ASEAN Election Management Bodies’ Forum

by Eric Jude O. Alvia, NAMFREL Secretary General

from NAMFREL Election Monitor Vol.2, No.22

The wave of democratization sweeping throughout several regions has allowed the emergence of new democracies. Elections have been recognized as an important process in consolidating and sustaining these new democracies, with electoral management bodies (EMBs) becoming the prominent institution in respective societies. Given the importance and these responsibilities, EMBs felt increasing need to learn and share experiences and knowledge among their peers to share views and discuss common issues leading to the formation of the regional EMB associations. These forums are now regarded as a necessity to continue the improvement of electoral processes and for strengthening democracy.

With this impetus, the National Election Commission of the Republic of Indonesia (KPU) and the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) conducted the 1st ASEAN Election Management Bodies (EMB) Forum in Hotel Borobudur, Jakarta, Indonesia on October 3 to 5, 2011. The opening ceremony for the three-day forum was graced and hosted by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Comelec Commissioners Rene Sarmiento and Augusto Lagman with fellow election officials from Indonesia and Cambodia
The forum aimed to contribute to building democracy in ASEAN and to promote cooperation among South East Asian countries in the electoral field. It also provided a venue for peer support among EMBs as well as Election Monitoring Organizations (EMOs) in the region. The forum paved the way for EMBs, EMOs, the academic community, regional and international organizations and institutions, practitioners and specialists in the field related to electoral assistance as well as those working within the wider framework of democratic governance to exchange knowledge and experience among practitioners and experts from within and outside the region.

Simultaneous to the forum, Namfrel participated in a Public Session and Fair held for participants and the public where presentations were to interested members of the public, NGOs and the media. Booths were set up in an exhibition area for participating international governmental and non-governmental organizations to promote their work. The forum was also the occassion to launch two books: the International IDEA Handbook on Electoral Justice and IFES’ Guidelines to Understanding, Adjudicating, and Resolving Disputes in Elections (GUARDE).
Thematic areas covered during the plenary and thematic panel sessions included: Elections in the region - identifying problems encountered and things needing improvements; Gender & Elections – improving strategies and ways of increasing gender equality through election; Citizen Participation in Elections – discussion focused on how the public can effectively participate in exercising its sovereignty; enablers to participation, such as accurate voter registration and voter turnout; and hindrances such as complex electoral systems and poor voter education; Political Party and Campaign Finance – talks tackled the EMBs’ roles in terms of election campaigns, democracy building, and reporting and compliance arrangements; Towards Independent and Transparent EMB in ASEAN - common issues were discussed relating to the independence and transparency of Election Management Bodies in ASEAN; The Importance of Election Observation – EMBs assessed their implementation of their functions and responsibilities based on the international principles of democracy and governance, and discussed the principles and methods being used by election monitoring organizations to observe elections; Achieving Electoral Justice - discussion
The booth of Namfrel and the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) at the ASEAN EMB Forum
focused on the effectiveness of existing dispute resolution institutions and mechanisms and how they can be improved to promote the integrity of elections; Prevention & Mitigation of Election-Related Conflict and Violence – views were exchanged to understand election violence, its causes and consequences, and solutions, to guide national policy, legislation, and necessary institutional changes, as well as mechanisms EMBs can engage in to prevent violence; Arguments Surrounding Elections and Technology – discussed the implications of the increasing use of technology in electoral process; Aspiring for an ASEAN Electoral Community - a presentation was made and consensus was reached to recommend the shape and form of the ASEAN Electoral Community, within the context of the ASEAN Political Community. The forum was capped by all participants agreeing to push and abide by the newly minted Declaration of the ASEAN Electoral Community.

Philippine participants to the forum besides the Comelec were from IPER, Lente, PPCRV and Namfrel.