Category: blog Created on Wednesday, 09 May 2012 07:43
At the invitation of the Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, the Organization of American States (OAS) deployed an Electoral Observation Mission (EOM), composed of 12 international observers. This was the first time that the OAS had been invited to observe General Elections in The Bahamas. The OAS/EOM monitored the process in 30 Constituencies and Observers were also present in the country several days before the election.
The OAS would like to congratulate the people of The Bahamas for the peaceful manner in which they exercised their constitutional rights and civic responsibility, which has served to continue strengthening the country’s democratic institutions. The OAS also wishes to offer its congratulations to the new government and looks forward to working with the incoming authorities.
OAS international observers visited 189 polling stations throughout Election Day. Voting started on time at 8:00 am in all polling stations observed. Presiding officers, and all poll clerks were present prior to the opening of the polls and all polling stations observed had the required material for the functioning of the process. In all observed cases police were present and helped to ensure a peaceful atmosphere. Voter participation was high and estimated at 88%.
Observers noted that most of the presiding officers and other poll workers as well as party agents were women. The Mission was pleased that senior citizens and persons with disabilities were assisted by various poll workers and the police, in order to ensure easy access to polling stations. The Parliamentary Registration Department deserves praise for organizing a smooth and successful process.
With the purpose of strengthening the electoral system in The Bahamas, and based on the observations and information gathered both in the pre-electoral period and on Election Day, the OAS Electoral Observation Mission would like to offer the following preliminary recommendations:
1) First, it is a positive feature of the process that candidates are required by law to make a declaration of income and assets in order to be nominated. However, there is no such disclosure requirement for the financing of their campaigns. The Mission recommends the adoption of a legal framework on the financing of political parties and campaigns in order to enhance the accountability, transparency and equity of the democratic process.
2) Second, 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of female suffrage in The Bahamas. For this election there were 18,574 more women than men registered as voters. However, the increased participation of women as voters has not yet translated into other key areas of political participation. Only 22 out of 133 candidates for this election were women, representing 16.5%. The Mission encourages political parties to incorporate more women in leadership positions and as candidates.
3) Third, the Mission notes that The Bahamas undertakes a complete re-registration of voters every five years. This positive effort guarantees that the electoral register accurately reflects the current voting population. The Bahamas also redraws its constituency boundaries on a regular basis. This important process should always be independent and the membership of the Boundaries Commission should reflect this.
4) In terms of media access, only the state-owned broadcasting corporation (the radio transmission in particular) has the capacity to provide extensive service to all of the islands within The Commonwealth of The Bahamas. The Mission encourages the State Broadcasting Corporation to continue to provide access to all political parties and candidates in a free, fair and independent manner.
The OAS/EOM would like to thank the governments of Argentina, Bolivia, Serbia, and South Korea as well as Mission Leadership and Université Laval (Canada) for their contributions, which made this Mission possible. It would also like to thank once again the Government of The Bahamas and the Parliamentary Registration Department in particular for its support and many courtesies.
Ambassador Alfonso Quiñonez, who led the Mission, will present shortly to the OAS Permanent Council a detailed Verbal Report that will be made available at the OAS Website.
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