On February 19, Ecuadorans headed to the polls for general elections to choose the president and vice president, along with all 137 seats in the country’s legislature and five representatives to the Andean Congress. An expected presidential runoff is slated for April 2. According to the data sourced on the country’s National Electoral Council (CNE) website, about 12.8 million of the country’s 16 million citizens were eligible to vote this year, including some 380,000 expat voters. Voting is mandatory in Ecuador; turnout in the last general elections in 2013 was just over 80 percent.
The 2017 election marked the first vote since 2006 where the former President Rafael Correa did not appear on the ballot. Correa announced last year that he would not seek a third term.
The Ecuadorean constitution was amended in December 2015 to allow for unlimited consecutive re-elections of political posts, including the president.
That transitional provision was proposed by President Rafael Correa in an effort to calm critics who accused the president of seeking to extend his time in power.
The delegation from MEC to the Ecuador elections observer mission is being led by the Commission Chairperson, Dr Jane Ansah SC, and has also the following members; Commissioner Ambassador Yahaya M’madi and MEC acting chief elections officer Ms Thandie Nkovole under the sponsorship of UN Women.
The importance of MEC taking part in international elections observation exercise cannot be over emphasized. We have seen how elections observation exercises has helped the Commission to improve some of the ways it conducts its elections.
International election observation has become so entrenched an element of the democratisation process in the last 25 years that we are now relatively used to seeing media coverage of the activities of, or assessments made by, international observers.
Recently when Malawi held its first ever Tripartite Elections, we saw a pool of international observers coming into the country to observer the elections. We saw the coming of short and long term observers such as the European Union, the African Union, Commonwealth among others. Some Electoral Management Bodies also sent delegations to observe the elections, notably were the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa, Electoral Commission of Zimbabwe and United Kingdom Electoral Commission.
Likewise, the Commission since its establishment has also participated in many observer missions, and mostly these are funded by international non-governmental organizations.
At its best, participation in international election observation can be an extraordinarily exhilarating experience. Observers often see critical moments in history unfolding before their eyes, as was in South Africa in 1994; and the joy displayed by people who were exercising their democratic rights for the first time is something that stays with one for the rest of his or her life.
At its worst, however, election observation may be the moment when one see people's hopes thrown into doubt or dashed; and when one, as an observer, are suddenly placed in a unique situation of responsibility to tell the truth to the world on their behalf.
Wherever MEC has participated in elections observer missions, it has always ensured that it gives a true reflection of what it has observed. Its reports are shared with relevant stakeholders as well as the managers of that particular election. This in turn has also helped the Commission to win trust of its stakeholders as was witnessed during the 2014 tripartite elections when we had a good number of observers coming into the country to observe the democratically conducted elections.