Testing biometric voter registration Kit - The future of elections in Yemen

17 Jun 2013

imageA row of girls taking part in a mock voter registration exercise stand outside a voter registration center in order to test biometric voter registration kits for an upcoming biometric voter registration campaign in Yemen


SANA’A,  Long-considered controversial, outdated and political fractious, the current voter registry is being reformed.  The Supreme Commission for Elections and Referendum, SCER, with technical support from the international community, , is leading a massive and ambitious project to transform the hand-written, and labour-intensive registry process into a biometric voter register that will ensure security and electoral integrity for years to come.

"This is one of the many and crucial steps needed to make this a successful electoral and civil registration project," says Judge Mohammed Hussein Al-Hakimi. "Over the course of the year, with the help of experts from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), and donors such as Sweden, Saudi Arabia, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Japan, Turkey and the European Union, the SCER has pledged to reform and build a more streamlined system for registration."

Mr. Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the United Nations Resident Coordinator, echoed the commissioner's sentiment, and pledged support to the system as it is an integral portion of the transitional period, as Yemen will undergo several electoral and referendum-based events over the course of the next year.

"This is a step forward on the course of changing how Yemenis register both for elections and referenda," Mr. Ould Cheikh Ahmed said. "This could also be useful when streamlining government processes.”

On Thursday 13/6/2013, a massive tent was set up only steps away from the official walls and meeting rooms of the SCER. The gathering included political parties, civil society organizations, media outlets, students and professors of Sanaa University, and commission employees, who all listened intently as the Chairman of the Commission, Judge Al-Hakimi, outlined the initial steps to reforming the voter registry in the country and highlighting the unprecedented synergy between two governmental bodies.

Three companies have been invited to present and test their equipment and voter registration solutions for a chance to make that undertaking happen with their best technology. Over the course of the next four days, their best will be put to the test in a phase designed by UNDP electoral experts and the commission's staff, in order to challenge their systems and software in Yemen's demanding operational environment. 

The three companies, from Belgium, France and The Netherlands, were selected through an open and transparent procurement process headed by UNDP’s Global Electoral Procurement Office located in Copenhagen, Denmark. The three companies arrived in Sanaa to undergo a technical evaluation as well as field testing of their voter registration equipment, signaling the near end of an intense procurement and technical process coordinated by UNDPs Support to the Elections during the Transition Project in support to the SCER. 

 Beneath the flowing fabric of the tent stationed behind the walls of the Commission in central Sanaa, Judge Al-Hakimi praised the United Nations and its partners for its technical support throughout the process, as the commission prepared to embark on the final stages of selecting a company that will provide the necessary equipment, technical know-how and expertise to deploy thousands of voter registration kits into the hands of the SCER voter registration centers. 

UNDP electoral experts, both globally and stationed with UNDP-Yemen, have been pouring over strategies, project documents, and technical specifications in order to ensure the right fit of equipment matches the strategic vision and technical specifications established for a fingerprint and photo-based biometric voter registration system planned to be rolled out in the coming months