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Turn out and vote; respect the election laws

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The next five days will be characterised by an unparalleled intensification of the election campaign, as the contending forces strain every sinew in a last-ditch effort to woo the support of electors and to solicit victory for their respective teams. The campaign is already at fever-pitch, but there is bound to be some additional injection of energy in the crucial run-up, aimed at winning the so-far uncommitted.{{more}}

If the enthusiasm exhibited at meetings and rallies is reflected in a high voter turnout, then one could at least feel pleased that our democratic process is drawing citizens to participate, albeit in a limited way. But we still have a long way to go to secure participation on a more sustained basis.

While the campaign has been relatively peaceful so far, and we must commend all for this, one must at the same time note with concern the tendency towards the use of more and more strident language, not-so-thinly-veiled threats, attempts at intimidation and the indulgence in personal attacks by many candidates and some of their activists. It is a far from healthy trend which gives the wrong signals.

The election machinery itself is in place and functioning well, in spite of concerted efforts on the part of some to raise doubts about the integrity of the process and even to cast aspersions on the performance and competence of election officials. Fortunately, the Supervisor of Elections and her team have upheld the dignity of their good offices, acted transparently, responded promptly to complaints, maintained good public relations and have so far done excellent work. We commend them for it so far and urge all the contending forces to give them every support in the run-up to D-Day and beyond. Our democracy is at stake.

By this weekend, the customary Observer Missions from outside – the Commonwealth, OAS and CARICOM – will be in place to meet with political parties, election officials and interest groups, make observations of the conduct of the elections and also make recommendations for the strengthening of the process in the future. However, as if to indicate a lack of confidence in these time-tested and universally respected missions, one political party has announced that it is bringing a battery of lawyers from other Caricom countries to “observe,” with the public relations officer of that party placing the hashtag #observetheobservers on her Facebook page.

This is a most regrettable development, implying, as it does, a lack of faith in the accredited observer teams. Are they suggesting that their hand-picked legal “observers” will be more impartial than those accredited and who have served electoral processes around the world time and again?

A related factor was the shameless attempt to confuse the names of some Vincentians who have sat on Observer Missions in other countries with the local observation process to give the false impression that they might be involved our elections. Why do people have to stoop so low?

Despite all this, we express unequivocal support for the integrity of our electoral process. We are confident that our people will rise to the challenges and conduct themselves and the elections in a manner which does credit to the nation as a whole.

We appeal to all contenders to let peace, calm, good sense and respect for law and order prevail. Turn out and vote, respect the election laws, desist from actions on Election Day and beyond which contravene the law, decency and self-respect. Our forefathers and mothers had to sacrifice much for this sacred right to choose a government of our own. Let our conduct ennoble our civilization and respect the will of the majority.

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