By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRIME Minister Perry Christie yesterday urged politicians to confront longstanding “criminal” behaviour during general elections in a bid to spark discussions on campaign finance reform.
Drawing on recommendations outlined in international observer reports on the country’s electoral process, Mr Christie hit out at the deterioration of ethical political practices at a parliamentary conclave yesterday.
“We are challenged to determine the extent to which foreign investors should be contributing to our democracy directly in campaign finance matters and we have to determine whether we are prepared to regulate that by way of disclosure even if its to an electoral commission and not to the public,” he said.
“We are living a lie to just continue to allow this current system that we’re operating under to exist,” Mr Christie said, “because you know and I know, and everyone else knows that a lot of things are happening, where you’re taking advantage of all sorts of opportunities if you’re the government and it places people at a significant disadvantage and that’s not how a democracy functions.’
“The only way (reform) is going to work is if parliamentarians agree that there is a compelling urgency to be more accountable in what we’re doing, more transparent in what we’re doing.”
CARICOM and the Organisation of American States (OAS) were invited by the former administration to observe the 2012 general elections, and both agency’s reports pointed to campaign financing as an issue affecting the pre-electoral period.
The CARICOM report also called for the establishment of an independent boundaries commission, a code of conduct and the use of smaller voting booths, while the OAS report also cited gaps in the participation of women, the voter registry and media access.
Mr Christie said fellow parliamentarians were aware of the “irregular” proceedings that have been consistent in the country over the past 15 years; however, he did not confirm or deny whether his party was culpable of similar actions during this year’s electoral process.
“There are laws now that say you shouldn’t treat, meaning you shouldn’t do things to induce people to vote for you in an election, and very clearly you can just list countless examples where the law is breached,” Mr Christie said.
“It’s almost like when I’m in power I do it and when you’re in power you do it.”
He said: “Anyone can give monies and you don’t have to account for what is given and you don’t have to name who gave it to you.”
“For me campaign finance reform has now been put on the table by the international observers, there’s going to be a significant amount of public opinion developing on this issue.”
Despite his personal convictions, Mr Christie said he will not impose reform on the country but will instead agitate for legislative change.
He added that parliamentarians must dedicate themselves to promulgating a “new culture” for Bahamian politics.