The National Election Committee Friday issued a new set of directives supporters say will clarify elements in the election law covering candidate registration which had come under fire from monitors and foreign donors.
In their new directives, which are scheduled to be faxed to each of the provincial and commune election committees around the country, the NEC essentially stripped provincial and commune committees of the power to bar a candidate from seeking communal office, a lawyer who advises the NEC said.
“It’s good news,” the unnamed adviser said.
Critics had complained that provisions in the commune election law covering literacy, national origin, and an article that would have barred entire slates of candidates if only one member of their party was disqualified, were not only confusing but could be abused.
The new directives, which the NEC adopted in a meeting Thursday, require both provincial and commune election committees to accept a candidate’s eligibility as long as the candidate has all of the proper paperwork filled out, the legal adviser said. If anyone thinks a candidate should be disqualified, that complaint must be taken to the NEC, which will be the ultimate arbiter, the adviser said.
Furthermore, once a slate has been approved, it cannot be disqualified, even if one of its members later withdraws or is banned, the legal adviser said.
The new directive does not change the election law, since the NEC does not have legislative authority. It merely reinterprets it, the adviser said.
Critics, including foreign donors, had complained that the provisions allowed too much room for fraud.
The new directives not only help ensure the credibility of the commune elections, they reflect the NEC’s growing maturity and stature, one observer said.
“It’s a great step forward,” National Democractic Institute resident representative Eric Kessler said.
Although getting the message out to all 1,621 communes and making sure the rules are enforced in the nine days remaining before commune candidate registration begins could be difficult, Kessler said he was optimistic.
“Often times, I am told, these last-minute instructions carry more weight than the law itself. When they send out these kind of instructions, they’re taken pretty seriously,” Kessler said. “The NEC deservers a lot of credit for this. What they did is good.”