Saturday, April 24, 2010

Call for election observers

Bring in Election Observers, says Network
2010 election process should be transparent and indisputable

The Network of NGOs of Trinidad and Tobago for the Advancement of Women is calling on the Elections and Boundaries Commission and the Government to request the presence of international election observers and expert teams from the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Organisation of American States and CARICOM for the May 24 General Election.
“We anticipate that this would help to ensure that the integrity of our election processes is sound and indisputable,” says Network Director of International Relations, Dr Kris Rampersad. “It would also reinforce our Government’s commitment to transparency and democracy.
“Already we are hearing sounds on the hustings of fears of gerrymandering, voter padding and interference and it would be useful that measures be taken to assuage any such doubts that may arise over the election results.
“Trinidad and Tobago further committed to the sound governance practices set by the Commonwealth and the Organisation of American States (OAS) last year. We can now request the presence of election observer teams from these institutions to verify and certify the integrity of our election processes so our democratic record will not be tarnished by questions raised during or subsequent to the 2010 Election. It will help ensure that human rights are observed during the conduct of the election.
She explained that as a member of the OAS, Trinidad and Tobago subscribes to the Inter-American Charter, Article 24 of which provides for electoral observation missions on the request of Member States.
The Charter states that the member state shall guarantee conditions of security, free access to information, and full cooperation with the electoral observation mission” and such missions shall be carried out “in accordance with the principles and norms of the OAS … in an objective, impartial, and transparent manner and with the appropriate technical expertise,” which “shall ensure that these missions are effective and independent and shall provide them with the necessary resources for that purpose.”
The OAS, as do the Commonwealth and CARICOM, have set guidelines for preparation of observers’ reports and presentation of recommendations, as well as the conduct of Electoral observation missions. Missions must be requested by the Government or the electoral management body, with broad support from civil society and political parties.
According to the Commonwealth Secretariat, “the observation of elections is one way in which the Commonwealth Secretariat works to strengthen democracy. Observer Groups are asked to report on the credibility of the electoral process, whether the conditions exist for a free expression of will by the electors and if the election results reflect the wishes of the people. Each Group's report also contains practical recommendations to help improve election arrangements for the future.”