By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
THE Bahamas government has received confirmation from two of four international organisations invited to send electoral observers for the upcoming general election.
Invitations were sent to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Commonwealth of Nations, the Organisation of American States (OAS), and the United States of America, according to Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Public Affairs Officer Al Dillette.
Mr Dillette told The Tribune that CARICOM and the US have confirmed that they will send observers and the government expects responses from the remaining groups “in due course”.
This comes amid concerns about the voting process and after a revelation from Parliamentary Commissioner Sherlyn Hall that several people have registered twice in the same constituency, an irregularity that was picked up by the department’s computer database.
CARICOM and the Organisation of American States (OAS) were invited by the Ingraham administration to observe the 2012 general election, a first for the country.
Both agencies’ reports pointed to lack of campaign financing legislation as an issue affecting the pre-electoral period.
Yesterday, Lemarque Campbell, chairman of advocacy group Citizens for a Better Bahamas, called the government’s inaction on campaign finance reform this term a “lost opportunity”, remarking that it was now too late to act on recommendations before this election cycle.
“With campaign finance reforms,” he said, “there is the talk of either there is a threshold on the amount of contributions from certain sectors, companies or there’s also the question of whether should we ban contributions from foreign individuals as well.
“It’s a bit too late for that. It’s on the top of our agenda and I think going forward even after election this is something we’ll be pressing because I think a lot of things will be discovered after elections. It’s been the status quo that it’s a free-for-all.”
The 2012 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.
The OAS noted that the issue of campaign finance seemed less important to Bahamian politicians than it did to other stakeholders in the country.
Months after being elected to office in May, 2012, Prime Minister Perry Christie committed his government to campaign finance legislation talks, going so far as to state that the practice of politicians using money to persuade voters had deteriorated to “repugnant” and sometimes “criminal” levels over the previous 15 years.
Speaking at a parliamentary conclave in July, 2012, Mr Christie said he would not impose reform on the country despite his personal convictions, but would instead agitate for legislative change. He added that parliamentarians must dedicate themselves to promulgating a “new culture” for Bahamian politics.
Four years later, however, Mr Christie acknowledged that passing a law to address the issue has not been one of his administration’s highest priorities.
His comments came during an appearance on the “Ed Fields Live” show on Kiss FM radio in July.
Last week, Deputy Prime Minister Philip Davis said he remained hopeful that the country could one day develop to a degree where campaign finance laws could be enacted, as he responded to claims from the Free National Movement that the government was using the Public Treasury to finance the Progressive Liberal Party’s electoral campaign.
Mr Davis said: “Those calls have been (made) and I think it is something that we ought to be addressing, but unfortunately no one has gotten around to it.
“This is something that has been talked about from time immemorial and we always seem to put it on the side and it is always heightened at this time of the year depending on who is in government.
“When we were in opposition we called for it. It is always the cry for the opposition,” Mr Davis said. “It is a debate that will continue until we deal with it.”