The Commonwealth Observer Group (COG) deployed to The Bahamas to observe the 2021 General Election has released their statement on its preliminary findings on the election stating the overall process was “credible, inclusive, and transparent.”
Observers commended the commitment of all Bahamians to exercise their democratic right, considering the challenges confronting the country in the face of a snap election, alongside the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Saying: “Our overall conclusion is that the voting, closing, and counting processes at polling stations were credible, inclusive and transparent.”
The Group noted that despite the challenges, Bahamians have once again demonstrated their commitment to The Commonwealth’s shared democratic values by exercising their right to vote in a peaceful manner.
In a press statement issued in Nassau, the Chairperson of the Commonwealth Observer Group, and former Prime Minister of Jamaica, the Hon Bruce Golding said:
“We note that laudable attempts were made by the Parliamentary Registration Department to implement a number of adjustments to electoral preparations, given the impact of Hurricane Dorian and the coronavirus pandemic. However, we received feedback from most stakeholders that there was insufficient communication on the part of the Parliamentary Registration Department to key electoral functionaries and the public at large on some of these necessary adjustments.”
The COG statement reiterated its recommendation from the 2017 election, calling for the enactment of legislation to provide for the registration of political parties and the regulation of campaign financing and expenditure.
The preliminary statement noted that:
“There are no statutory provisions regulating financial contributions to or campaign expenditure by political parties and candidates. This leads to a lack of accountability, uncertainty, and suspicion as to the extent to which financial contributions influence the outcome of elections and the decisions and actions of the Government that emerges from those elections.”
Ahead of election day, the COG met with a broad range of stakeholders including the Parliamentary Registration Department, political parties, representatives of civil society, media, the police, and other international observers.
On election day, the group was deployed across the country, covering four islands, including New Providence.
The final report, which will set out the full findings on the process and recommendations in greater detail, will be submitted to the Commonwealth Secretary-General, and thereafter shared with the Government of The Bahamas, the Parliamentary Registration Department, political parties and Commonwealth governments before being made public.