Commonwealth election observers made a series of recommendations following St Vincent and the Grenadines's recent parliamentary elections, in a report published today.
The report was made public by the Commonwealth Secretariat following its submission to the Government, Commissioner of Elections and political parties after the election on 9 December 2015. The Electoral Office of St Vincent and the Grenadines declared that the governing Unity Labour Party, led by Ralph Gonsalves, won eight parliamentary seats while the New Democratic Party won seven.
The Commonwealth Electoral Observer Team comprised two electoral experts, Mr Paulo Cuinica, Commissioner and Spokesperson of the Mozambique Electoral Commission and Ms Myrtle Palacio, former Chief Elections Officer of Belize.
Writing in the foreword, Mr Cuinica and Ms Palacio extended their "congratulations to the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines for the positive and peaceful manner in which they engaged in the democratic process."
The observers made a number of recommendations, including the need to establish a regulatory framework governing campaign financing and the registration of political parties prior to the election, in order to promote fairness, transparency and accountability.
Further recommendations concern the need to establish clear election guidelines for government departments and public servants, and for regulations governing media coverage during an election, in order to ensure objective, balanced reporting, and equitable access to media for all political parties.
The Observers said that consideration should be given to amend the laws in order to enable the creation of an independent electoral management body. The Observers said, "The Team nevertheless believes that the time has come for St Vincent and the Grenadines to deepen its democracy by establishing an independent election management body, in order to increase voter confidence."
Forty-three candidates representing four political parties, including the incumbent United Labour Party and the Opposition New Democratic Party, contested all fifteen seats in the House of Assembly. The Democratic Republican Party fielded six candidates and the Green Party fielded seven candidates.
The Commonwealth observers noted with concern the low percentage of women candidates standing for election. Of the two main parties, there was only one female candidate contesting the election. No women were in the end successfully elected to the House of Assembly.
The Observers stated that they became aware of allegations of serious irregularities from one political party. They called upon those making these claims to use the mechanisms prescribed in the electoral laws to register their grievances and for the relevant institutions to investigate and pronounce on these allegations.
The Commonwealth Secretariat stands ready to pursue in partnership with St Vincent and the Grenadines the implementation of the recommendations advanced by the Observers.