The Melanesian Spearhead Group Observer Group (MSGOG) Report was officially handed over by the MSG Secretariat to the Government of Vanuatu on Tuesday 23 June 2020.
Programme Manager for Political and Security Affairs responsible for Elections programme, Mr Ilan Kiloe welcomed the officials who were present to witness the handing over of the Report and stressed that the successful conclusion of the Observer Mission is a milestone achievement for the MSG.
Speaking during the official handing over, Acting Director General George Hoa’au expressed his appreciation to the Government of Vanuatu, through the Vanuatu Electoral Commission for the confidence given to the MSG Secretariat to observe the Vanuatu National General Elections on 19 March 2020.
Acting Director General, George Hoa’au made the statements on behalf of the MSGOG Head of Mission, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola of Fiji.
“The MSGOG was committed to undertake the Observer Mission despite difficult circumstances posed by COVID-19 to honour the Secretariat’s commitment to its Members and the invitation by the Government of Vanuatu,” he said.
The Acting DG informed the officials “the MSGOG is a mandate of our Leaders to observe national elections upon request by our Members”. He said that these observation exercise are part of the MSG Secretariat’s efforts to assist Members strengthen their electoral processes in accordance with the “MSG 2038 Prosperity Plan for All”.
Mr Kiloe also emphasised that MSG Observation Mission started in 2014 for the Fiji Elections, and followed by 2016 Vanuatu Snap Elections, 2017 PNG National General Elections, 2018 Fiji National Elections, 2019 Solomon Islands National General Elections and now the 2020 Vanuatu National General Elections.
For the Vanuatu Elections, the MSG Observer Group comprised Member representatives from Fiji, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and FLNKS. The MSGOG covered the four (4) largest constituencies in Vanuatu namely (Luganville (Santo), Tana, Malekula, and Efate – to ensure wider coverage of the election, in view of the limited resources it had.
The MSGOG Report observed that the outcomes of the 2020 were embraced by the citizens of Vanuatu and that the atmosphere was calm and peaceful. It was observed that all polling stations visited by the MSGOG teams were manned by committed polling officials performing their duties even in challenging circumstances. There was also the overwhelming presence of political party agents and security personnel which allowed for appropriate scrutiny.
The MSGOG report also observed that there are some challenges that the Vanuatu Electoral Office (VEO) encountered during the election period. However, while the report comprehensively covered all issues, one important matter that stood out was the drop-in voter turn-out. It was observed that the voter turnout was an average of 51 per cent, which is a significant decline compared to the 2016 Snap Election.
This may be due to many factors, some of which may relate to the recent challenges posed by COVID-19 and extreme weather patterns during the time of polling.
He said that overall, the MSGOG found that the 2020 Vanuatu National General Elections was successfully conducted and that the Group was encouraged by the manner in which the elections were conducted.
During his concluding remarks, Acting Director General, George Hoa’au reiterated that MSGOG had fully endorsed the recommendations put forward in the report and trusts that they will be found useful by the Vanuatu Government to guide the conduct of future elections.
He added that the MSGOG Mission was grateful for the opportunity to be in Vanuatu to conduct election observation.
A senior official from the Vanuatu Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Joe Pakoa, on behalf of the Vanuatu Government in receiving the report, conveyed his sincere appreciation to the MSG Secretariat for the Election Observer Report, and assured the Secretariat that the report and its recommendations will certainly be put into good use.