Polling stations in the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines opened today - voters are electing a new House of Assembly and Government.
A Commonwealth Election Observation Team is observing the process at the invitation of the government. Mr Paulo Cuinica, Commissioner of the Mozambique Electoral Commission, is leading the two-person unit.
Speaking as polling units opened at 7:00 local time, Mr Cuinica said: “Today is an opportunity for the people of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to express their will through the ballot box. We encourage all eligible voters to exercise this fundamental right, whichever party they support.”
He continued: “Our mandate is to consider all aspects of the electoral process with a view to assessing compliance with the standards for democratic elections to which St Vincent and the Grenadines has committed itself.”
The election was called by Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves of the governing Unity Labour Party. Fifteen seats in the legislature are open to candidates with 88,461 people eligible to vote.
Parties contesting the election include the United Labour Party and New Democratic Party, each fielding 15 candidates, as well as the Green Party which is contesting seven seats, and the Democratic Republican Party, which is fielding six.
The Commonwealth observers arrived in the country on 5 December and will remain in St Vincent and the Grenadines until 13 December. Speaking ahead of the deployment of observers, Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma said: “I expect that in the light of their observations the team should be able to offer valuable, practical recommendations for continued strengthening of democratic processes.”
Commonwealth observer teams act impartially and independently and conduct themselves according to the International Declaration of Principles for Election Observation, to which the Commonwealth is a signatory.