Counting the Votes and Proclaiming Results
The process of vote counting and the proclamation of results are undoubtedly the moments which polarize the attention of all competing candidates in Chad. Therefore, they must be conducted on the basis of clear and well defined procedures and deadlines.
The counting of votes and the proclaiming of provisional results
In Chad, votes are counted immediately after the last voter has cast his/her ballot. Article 67 of the Electoral Code sates that votes shall be counted by a committee including all the members of the polling station and 4 overseers recruited among the voters of the polling station who are present and literate in either French or Arabic.
Before starting the counting process, all members of the polling station must sign the attendance sheet, subsequently, the ballot box is opened by the aforementioned committee. The number of votes found in the ballot box must be compared to the number of people who have voted and signed the polling station’s logbook. Any discrepancies at this level should be indicated in the minutes.
In the presence of delegates of political parties, the four overseers conduct the counting process under the supervision of the polling station members. One overseer unfolds the ballots one after the other and then hands them over to the second overseer who reads in a loud and clear voice the name of the candidate who received the vote. The other two overseers each have a form on which is recorded the number of votes received by each candidate on the basis of the results read by the other overseer.
At the end of this process the results of the vote are recorded in the minutes which are signed by all of the members of the polling station as well as the delegates representing competing candidates or political parties. If they desire, these delegates may include their own observations or reservations in the minutes. A copy of the minutes is issued to each of the delegates as evidence that they may use if they decide to challenge the results. Subsequently, the President of the polling station reads the results in loud voice and he/she must post them at the front of the polling station. Posting the results the same evening of the vote is done in an effort to make the results available to citizens who can then verify their credibility. The results are computed by the local chapters of the CENI (National Independent Electoral Commission) and subsequently consolidated by the CENI at national level.
It should be noted that the refusal to issue the minutes of the polling stations to the delegates of candidates or political parties is an infraction punishable by the Electoral Code. The CENI proclaims provisional results after the consolidation of all the minutes of its local chapters. It is mandated to proclaim the provisional results within 15 days after the election.
The results are made public for each electoral constituency. The results for each polling station are also kept by the CENI and made available to competing candidates and political parties as mandated by Articles 71 to 74 of the Electoral Code.
The Proclamation of official results
The Constitutional Court is in charge of proclaiming official results for national elections (presidential and legislative) and for referendums whereas the Supreme Court is in charge of the results for local elections (regional, departmental, municipal and rural).
The CENI must transfer the provisional results it proclaims to the Constitutional Court or to the Supreme Court immediately. These courts then verify the regularity of electoral operations and proclaim the final results. The time of the proclamations by the courts varies according to the nature of the election and whether or not candidates have pending claims about the regularity of the election.
For presidential elections, if there are claims failed regarding the regularity of the elections, the Court must adjudicate them and proclaim the results within 15 days. If there are no claims and the Constitutional Court deems that there are no irregularities, the final results must be proclaimed within 10 days, following the CENI’s notification of the provisional results to the Court (Articles 144 and 145 of the Electoral Code). Regarding legislative elections, Article 164 of the Electoral Code states, the Constitutional Court shall proclaim the results within 10 days following the expiration of the period during which candidates may submit claims regarding the election. As for local elections, the Electoral Code states that when candidates request that the Supreme Court nullifies or modifies the results of the election, the Court has 15 days following the claim to adjudicate the case. However, the Code does not state any deadlines about the proclamation of the official results (Article 188 of the Electoral Code). In reality, the Court has always proclaimed the results within 15 days after receiving provisional results from the CENI.
Elections are often a source of conflict. Disputes may occur at any stage of the electoral process. Usually, the electoral process is divided up in three phases: a pre-electoral phase, an electoral phase and a post-electoral phase. A set of norms and institutions have been established to deal with disputes which arise at each of the various phases of the electoral process.
Disputes over pre-electoral operations: Electoral disputes may occur in the pre-electoral phase regarding electoral lists, electoral cards, candidacies and the electoral campaign.
Disputes regarding the electoral lists or cards occurs when a citizen who fulfils the conditions required by law is prevented from registering as voter, or is registered on a list with errors, or simply may not have access to his/her electoral card. Such a citizen may contact the local chapter of the CENI to be registered, have any errors corrected, or to receive his/her electoral card. If no satisfactory solution is found at that level, the citizen may make a claim at the Departmental Court, as stated in Article 20 of the Electoral Code. This claimant may address a claim to the Departmental Court after notification by the CENI of its refusal to address the claimant’s grievances.
Disputes concerning candidacies arise when a candidacy is rejected or is challenged. In either case, a claim may be presented to a judge. The judge who has jurisdiction in such cases depends on whether it is a national election or a local election.
In the case of candidacy to a national election, the Constitutional Court will have jurisdiction whereas for local elections, the Supreme Court will have jurisdiction.
Disputes concerning electoral campaigns may involve competing candidates or the Government. Resulting litigation may be regarding the imitation of logos, symbols or other distinctive features or it may regard verbal attacks violating the honor and integrity of an adversary.
In the case of the imitation of logos and/or symbols by competitors, the claimant, files their claim to the CENI which will resolve the dispute by confirming the rights of the first candidate who registered the logo and/or symbol. The CENI will then require the imitators to submit new logos and symbols within 8 days, as stated in Article 120 of the Electoral Code. In the second case, the candidate whose honor and integrity have been personally attacked may make claims to the courts for reparation.
Claims against the Government may relate to several factors not limited to: partiality of the Government, barriers to candidates’ ability to move freely, denial of security and protection measures to preserve public order during political rallies, or unequal access to public media. Candidates who are victims of such occurrences may address claims to the appropriate institutions. These institutions may be administrative by status (CENI, High Council of Communication) or be part of the judiciary (Constitutional Court, Supreme Court). Article 117 of the Electoral Code, Article 4 of the Constitution, and Article 4 of the Political Parties Charter determine the filing of such claims.
Post-electoral disputes: Litigation regarding the conduct of elections or the counting of votes may also result during the post-electoral phase. The regularity of an election may be challenged due to the general atmosphere in which the election took place, the unjustified exclusion of a number of voters from the election, and/or a logistical failure which prevented the good conduct of the election. Such deficiencies may lead to calls for the nullification of the election as a whole, or a nullification of some of the results.
Disputes regarding the counting of votes may arise from a lack of familiarity with or clarity of the counting procedures. It could also result from the intrusion of armed individuals at the polling station during the counting process which could impact the work of the overseers. It may also result from the unjustified removal of a ballot box or the unjustified interruption of the counting process. All of these irregularities must be recorded in the minutes, by the delegates of political parties, to serve as evidence for the adjudication of any subsequent electoral disputes by the Constitutional Court or Supreme Court.
Useful links and documentary resources
- EISA Chad: Election archive: http://www.eisa.org.za/WEP/chaelectarchive.htm