CARICOM Observation Mission gives The Bahamas elections high marks but notes pre-election day concerns
Posted in: Press Releases | 16 May 2017 | 66
The CARICOM Electoral Observation Mission to the 10 May 2017 General Elections in the Bahamas has praised the polling day activities, describing them as being “of a very high standard comparable with anywhere else in the Region”.
The Mission, in its Preliminary Statement, reported that polling stations opened on time, were fully staffed and were conveniently located and easily accessible to the voters including the disabled. They also noted the adequate supplies of material, and adequate security which they said contributed to the level of calm which accompanied the day’s activities.
The Mission however found that activities prior to Polling Day cast a shadow over the electoral process.
“For example, the unexpected change of the Parliamentary Commissioner just days before the election was a concern. ” the Mission’s Statement said, although it noted that this did not seem to have affected the quality of the election.
Other pre-election day concerns, including the late publication of the advanced poll register, voters inability to confirm beforehand if their names were on the advanced polling list and the incorrect polling station numbers being written onto voters card, can be addressed with the introduction and use of modern technology in the registration process, the Mission indicated.
The eleven-member CARICOM Electoral Observation Mission was led by Ms Josephine Tamai, Chief Elections Officer of Belize, with Mr. Orette Fisher, Director of the Elections Commission of Jamaica as her Deputy. The other Members, who all have election management and observation experience, are nationals of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Grenada, Guyana, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago. They were supported by two staff members of the CARICOM Secretariat
The Free National Movement (FNM) led by physician Dr. Hubert Minnis won a landslide victory in the polls, taking 35 of the 39 seats at stake.
See Preliminary Statement:
CARICOM ELECTION OBSERVATION MISSION TO THE COMMONWEALTH OF THE BAHAMAS
GENERAL ELECTIONS, 10 MAY 2017
The CARICOM Election Observation Mission (CEOM), at the invitation of the Governor General of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, Her Excellency Dame Marguerite Pindling, GCMG, observed the General Elections held on 10 May, 2017. On polling day, the team visited two hundred and twenty-three (223) polling stations across twenty (20) of the thirty nine (39) constituencies. The Mission monitored the day’s activities by observing the opening of the poll, the voting process, the closing of the poll and the counting of ballots.
The team observed that polls opened on time in the majority of the polling stations in which the opening of polls were observed. Most of the stations were fully staffed and most had at least two (2) agents present representing the two (2) major political parties. The polling stations, for the most part, were conveniently located and easily accessible to the voters including the disabled. The Mission observed that the materials and supplies on hand at most of the polling stations were available in the required quantities.
Adequate security was in place at all locations with the Officers conducting their duties in a professional manner. This contributed to the level of calm which accompanied the day’s activities. The poll workers appeared to be focused as they steadily carried out the required procedures ensuring that all eligible electors who turned out to vote were able to do so.
The execution of activities on Polling Day was of a very high standard comparable with that anywhere else in the Region. It is, however, the activities prior to Polling Day which tended to cast a shadow over the electoral process. For example, the unexpected change of the Parliamentary Commissioner just days before the election was a concern. However, this did not seem to have affected the quality of the election.
In addition, the Mission was informed that the categories of persons eligible to vote in the advance polling were expanded to include candidates and agents. The Mission is of the view that this interpretation ultimately contributed to an unforeseen increase in the workload at the Parliamentary Registration Office thereby resulting in difficulty in producing the advance poll register.
The CEOM is strongly of the view that most of the pre-election activities including the late publication of the advance poll register; voters’ inability to confirm beforehand whether or not their names appear on the advance polling list; and the incorrect polling station numbers being written onto voters’ cards, are amongst several issues which can be addressed with the introduction and use of modern technology in the registration process. This would facilitate a more timely extraction and publication of voters registers, as well as the ability of voters to carry out online verification to determine if their names appear on either the advance polling register or the Election Day register.
The Mission’s assessment of the Election Day activities is that the voters were able to cast their ballots without intimidation or fear and that the results of the 10 May 2017 General Elections reflect the will of the people of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
The Mission congratulates the staff of the Parliamentary Registration Department, the poll workers, the political parties and all candidates, the security forces and the people of The Bahamas for the mature way in which the Elections were conducted and the high level of discipline displayed throughout the process.
The Mission will prepare a full report for submission to the Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), His Excellency Mr. Irwin LaRocque, which will include recommendations on the implementation of modern technology in the registration process, an independent boundaries commission, and campaign financing regulation aimed at strengthening the electoral process in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
The CARICOM Election Observation Mission wishes to thank again all of the stakeholders, including the Leaders of the Political Parties, Civil Society, the Media and the People of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas for their warm welcome and cooperation which contributed to the success of the Mission.
CHIEF OF MISSION
CARICOM ELECTION OBSERVATION MISSION
11 MAY 2017
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