for some time afterwards.

The aim is to give their reports the right context and help to forestall post-election violence. The new framework also recommends the inclusion of civil society in SADC observer teams.

Will countries accede to the new guidelines? There are penalties for those that do not.

About the authors

Dr Kondwani Chirambo is an independent electoral expert. He facilitated the consultative process to the revision of the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections, under the auspices of SEAC and was also a key drafter. He has observed 13 elections in Africa and is a former director of the Governance and AIDS Programme of Idasa. He has also served on the AU’s Technical Advisory Committee to the African Governance Architecture. He holds a Dlitt et Phil degree in communication science from UNISA.

Dimpho Motsamai joined the ISS in 2010 as a researcher in the Conflict Prevention and Risk Analysis division. Her work focuses on SADC’s peace and security policies; and conflict vulnerability dynamics in Swaziland, Lesotho, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and Mozambique. Dimpho studied at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in Johannesburg and holds a master’s degree in international relations. She is currently pursuing a doctoral degree at the Wits School of Governance.


Development partners
This report has been made possible with support from the government of the Netherlands. The ISS is also grateful for support from the other members of the ISS Partnership forum: the governments of Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Japan, Norway, Sweden and the USA.
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