Our Readers' Opinions
August 17, 2007

Election fact or fiction?


Editor: I have been listening with growing concern to statements by the leader of the NDP, the Hon. Arnhim Eustace, senior members and supporters of the NDP regarding the integrity of the electoral process in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.{{more}}

We have over the years been proud of the fact that this country has a thriving democracy based on peaceful transfer of political power after completing free and fair elections. So when the leader of the opposition expressed the viewpoint that there is hanky panky with the elections and broadcast this view to the world via the internet, I got worried because corruption or hints of corruption impact on foreign direct investment and so I decided to investigate what was being said and do a fact check.

The statement in Parliament by Senator Francis about the number of Syrians who voted for him in the last elections is being use as the catalyst for the statements that the elections were not free and fair. Claims were also made that the report by the National Monitoring and Consultative Mechanism (NMCM) gave credence to the fact that the elections were not fair because of fifteen anomalies NMCM listed surrounding the elections. Arnhim Eustace constantly referred to the fifteen anomalies without stating them. I would like to list them in the interest of placing all the facts on the table:

1. In some cases the counterfoil was not detached from the ballot paper before being placed in the ballot box.

2. The failure of some Presiding Officers to give proper instructions.

3. The failure of some Presiding Officers to examine fingers before persons voted.

4. The dipping of a finger other than the right index finger into the indelible ink to conclude the voting process.

5. In some instances, the ballot boxes were not sealed during the voting process.

6. The failure of some Presiding Officers to call out voters’ names.

7. In one known case the Presiding Officer decided that a voter had spoilt the ballot without giving any indication why this was so.

8. The failure of some Presiding Officers to prepare the necessary documentation. eg. when an incapacitated person voted.

9. Some Presiding Officers had difficulty opening and locking ballot boxes because of their aged condition.

10. Some Presiding Officers did not have all the required documentation.

11. Some Polling Stations, because of their size, did not allow for sufficient privacy.

12. Party posters and banners were still in tact in very close proximity to some Polling Stations.

13. Some Ballot Papers from the North Leeward Constituency were seen among ballot papers for the Southern Grenadines Constituency. These were set aside and not used.

14. In a few instances in the Southern Grenadines alterations were made on Master Cards with no proper authorization.

15. The omission of names of persons whose names appeared on the Preliminary list but not on the final list.

Ten of the fifteen anomalies refer to minor infractions by some presiding officers like allowing the dipping of the wrong finger or not calling out the voters’ names. The NMCM recommended that these problems could be dealt with by proper selection and proper training of the election officers. However, none of these anomalies had an impact on the election results. The NMCM concluded that the conduct of the general elections “was generally free and fair, notwithstanding institutional inadequacies, human shortcomings, procedural errors and administrative weaknesses.” One can conclude from the above and the report from the OAS observer mission, which referred to the inflated voter list, that there is no evidence that the ULP government made an attempt to tamper with the electoral process.

On the issue of Senator Francis, he needs to admit that he could have spoken with greater clarity in parliament. He has indicated that the ULP does a code and comb as a way of predicting, within a range, how much votes their candidates would receive. I would be surprised if the NDP does not have a similar method for trying to predict who would be voting for them. Senator Francis was clearly giving his best estimate of how many Syrians voted for him and should not have made such a definitive statement. A record of all the persons who voted is recorded by the presiding officer and the observers from both political parties. Each agent from the political parties has a copy of the voters list and as noted from the report of the NMCM, the presiding officer is obligated to say aloud the name of the voter. As a result, both political parties know immediately after the poll closes who voted. For the NDP to suggest, that by speaking to his agent, that Senator Francis was doing something wrong is dishonest. When one looks at the facts, one can only conclude that the members of the NDP are deliberately disingenuous in an attempt to malign the ULP and in the process to damage the image of St. Vincent and the Grenadines for personal ambitions.

In conclusion, it must be noted that the constituency which the NDP is focusing on to illustrate tampering is the only seat on mainland St. Vincent that they won. Are they suggesting that there should be a bi-election in that seat? The ULP won at least eight seats by between 285 and 2211 votes. Regardless to how you slice the apple, the NDP would be in opposition today as the expressed will of 55.479% of the people who voted.

These are the facts. Let’s move on.

Concerned Vincentian