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OAS observer team applauds SVG on general election

OAS  observer team applauds SVG on general election

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Following the December 9 general election, the electoral observation mission from the Organization of American States (OAS) that was deployed here has congratulated the country on the “high degree of civic spirit exhibited” on Election Day.{{more}}

At a press conference held at Grenadine House yesterday, the 13-member team — headed by Ambassador Jacinth Henry-Martin — presented its preliminary statement, based on direct observations made through meetings with electoral authorities, government officials, political parties, media, civil society organizations and religious bodies, among others.

“I want to particularly compliment the people of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines on the civic mindedness exhibited on December 9. In that same vein, I would urge that the established electoral procedures be utilized to address any differences or disputes that may arise,” said Henry-Martin, reading from the preliminary statement.

She further added that she and her team were able to observe the electoral processes in 14 of the 15 constituencies — visiting 173 of the 232 polling stations.

“Observers witnessed the on-time opening of all monitored polling stations, and noted the availability of requisite materials and the presence of polling officials…

“The presiding officers, poll clerks, party agents and police worked harmoniously throughout the long day, helping citizens to find their polling stations and ensuring an organized and peaceful environment.”

Henry-Martin also noted the “significant preparations” conducted by the electoral authorities in SVG ahead of the general election which, in the team’s opinion, benefited the electoral process.

The prelimary statement was divided into seven sub-sections. Namely: gender equity in elective politics; youth participation; the voters’ list; voter information; campaign finance; political campaign; and electoral management body.

Gender equity in elective politics

Although the team found that there was a “continued high level of participation” by women in most areas of the political process, it highlighted the fact that there were only seven women in the 43-candidate line-up across political parties — the majority of whom were representing the two smaller parties.

“The EOM/OAS recommends that efforts be made by all political parties, civil society and government to promote the participation of women in electoral competition.”

The statement also recommended that there needs to be development of legal mechanisms that “ensure women are incorporated on the ballot, promote training programs for women leaders and strengthen civil society organizations working to promote women’s civil and political rights.”

Youth participation

The OAS mission commended the “enthusiastic involvement” of the youth throughout the election period — in particular on social media and in the electoral competition.

“It recommends that political parties and government continue to encourage youth political participation at all levels of the process, providing training programs for young political leaders and opportunities to apply their leadership skills.”

Voters’ list

The team acknowledged that it had received complaints regarding the integrity of the voters’ list, and also noted efforts of the Electoral Office to purge and update the list.

“It… encourages the Electoral Authorities to implement a continuous updating and cleansing process of the Voters’ list, and further recommends that it includes the photograph of each citizen, so that the indentification process is easy and immediate.”

Voter information

The report stated: “Reference was regularly made to the inadequacy of voter education for these elections via the usual media channels. This resulted in reliance on political parties for basic information on the voting processes.”

Henry-Martin said that the team recommends that the relevant authorities pursue a “more active and focused” education programme in the months leading up to elections.

Campaign finance

The team explained that since 2010, the OAS has recommended regulation for campaign finance, which would result in more “equitable and transparent” political contest.

“During this electoral process, the Mission heard complaints about the use of public resources during the campaign. Smaller political parties felt discriminated against due to the fact that only political parties with representation in the Parliament could import campaign materials on a duty free basis.”

Political campaign

“The Mission notes and commends the political parties for signing a Code of Conduct for the St Vincent and the Grenadines General Elections that was advanced by the National Monitoring and Consultative Council. It recommends, however, that such a code be signed at an earlier stage of the campaign by all parties to ensure a clean and peaceful campaign period.”

Electoral management body

The preliminary report stated: “Concerns were expressed that the post of Supervisor of Elections, while created by constitutional mandate, is a dependency of the Office of the Prime Minister. It was cited that such dependency could lead to perceptions regarding a lack of autonomy and independence.”

The Mission recommended that there should be the establishment of an independent management body.

Chief of Mission Henry-Martin will deliver an in-depth oral report to the OAS Permanent Council early next year. This report will be made public, and will include additional observations and recommendations. (JSV)

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