HL Deb 13 July 1993 vol 548 cc117-8

Lord Archer of Sandwell asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will ask the European Commission to encourage the Government of El Salvador to promote effective democratic elections in March 1994.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, we regularly discuss with the other EC member states and with the European Commission means of promoting democracy in El Salvador. We welcome the extension of the mandate of the UN observer mission in El Salvador (ONUSAL) to cover preparations for the March 1994 elections.

Lord Archer of Sandwell

My Lords, while thanking the noble Baroness for that welcome news, does she appreciate that the whole peace process rests on there being fair and free elections next year in which everyone can have confidence? If, as seems possible, something like 25 per cent. of the electorate are effectively disenfranchised, the whole process will lack legitimacy. Can the noble Baroness impress that on her colleagues so that the monitoring does not simply take place on the day but while there is still time to do something about it?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, the large monitoring team to be deployed by ONUSAL should ensure that the elections are free and fair and that all necessary preparatory arrangements are made. The legislative elections of 1991 were judged to have been free and fair according to international observers. ONUSAL is working with the electoral authorities in El Salvador to ensure that the problems to which the noble and learned Lord referred are, as far as possible, overcome before the elections in March 1994.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, has the noble Baroness noticed the published estimates that only 50,000 people will have been registered by the closing date of 13th December? Will she draw to the attention of her colleagues the possibility of the electoral process being conducted actively, particularly in the rural areas, instead of waiting for voters to come forward to ask to be registered? Would it not be better to have people going out, as they do in this country, in order to put the electors on the register?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, ONUSAL estimates that about one-third of potential voters are not included on the electoral roll. It will be working throughout the country to improve public awareness of the registration process and to verify that the authorities are taking correct steps to include all qualified citizens on the electoral register.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, following on what the noble Lord asked concerning the electoral register, can the noble Baroness tell the House what steps the Government are taking, either through the UN or the European Community, to establish UN monitors on the ground in the election process to begin registering people here and now? I do not believe that the noble Baroness's answer made that entirely clear.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, the UN observer mission is a large one and its life has been prolonged to cover the elections. If we consider nearer the time that we should send an observer to the legislative elections, any observers we or the EC send would be working closely with the United Nations.

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