Commonwealth observers have broad remit

The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association election observer team that arrived in the Cayman Islands late last week will be given a wide berth when it comes to reviewing how local elections are carried out Wednesday.  

Team leader Mario Galea said his six-member team will certainly be observing how things go at the polls, but that will only be a small part of the overseas observers’ mission.  

“We will be looking at political campaigning where there is freedom for all stakeholders, for all candidates whoever they are,” Mr. Galea said last week. “[That candidates] are free to move around and campaign freely.”  

Mr. Galea also noted that campaign finance and media coverage will be factored into Commonwealth observers’ reports produced after the mission.  

“Are public resources being used to favour one particular party or candidate?” is one of the questions Mr. Galea said would be considered. “We will be looking at the media. We strongly believe the media is an important stakeholder and that the media should be free to cover any particular press events. We will also be looking at the financing of the political campaign.”  

Observers will also review the “electoral framework” in the Cayman Islands; meaning matters like the voting system and electoral districts will be covered in the mission’s final report.  

In addition to the polling on Wednesday, Commonwealth observers will look at the vote tabulation on Wednesday night and into Thursday morning. They will also look at any post-election complaints or appeals in exceptionally close races, if there are any.  

A preliminary report will be released by the observers within 24 to 48 hours after election day. A final report should be issued within two months of the election, Mr. Galea said. 

In addition to Mr. Galea, the other five Commonwealth observers will be Scottish MP Margaret Mitchell, Senator Philip Ozouf of Jersey, Speaker Randolph Horton of the Bermudian parliament, Fern Narcis of Trinidad and Tobago and Juanita Barker of Guyana.  

Mr. Galea said he did not want to give an impression by the observing team’s presence that anything was wrong with the Cayman Islands elections process.  

“I think this gives more credibility to the electoral process and also it validates the elected members,” he said.  

According to Commonwealth Parliamentary Association observer rules, any jurisdiction using its election teams must first invite those teams.  

A memorandum of understanding between the observers and the local jurisdiction is typically drawn up prior to observers arriving.  

According to the Commonwealth association: “It is vital that there are clear standards and benchmarks, which are utilised by observers, to assess whether the elections have upheld democratic and human rights principles.”  

A separate team of local election observers will operate independently from the Commonwealth-appointed team under the direction of the Cayman Islands Elections Office. 

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