As a part of the various civilian activities led by the Center for Civil Society and Democracy in Syria (CCCDS), a four person observer team went to Kilis refugee camp on January 16, 2012, to supervise the elections and the procedures of voting in the five electoral centers where the voters were able to choose their candidates for the positions of governors and their assistants.
These recent elections come as a first step toward spreading the concept of election among Syrian people, which is considered to be an essential foundation for encouraging democratic practices, especially among refugees.
The elections didn’t meet established criteria due to limited voter participation and because the elections were confined to the Kilis refugee camp only. However, despite some existing issues with affected the primary trials, the elections did succeed in expressing the will of those who voted.
Results of the observers team of Kilis camp elections
Since its arrival in the camp, the team has watched the administrative and regulatory preparations and observed the procedures of voting and vote sorting. The team members also met with supervisors, voters, candidates, and representatives of many media outlets.
This is a summary of the team’s notes and observations about the elections in Kilis camp:
– Concerning the regulatory aspect: the impartiality conditions were met, as there was a secret room and transparent ballot boxes. The supervisors didn’t interfere in the voting and there were interpreters in each center to relay the voters’ questions to the supervisor committee.
– The regulation of the elections were based on the Turkish election regulations, so the candidate is forbidden from entering the voting center. Instead, only his representative is allowed to watch the voting procedures. The team noticed that each election center acted individually with regard to this regulation, and the adherence to this law differed from one center to another. In some centers, the candidate sat inside throughout the election, while in others, candidates were forbidden from entering the center.
– 350 Turkish employees (from the crews that are responsible of the camp) were allowed to participate as voters.
-At one center, unlike the others, the team noticed the existence of an electoral list under the name “Syrian Turkish Friendship” being advertised at the door and on the table.
– One candidate complained of the conscious absence of the ballot papers of his electoral list from the secret room, while he wasn’t allowed to enter the center according to the election regulation.
-The camp administration pressured voters to participate by broadcasting on the speakers inside the camp various messages about retribution for not participating including: banishment, transfer to another camp, ID deprivation, and purveyance credit reductions.
– The team noticed a lack of information among voters about the elections and the goal of them. There were no written instructions about the voting procedure, and the candidates did not even know what their mission would be in the event that they won the election. This information wasn ot available for the media either.
– Concerning women’s participation, which was almost equal to the men’s participation, the team concluded that that it was good compared to the historically low participation by women
The team’s recommendation for future elections:
-Election education program: the voters’ knowledge about their rights and the way to practice these rights is very essential. The team noticed that there was no campaigns about the importance of the elections, and that the candidates did not know their missions or duties in the case that they won. As a result of these observations, CCCDS recommends holding campaigns and election education programs.
– Forming an information center subordinated to the main regulatory committee of elections: the team noticed a severe lack of information and the absence of election resources. Thus, CCCDS recommends forming a database to provide both media and observation teams with this information.
The Electoral regulations
– The elections in Kilis refugee camp relied on the Turkish electoral regulations that are used to
Center of Civil society and Democracy in Syria | CCSDS