It is common practice for international envoys to flock into countries during election periods, especially targeting African nations which are marred with a history of political violence. These groups are deployed to states to ensure that elections are held peacefully, transparently and with no favor or prejudice towards candidates contesting in the polls.
Usually, with no clear outline of confirming that election was credible and held professionally, there is just a press release from these various envoys endorsing or denouncing the manner in which an election was conducted.
According to a United Nations publication – Osagi Women Peace and security it is stated, “observation can help promote and protect the civil and political rights of participants in an election.”
This has been a mandate that has been neglected by the observation envoys.
The recent nullification of the Malawi presidential results brings into question if the international observers really serve their purpose. The Malawian polls were endorsed by various organizations including African Union, SADC, European Union amongst others alleging that it was held in a credible manner.
The purpose of such observation missions is to boost public confidence in the election process and how it is conducted.
After the constitutional court nullified the Malawian presidential election results and taking into account the evidence that was adduced, it is baffling to not that observers t highlight the brazen irregularities that were in the election.
In the same breath, the Kenyan elections 2017 presidential elections were also endorsed by the international observers and those from within the region.
Does this entail that the observers do not come to participate in the said missions for which they are deployed, or is it inadequate training?
The evidence adduced in the Malawian case shows electoral return form figures were changed using Tippex and fake tally sheets were used but the observer missions still endorsed the elections.
There is a need to revisit how they operate to ensure that their mission is to foster and safeguard the democratic rights of the local people. It is quite clear that if a country does not have an independent judiciary corruption and the robbing of elections occurs. The independent judiciary seems to be not only the last line of defence but the only line of defence of the people's votes and political rights.
Citizens count mostly on the foreign observer missions as they are seen to have no direct interest in the governance of the country. Of late the observer missions just rubber stamp and are clearly not credible or reliable. Without the Supreme court in Kenya and the Constitutional court in Malawi, the people’s democratic rights would have been compromised.
There is a need to revisit the formulation, training, and execution of the duties of observers. There is too much at stake for organizations to shamefully endorse elections that are laced with irregularities and illegalities.
In most cases, the next 4 to 5 years of a nation would have been decided on faulty grounds that could have been averted had it that the observer was qualified and honest.
The security of elections and people’s democratic rights are highly hinged on 3 institutions electoral body, election observers and the judiciary. All institutions involved in the election process should be independent, impartial and highly efficient well-oiled machines. They need to execute their tasks to perfection and they should keep each other in check. The moment one is compromised it can poison the entire process. Leaving a country to live with the election result birthed from a poisoned chalice of electoral misconduct, gross illegalities, and irregularities.
Without proper restructuring, there is no need for international observers as they have slowly evolved into ceremonial envoys for organizations to allege they are doing their part. In essence, it is clear the observers just get deployed and in this is clear with the case Malawi and Kenya.