Home Local News Commonwealth observer mission pleased with elections, critical in other areas

Commonwealth observer mission pleased with elections, critical in other areas

by Pointe Xpress
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While the nine-member Commonwealth observer mission echoed the sentiments of other groups concerning the peaceful nature of the 18th January elections, its preliminary report offered strong recommendations for improving the integrity of the electoral process in the country.

Headed by former president of Seychelles, Danny Faure, the Commonwealth mission noted while the voter turn out in last week’s elections was the country’s lowest in two decades, the will of the people was exercised in the democratic process.

“The people of this beautiful country reaffirmed their commitment to our shared values of democracy by exercising their right to vote, although the turnout was 67 per cent, the lowest in the last 20 years. We were pleased and encouraged by the calm and peaceful atmosphere in which polling took place. Eligible voters exercised their franchise. We believe that the results reflect the will of the people.

“We acknowledge the active participation of Antiguans and Barbudans, the police and security services. In contrast to the number of female candidates, of which there were only 10, we were particularly encouraged to see women and youth make up the overwhelming majority of the polling staff and party agents. Their professionalism, efficiency and dedication to follow due process and to work together in transparency is commendable; as was the long hours they spent away from work and family. Their dedication to democracy is admirable.

“We recognize the efforts of youth groups and civil society organisations in facilitating voter’s education despite the short and constrained timeline, restricted access to information and resources. We also commend the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission’s policies to facilitate voting by persons with disabilities and to prioritise seniors in the line-up,” the Faure’s statement on Friday said.

He continued that there are several recommendations that his team were compelled to make following their observations.

“For democracy to thrive and be fully functional, there needs to be a clear separation of powers. With the evolution of democracy in Antigua and Barbuda, emphasis now needs to be put on good governance based on the framework of independence, transparency, oversight and accountability.

“There is a need to de-politicize the media landscape. It must be free, fair and inclusive. There is an urgent requirement to strengthen the regulatory framework. It is not proper to give unrestricted access to the government, while limiting the access to other parties,” Faure continued.

The need for the timely publication and updating of the voter’s list, balancing the protection of voters’ data with the right of the public and all parties to access and challenge the voter’s list and efficiency of the tallying process by counting ballots at the polling stations were also highlighted.

The Commonwealth team also commented on some of the incidents which marred the 2023 election campaign.

“We were saddened by the vitriol, personal attacks, acts of arson and vandalism that took place pre-election. They should have no place in Antigua and Barbuda.”

Faure went on, “The greatest test of leadership is now… all parties need to display magnanimity in victory and honour in defeat.

 “We urge all leaders of political parties, civil society organisations, faith-based groups and the people of this beautiful country to join hands together in building bridges and creating the Antigua and Barbuda you want for the next generation.

“We call on the government to also implement our recommendations.”

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