An Election Observer Promotes a Political Culture, in which Women Vote and Votes are not Bought

Somsri Hananuntasuk, ANFREL.

Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) is an Asian network of human rights organizations promoting democratization of Asia among others by conducting election observations, campaigning and research. KIOS met Thai Somsri Hananuntasuk, who has worked for ANFREL for over ten years. Ms. Hananuntasuk described her work as an election observer.

“We want to promote a new political culture, in which women vote and stand for elections, and in which votes are not bought. The right to vote belongs to everyone, including women, people with disabilities, elderly, refugees and prisoners.

Before an election observation mission observers familiarize themselves thoroughly on the situation of the target country. One has to know all parties and know who is who. On the spot we get acquainted with local partners who will help us with the practical work.

Prior to the elections we observe the election campaign. We meet with representatives of media and police, and investigate deaths and accidents happening during the election campaign – could they be related to the elections? As election observers we cannot interfere, we can only observe and pose questions. We have to be impartial, speak with all parties and check facts from many sources.

Being an election observer is dangerous. In Nepal, our observer was threatened; in Afghanistan, a suicide bomber triggered a bomb close by to our office. If election observers are not allowed in a country, I might travel there as a tourist. I will ride my bike from place to place and observe election locations from the outside.

There are not enough of us human rights defenders, which is why it is important for the victims themselves to start to stand up for their rights and get their voices heard. In the future the local people should themselves act as observers to their own elections so we would not be needed”.

KIOS funded an election observation mission by ANFREL in Aceh’s first local elections in 2006. Aceh peace agreement was signed in Helsinki in August 2005.

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