Port Vila, Vanuatu – In an effort to further strengthen and make the electoral process in Vanuatu more efficient and coherent, the Vanuatu Electoral Environment Project (VEEP) implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), has handed over 300 translucent modern ballot boxes and uniquely numbered tamper evident seals to the Electoral Office.
The handover ceremony was conducted in the presence of the Honourable Minister for Internal Affairs, Mr. Andrew Napuat, on 27 March at Ministry of Internal Affairs.
The translucent lightweight ballot boxes will replace the wooden heavy padlock ballot boxes that have been used in Vanuatu for the last four decades. The light weight of these new ballot boxes will also ease transport, distribution and storage challenges faced due to the geography of Vanuatu.
The use of numbered tamper-proof seals is a methodology applied in many places around the world for polling day voting procedures, as a measure to enhance the integrity and transparency of the electoral process.
VEEP is a technical initiative of the UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji, implemented through a small technical team in Port Vila, with the long-term objective of contributing to democratic development in Vanuatu, particularly by strengthening the capacities of the Vanuatu Electoral Office which is the operational arm of the Electoral Commission.
“The use of such seals adds to the integrity and transparency of elections, supporting Vanuatu in meeting the international standards of conducting credible and transparent democratic elections” Minister Napuat said.
The new modern ballot boxes and seals also aim to increase trust in the electoral procedures in Vanuatu, as voters and all electoral stakeholders including contesting political parties, and electoral observers will be able to physically follow the ballot cast in the ballot box. Also, the ballot box content cannot be tampered with, without it being shown through a visible sign of a broken seal.
“As part of our support to the Vanuatu Electoral Office, we are glad to hand over these materials which will contribute to the coherence of electoral operations country-wide, thus enhancing its credibility. It is part of our contribution to strengthening electoral processes in Vanuatu having in mind the long-term objective of integrity and sustainability”, Anne-Sofie Gerhard, VEEP Project Manager and Technical Adviser said.
In 2017, a set of 100 ballot boxes were purchased by the project and piloted in the 2018 Port Vila municipal elections and in the Tanna by-elections. After receiving positive feedback from polling and returning officers, the Vanuatu Electoral Office decided to move forward to implement country-wide application of these ballot boxes in all the 351 polling stations of the 83 islands. With these additional 300 ballot boxes, the total capacity increased to 400 ballot boxes, thereby facilitating concurrent national and local elections if required in the future.
Along with the institutional strengthening of the electoral authorities, the project follows the electoral cycle approach and also provides support in the area of voter registration, public outreach campaigns, political reform and regulation of political parties.
The Vanuatu Electoral Environment Project (VEEP) is an electoral assistance project of UNDP. It aims to contribute to the democratic development of Vanuatu by supporting the Vanuatu Electoral Office to fulfill its mandate to manage the political change process through credible, transparent, inclusive and sustainable electoral processes. VEEP contributes to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with a focus on SDGs 5 gender equality, 10 reduced inequalities and 16 peace, justice and strong institutions. VEEP is funded by UNDP, and the Government of New Zealand.\