The Electoral Observation Mission of the Organization of American States (OAS) that observed the general elections in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) on Dec. 9, 2015, on Friday presented its final report to the electoral authorities and to OAS member states.
The report notes the efforts by the electoral department to improve significantly, purge and update the voter’s list, thereby providing a more accurate reflection of voter participation.
Likewise, the document suggests that this be a regular exercise in order to maintain a consistently clean electoral list. It further highlighted the implementation of an improved national identity card as one of the features of the elections.
The mission, headed by Jacinth Henry-Martin, former Chief of Staff to the OAS Secretary General, also underscored the historic voter turnout of 74 per cent and the high level of participation of women in most areas of the electoral/political process. Nevertheless it noted that this trend was not reflected in the number of female candidates, who comprised only 16.28 per cent of the total number of candidates. In this regard, the mission encouraged the initiation and/or strengthening of training programmes in women political leadership.
In terms of the challenges, the final report reflects the lack of campaign financing legislation in SVG, an issue which has been the subject of previous recommendations by OAS Electoral Observations Missions. The report recommends drawing on the experiences of other countries in the region that have made positive strides in this regard.
The report further states that, while the conduct of the election was without any major incident, the mission identified some areas where the election process could have been improved.
Specifically when it refers to the final count of votes witnessed in one constituency — Central Leeward — where they identified some challenges, the observers noted some disquieting issues at this particular constituency, mainly referred to the incorrect application of seals, the absence of the Presiding Officer’s stamp and initials on some ballots and the possible partiality of the returning officer who conducted this recount. In that regard, the mission’s recommendation is to ensure better training and stricter guidelines and procedures for poll workers in conducting the final count at polling stations.
Notwithstanding these concerns, OAS Observers did not discern any fraudulent or other activities at the final count “which could have materially affected the outcome of the vote”. The report also states that the aforementioned issues “strongly indicate a need for further training in rules and procedures for staff at all levels of the electoral machinery in order to reduce or eliminate the variations observed in the treatment of the ballots and ballot boxes, as well as a greater awareness of the need for professionalism and impartiality in the conduct of the electoral process, and closer screening of senior electoral officers to ensure that they comply with these indispensable requirement.”
The OAS Mission SVG was comprised of 13 observers from 11 countries. They observed electoral processes in 14 of the 15 country’s constituencies, visiting 74 per cent of the polling stations. This is the fourth election that the OAS has observed in this member state.