OAS Mission: Regulate political campaign financing

OAS Mission. Photo: GIS

by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada

  • OAS mission recommends introduction of a political party and campaign finance regulation
  • Commonwealth citizens who wish to vote in elections must present eligibility documents
  • Grenada praised for continuing to strive for gender parity

The electoral observation mission of the Organisation of American States (OAS) has published its preliminary report, recommending the introduction of a political party and campaign finance regulation to govern the electoral campaign of political parties.

This was among other recommendations presented on Wednesday after observing the 13 March General Election that saw the incumbent New National Party (NNP) securing all 15 seats.

OAS Assistant Secretary-General Nestor Mendez said this regulation will strengthen and promote transparency and accountability in electoral processes in Grenada.

Mendez told the media that the mission recognises that unregulated financing from unknown sources has the potential to influence the equity of the democratic process. “The Mission reiterates the recommendations of previous OAS Observation Missions, that the Government of Grenada, along with other appropriate stakeholders, consider political party and campaign finance regulations that establish clear limits on campaign spending, require political parties to disclose their sources of funding, prohibit anonymous and foreign donations, and limit private and in-kind donations to political and electoral campaigns. In this regard, the OAS model legislation on campaign financing may provide a useful point of departure.”

Concerns were also raised regarding the Registration of Voters and the Residency Requirement for eligibility to vote. In its report, the OAS mission proposed that the following modification be made to the legislation governing the registration process:

  • The Parliamentary Elections Office (PEO) and its staff should adhere to the provisions currently specified in Article 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 Parliamentary Elections Office.
  • 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, in keeping with the required schedule, for the information of the general public.

The mission also recommended that government and electoral authorities consider amending the Representation of the People Act to a new minimum timeline governing the publication of a final voters list for an election to allow the PEO sufficient time to address all claims and objections filed by political parties and candidates regarding the voters list.

Other recommendations for the PEO is to include collecting an image of the Statement of Poll results in addition to transmitting the polling data via computer when submitting those documents to the Election Centre. This the mission stated will provide citizens with the ability to examine, compare and analyse the results of the elections as they are issued.

Following the concerns of stakeholders regarding the heated campaign build-up to election day coupled with verbal, and some physical clashes between supporters of opposing parties, the OAS mission advised the Civil Society Organisations to re-engage political parties, especially those who have not yet signed on, to have total buy-in in advance of the next electoral cycle.

On a brighter note, the OAS mission praised Grenada for continuing to strive for gender parity after noting a small increase in the number of female candidates from 8 of 46 candidates in 2013 to 11 of 45 candidates in 2018. However, the mission stated that while “preliminary results of the election suggest that women will now comprise almost 50% of the House of Representatives, a significant gap still exists in achieving true parity in women’s political participation.”

In this regard, OAS Assistant Secretary General Nestor Mendez said the mission, therefore, recommends that Grenada considers introducing temporary legal measures, such as a gender quota, and that political parties and other stakeholders collaborate to develop programmes that promote women’s participation and leadership in politics.

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