By SANCHESKA BROWN
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRIME MINISTER Perry Christie said yesterday his government is committed to discussions on electoral reform after reports from international organisations indicated several “issues” with the May 7 election.
Ahead of the vote, the former government invited for the first time international organisations to scrutinise the electoral process. CARICOM and the Organisation of American States (OAS) both observed the elections and Mr Chrisite tabled their findings in the House of Assembly yesterday.
According to Mr Christie, CARICOM concluded the elections were in keeping the laws and regulations of the Bahamas, that poll workers conducted themselves professionally, that the results of the polls reflect the will of the people and that the proceedings were carried out in an environment which facilitated the free will of the people.
However, Mr Chrisite said CARICOM also made several recommendations including campaign funding legislation, the establishment of an independent boundaries commission, a code of conduct and the use of smaller voting booths.
“Considerations should be given to implementing laws to govern campaign funding focusing on the source of funds, the use of funds and limits on expenditure. The establishment of an independent boundaries commission which would prevent the ruling party from seeking to effect boundary changes to its advantage.
“The establishment of a code of conduct agreed on and signed by all candidates seeking further elections. This would limit the extend to which the character of candidates and other stakeholders are attacked on the campaign platform. The code would also limit the use of inflammatory language which could be acted on by misguided supporters.
“The existing voting booths almost completely hide the elector from the view of poll workers and agents. The use of smaller booths which allows workers to see any attempts by electors to take photographs of the ballots should also be considered.”
The OAS report pointed out four issues related to the pre-electoral period: campaign financing, the participation of women, the voter registry and media access.
According to Mr Christie the report said: “Consideration should be given to adopting a legal framework on the financing of political parties. . . wider access to public information needs to be provided to citizens regarding the use of campaign funds. Political parties should incorporate more women in both leadership within the party structures and as candidates for the national assembly.
“Consideration should be given to the incorporation of mechanisms to enhance impartiality and independence of the boundary drawing process, such as the potential introduction of standardised technical criteria in the drawing of constituencies. “There needs to be broader access to the state broadcasting corporation for all political parties and candidates and to stimulate debate among them.”
The Prime Minister said he will formally respond to the OAS report while in Washingthon on Wednesday August 1.