Spotlight on Pacific Islands Development Program: EWC Coordinates Election Observation in Micronesia

THE East-West Center’s Pacific Islands Development Program (PIDP) in cooperation with the Asia Pacific Democracy Partnership

coordinated the official observation for the national congressional and Chuuk state elections in the Federated States of Micronesia in March. An 18-member international delegation of government officials, academics, and civil society representatives observed the elections at the invitation of the FSM national and Chuuk state governments.

Dikutip dari/taken from East West Center.

Headed by Congressman Eni F.H. Faleomavaega of American Samoa and chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment, the Election Observation Mission included representatives from 10 countries, including Aotearoa (New Zealand), Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Palau, the Philippines, The Republic of Korea, Thailand and the United States.

On election day, observers traveled by land and sea to more than 50 polling stations in remote locations in three of the four states: Chuuk, Pohnpei and Yap. Individual team members shared their personal experiences and reflections.

“This was an invaluable opportunity to observe the democratic process of a developing nation,” remarked Robert Sullivan, a UH Manoa professor originally from New Zealand. “It was truly humbling to see the clear commitment of paid and unpaid election officials and volunteers from all walks of life.” He added, “Overall my role there was to learn about the people of Chuuk and how they make democracy work for them.”

“It was an impressive sight to see voters patiently waiting their turn to cast ballots, even if this meant standing in the hot sun,” stated Gerard Finin, deputy director of the EWC Pacific Islands Development Program and project director of the election monitoring delegation. “Despite the sensitive nature of having outside observers present for what in some cases were highly contested races, particularly state contests in Chuuk, there was a remarkable air of openness and impressive hospitality extended to virtually all of the groups visiting polling stations on Election Day.”

Scott Kroeker, a PIDP project officer and coordinator for the delegation, recounted his ordeals in getting to some of the poll stations:

“We trekked through the jungle in search of three or four polling stations supposedly located along a roadless stretch of verdant coastline. After passing several beautiful churches that seemed to rise out of the jungle we finally emerged at a small village where we found the only polling station we saw that day. It was located in the open veranda of someone’s house and the owner proudly retrieved the ballot box from its location locked in the main house. He showed us the box, which was also locked as it should be, and he told us that it would be opened at 7:00 a.m. the next day for the balloting to begin. After that hour and a half trek, covered in sweat, we felt like we had accomplished our mission. We had been able to observe pre-election activities and organization.”

Teguh Santosa, a journalist and an EWC degree fellow from Indonesia studying political science explained the observation process that the team members employed:

“We observed several items including how each committee organized the polling station and the voting booth; how the layout of each voting booth was set up; whether or not activities in the polling places were orderly and professional; how each individual involved in the voting process (i.e. poll workers, poll watchers, and the voters, etc.) perceived their role in the Election Day; whether the voters were able to cast secret ballots; and whether there was any presence of intimidation in the polling places.”

Members of the mission also observed the chain of transmission of the ballot boxes to centralized tabulation centers on Weno Island for the state level election and witnessed the tabulation process at various sites for the national elections. The national election committee in each polling place then sent the official results to the national election office by radio and text message followed by a written statement from each polling site.

Prior to the elections, Santosa and other team members interviewed local residents of all walks of life to gain a sense of how each candidate has actively mobilized their supporters. One college student told Santosa, “This year’s election is the most critical moment for the Chuukese. This is the last chance for the Chuukese to choose whether they would like to keep this kind of … life forever, or to change it to a better situation; whether they want to make the government really work for the people, or not.”

There is no formal political party in the FSM or Chuuk State. However, there are no restrictions or constraints from the government to form a political party. “It seems like people in FSM and Chuuk State just don’t consider political parties as a prerequisite for democracy,” Santosa remarked. “We can simply say that in politics, Chuukese and Micronesians in general tend to cast their political preferences based on personal relationships, clanship, and family-ties with the candidates. . . Nevertheless, the records show that the election turnout in the FSM and Chuuk State is quite high, around 80 percent.”

After the election, the delegation issued a statement congratulating the people of the widely dispersed Pacific island nation “for an open and spirited electoral process, and for conducting an election that generated high voter interest and was free of violence within the FSM.”

The Election Observation Mission was conducted under the auspices of the Asia Pacific Democracy Partnership, a multilateral collaboration of Asia Pacific countries to promote and strengthen democratic processes in the region. The East-West Center coordinated the project through a grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

Click here, here, and here to visit our blog for a more detailed account of some of the individual experiences and reflections on the Election Observation Mission.

Click here to view a selection of photos from the project.

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