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International observers for general elections again

It was confirmed this week that international observers will be in Grenada for the June 23 general elections. The election observers from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Organisation of American States (OAS) will be here on invitation extended by the Prime Minister, who said the independent observation of elections lends transparency and confidence to the electoral process. He

said it is important and necessary that the conduct of the election process be observed and monitored by well-respected and credible organisations.
We are aware that both organisations have mounted observer missions to monitor previous general elections in Grenada and have submitted recommendations for the way forward. In the 2018 general election, 150 polling stations were observed by the electoral experts from the OAS led by the Assistant Secretary General Ambassador Nestor Mendez who noted many concerns. Concerns were raised during a press conference at the Radisson Hotel, at which the expert noted may have influenced the outcome of the elections.

The election management system at the Parliamentary Elections Office (PEO) consists of a central computerised result receiving election center. Each constituency level office received the data by phone line from each polling station. The data is entered onto a form, entered into an alleged secure computer

programme that transmits results to the election centre. Considering that each constituency level office has a scanner, the expert suggested that the PEO should collect an image of the statements of poll results and submit to the election center. This, he noted, will provide the citizen with clear images to examine, compare and analyze the results.

The principal concern by the Mission was the possibility that non-eligible people, particularly from neighbouring Commonwealth countries, might have been included in the voters list for the 2018 election. In this regard, Section 6 of the Representation of the People’s Act states that a person is entitled to be registered if he or she is, among other things, a Commonwealth citizen who has resided in Grenada for a period of at least 12 months immediately prior to his or her registration. People who do not possess official documentation of their date of arrival in the country and who wish to be registered are normally allowed to rely on the declaration of residency approved by a Justice of the Peace. Isn’t there provision of the People Act in this regard?

It was also noted that the responsibility of electoral authorities is to ensure that the list presented for an election is as accurate as possible. In this regard, the Constitution of Grenada mandates in Section 35 that the Supervisor of Elections has direct authority over the registration of voters and is not subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority in the exercise of his functions. In order to strengthen this aspect of the registration process and support the enhanced accuracy of and confidence in the voters’ list, the Mission suggested that the authorities of Grenada consider the following modifications:

The Parliamentary Elections Office and its staff should adhere to the provisions currently in Section 9 of the Representation of the People Act, that citizens of the Commonwealth who wish to be registered to vote in elections in Grenada must present to the Registration Officer, at the time of their request, the documents that establish their eligibility to be so registered. These are a valid passport or a citizenship certificate.

The Representation of the People Act should be amended to specify that where a Commonwealth citizen wishes to be registered, but does not possess the documents indicated above, a declaration from a Justice of the Peace can only be accepted if it is accompanied by proof of legal entry into the country issued by the Immigration authorities. In this regard, a standard format for the Declaration of Residency to be used by Justices of the Peace, should be prepared and circulated by the PEO. The appropriate authorities should proceed expeditiously to publish a current list of authorised Justices of the Peace and should ensure that updated lists are Gazetted and published.

Interestingly, the Mission noted that the Parliamentary Elections Office was unable to address, prior to the election, all claims and objections filed by political parties and candidates regarding the list for 2018. The hearings were set for March 19, days after the election. Residences and deaths continue to be the main reasons for claims or objections from the New National Party and the National democratic Congress, the two leading parties in the race for this year’s general elections. The Mission also observed that the 21 days currently provided is insufficient for the satisfactory conclusion for all necessary steps.

We will continue to follow the process with the hope that the recommendations made by the invited experts are implemented in order to have clean and fair general elections come June 23.

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