OAS observers call for review of Campaign Financing!

OAS Representaive Ann-Marie Blackman, Chief of Mission Dr Rosina Wiltshire and Deputy Chief Betilde Munoz-Pogossian.

Fourteen international observers from the OAS were in St Lucia monitoring the island’s November 28 poll. Yesterday the OAS mission held a press conference at the Bay Gardens Inn in order to review their findings and present recommendations.
Dr Rosin Wiltshire, Chief of the Electoral Observation Mission told the press that the mission felt that voting was conducted in a fluid and peaceful manner demonstrating St Lucia’s commitment and respect for democracy.
She conveyed a message from the OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza of congratulations to “the St Lucian people for exercising their franchise peacefully” and who also said that he “looks forward to working with the newly elected government.”
Wiltshire explained to the press that in order to carry out their work, OAS international observers visited 100 out of the 102 polling sites on Election Day.”
With voting starting at 6:30am Wiltshire noted the professionalism and punctuality of presiding officers and poll clerks.
The police force came in for high praise from the mission for their extensive presence.
An interesting observation of the mission, that included the three women addressing the press at the headtable, was that there was a significant number of women who were electoral officials and party agents.
The mission also noted that access for the elderly and disabled was lacking.Wiltshire explained that “in the pre-electoral period, the OAS/EOM conducted extensive interviews with government representatives, the St Lucia Electoral Commission, political parties, and key stakeholders from civil society organizations.”There were three issues, she said, that stood out, among them, women’s role in the process.
She noted: “Women composed the majority of poll workers in St Lucia, with an average of 87 percent participation in the polling sites observed by the OAS. The majority of
party agents were also women. However, the number of female candidates remained
limited. The Mission would like to recognize the progress in the percentage of female
candidacies. Whereas 8.3 percent of the candidates in the 2006 election were women, the numbers increased in 2011 to 10 out of 52 candidates, or 19 percent. There still, however, needs to be improvement so that their active participation as candidates is equivalent to their proportion of the electorate.”
Campaign financing was the secondissue that was of concern to the OAS, stated Wiltshire. She said that as early as 2006 the OAS/EOM had recommended that St Lucia adopt certain rules that would make the issue more transparent.
“We therefore call on parliament to put in place legislation, including strengthening the Integrity Commission and auditing and reporting mechanisms.”
This issue is not new to St Lucia as for years the STAR has written about the lack of teeth of the Integrity Commission. Shouldn’t the Integrity Commission or another body be established to look into campaign financing?
The OAS said that in the absence of legislation the source of campaign funds was anyone’s guess. Wiltshire said that “anonymous contributions and those of foreigners are allowed, which goes against general norms and practices around the world.”
She called for accountability and recognized that there was no institution with a mandate to supervise campaign spending. The mission also noted that Saint Lucians have no access to information regarding campaign financing by the parties.
The final issue that the OAS found troubling was the division of boundaries.
“Whereas the two largest constituencies have 18,122 and 12,677 electors, respectively,” said Wiltshire. “The two smallest have 6,153 and 5,984, respectively. The Mission noted the need for a redefinition of constituency boundaries complying with the legislation that establishes a balanced distribution of inhabitants per constituency.”
The following at the OAS Recommendations:
1) To facilitate the voting process for handicapped voters with appropriate voting facilities as well as to display the electoral roll on the outside of each polling
site so that voters can easily identify their assigned voting table.
2) To promote a serious discussion on the role of women in politics, specifically whether there is a need for a quota system to give incentives to female
party activists and how political parties can enable their political leadership.
3) To encourage a public debate on the need for legislation on campaign financing, specifically rules to prohibit anonymous and foreign contributions, the establishment of a mechanism or institution to control money coming in and out of the campaign and wider
access information by the citizens on the use of funds and the requirement for parties to disclose this information.
4) To establish, immediately after the election, the Commission on Electoral Boundaries to define, based on the April 2011 census results, a more equitable division of constituencies.

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