Wrapping up a two-day ASEAN workshop on election observation held in Manila, the Philippines Commission on Elections released a statement highlighting the importance for countries in the region to use independent third-party observers as a way to assure the credibility of elections and to share experiences of election observation. “Election observation missions do not just offer insight into politics after all,” said COMELEC Chairman Andres Bautista. “The interaction of observers with a broad spectrum of stakeholders and the electorate also brings with it a more meaningful understanding of the culture, the aspirations and the values of the host country’s people.” The ASEAN workshop was jointly organized by International IDEA, the Philippines’ Commission on Elections and the Department of Foreign Affairs. Attending the event were representatives from several regional electoral management bodies (EMBs) as well as well as representatives from the European Union, the African Union.
Speaking at the conference International IDEA’s interim Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, Andrew Ellis said that the integrity of elections is a fundamental element of democracy, and electoral observers can have a vital role to play. “They can raise voter confidence and reassurance. They can provide feedback during the electoral process. They can share ideas and experience. They can give input when the expectations of electoral participants are dashed. They can give constructive recommendations for future electoral cycles,” he said. “IDEA is delighted to be able to support ASEAN in a practical way as it moves to implement the ASEAN Charter, by bringing together global and regional experience of electoral observation.”
- The Workshop is a means by which ASEAN Member States can pursue closer interaction and cooperation to forge shared norms and create common mechanisms to achieve ASEAN’s goals and objectives in the political and security fields, despite the different political systems within ASEAN.
- "Non-interference in the internal affairs of one another" is one of the principles explicitly underlying ASEAN's 1976 Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, has been highlighted as one of the major concerns among some ASEAN delegates about what election observation may present towards sovereignty and integrity of the state.
- However, Electoral Management Bodies (EMBs) and Election Observation Missions (EOMs) provide respect and give legitimacy to the sovereignty of the host country via the electoral process observed in a free and fair manner by the regional community without prejudice, bias and in a neutral yet professional manner. Elections are the first step to a legitimate government.
- EOMs should fully cooperate with EMBs, uphold all international principles, law of the land and its constitution while undertaking a free and fair election observation, being impartial in their assessment of the electoral process irrespective of its outcome.
- ASEAN, through its EMBs and Secretariat, should engage and work with Dialogue Partners and International Organizations for capacity building and strengthening the governmental institutions and departments in understanding the international framework on election observation, international principles of free and fair elections, and code of conduct essential for undertaking any election observation mission.