Caricom observers endorse December 7 polls
December 16, 2005

Caricom observers endorse December 7 polls

A Caricom Observer Mission has given the December 7 general elections in St. Vincent and the Grenadines its stamp of approval.

The team led by His Excellency Phillip Smith, High Commissioner of the Bahamas to Canada, included Eugene Petty, former programme manager, Caricom Secretariat from St. Kitts/Nevis, and Mignon Bowen, Project Officer Caricom Secretariat. The others were Hensley Robinson, former Barbadian Chief Elections Officer, and St. Kitts/Nevis’ Supervisor of Elections, Leroy Benjamin.{{more}}

The Mission left here December 10, but not before a press conference at New Montrose Hotel. The final one was on December 8.

Smith spoke highly of the Vincentian people and their actions.

“Every Vincentian has a right to be proud of the way Vincentians conducted themselves in these elections,” Smith said.

“It was quite frankly impressive. If you could export it to the rest of the world, you have a wonderful product that many countries will be happy to pay for,” Smith suggested.

He remarked on the camaraderie between agents of the contesting parties. “They were just having fun, comparing notes, people were satisfied,” Smith pointed out.

According to Smith, his team was able to gauge the country’s mood, and they detected that the people were “calm and relaxed.”

He continued, “We did not observe any irregularities of substance. There were minor things here and there, but none of which we feel impacted on the outcome. We feel that the will of the people was heard with the result,” Smith stated.

Petty compared the 2001 election to the recent venture and noted that they came under “different circumstances.”

Petty pointed out that his team was “satisfied that the elections ran smoothly.”

He admitted that there were “some concerns in terms of the process of voting.” He also cited “minor incidents,” but declared that the “public acted in a peaceful manner,” and that “persons were able to exercise their franchise without any problems.”

Smith stated: “The Mission’s preliminary assessment is that the preparations for the conduct of the elections were adequate, despite concerns raised about the Voters’ list in relation to the enumeration and transfer of voters.”

Smith, himself a former parliamentarian, questioned the 15-day period for registration of voters after the Writ of Election has been issued. He contended that it “should be reviewed.”

The Caricom Mission expressed the view that “greater effort could have been made in the area of voter education, particularly in respect of the introduction of a new type of ballot paper.”

An additional suggestion from the Mission is that “a single independent body should manage the electoral process.”

Smith pointed out that “the conditions existed for the free expression of the voters’ will,” and declared that “voters turned out in relatively good numbers in spite of the inclement weather during polling day. Voters queued in an orderly manner, exercised patience, and were able to cast their ballot without hindrance or intimidation.”

Smith observed: “The Polling stations were managed competently and the electoral officials carried out their duties in a professional and impartial manner.”

The Caricom Mission Chief added: “In general, transparency of the voting process was ensured, the secrecy of the ballot was respected and stipulated procedures were consistently and uniformly followed, although there were minor variations in the administration of, and deviations from, required procedures.”

The Caricom Mission declared that the General Elections “reflected the will of the people and their commitment to the democratic processes.” They agreed that “such commitment would no doubt be enhanced by a better voter education programme and more effective administration of the electoral process.”

An Organisation of American States team was also on hand to monitor the polls. Smith pointed to areas of coordination between his Mission and their OAS counterparts so as to avoid duplication.