KINGSTON, Jamaica -- The electoral observation mission of the Organization of American States (OAS/EOM) to the February 25 general parliamentary elections in Jamaica highlighted good practices and formulated recommendations to further assist the country in its efforts to continue strengthening its electoral process.
Meanwhile, the CARICOM election observation mission praised the conduct of the just concluded general elections, which saw the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) led by Andrew Holness emerge victorious over the incumbent Peoples National Party (PNP) of Portia Simpson-Miller in a close 33-30 race, and said the results reflected the will of the people.
The OAS/EOM, headed by former attorney general and minister of foreign affairs of The Bahamas, Janet Bostwick, was composed of 23 international observers from 17 countries, who were present in 13 parishes across the country, and visited 367 polling stations.
The mission’s report highlighted the positive practices of the Jamaican electoral tradition and commended the implementation of recommendations formulated by previous OAS missions on campaign finance, electoral technology, gender representation and establishment of a media monitoring unit (MMU).
The OAS/EOM also referred to characteristics of the Jamaican electoral process that make it a good example for the region, including the institution of the political ombudsman, the independence of the electoral authority, and the early invitation extended to international observers.
The mission praised the work of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica and the efficiency demonstrated in the tabulation, transmission and release of the preliminary voting results. The report included further recommendations on electoral organization and voter participation.
The EOM took note of the declining voter turnout and recommended re-doubling voter education and public awareness campaigns, especially to energize new voters. The mission also noted the incidents of violence which occurred prior to and on election day, which do not support the electoral process and have no place in a democracy.
The mission acknowledged the openness and generosity of electoral authorities and the numerous stakeholders, including all citizens, in facilitating the mission’s work.
CARICOM Mission Head, Josephine Tamai, Chief Elections Officer, Elections and Boundaries Department, Belize
The 11-member CARICOM mission, led by Josephine Tamai, chief elections officer, Belize, issued a preliminary statement on Friday, following Thursday’s elections.
“The mission’s general assessment of the day’s activities is that the voters were able to cast their ballots without intimidation or harassment, and that the results of the general elections of 25 February 2016 reflected the will of the people of Jamaica and reinforced their commitment to the democratic process,” the statement said.
The mission deployed five teams in several constituencies on polling day, which observed the opening of the poll, the voting process, the closing of the poll and counting of ballots.
The mission noted that “all materials and supplies needed were present at the stations in the required quantities. For the most part polling stations were opened on time and voting commenced promptly at 7:00 am at the stations in which the opening was observed. All stations were fully staffed and most had representatives of all the political parties contesting in the various constituencies. The teams noted that representatives of the two major political parties were present in all areas observed. For the most part, polling stations were conveniently located and accessible to the electorate.”
The mission’s full report, which will include its findings, recommendations and suggestions for continued strengthening of the electoral process in Jamaica, will be prepared and submitted to CARICOM secretary-general, Irwin LaRocque.