The 2015 SADC Election Guidelines: Can They Work?

Voting station process

Photo: warrenski.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) first published election guidelines in 2004. They were nonbinding, included no input from civil society, outlined no consequences for violation, and resulted in largely political exercises. SADC’s 2015 revisions are much stronger, reflecting impressive commitment by the body to institutionalizing democratic norms. Under the revised guidelines, observers should: begin missions 90 days early to forestall problems and monitor intimidation; stay afterward to monitor post-election violence; and include civil society groups in their missions. Important terms like “free and fair” are now defined too, allowing SADC to more objectively apply consequences to those who infringe on the guidelines.

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Security Topics: Electoral Security