Observers give glowing reports of elections process
With virtually no problems reported at the polling stations last Wednesday, teams of both local and international election observers gave the Cayman Islands high marks on the conduct of the 2013 general election.
“We have once again witnessed democracy at work, when a free and fair election was held in these Cayman Islands,” said Norman Bodden, who led a team of 10 locally-based observers. “I was impressed by the high level of organisation at the six polling divisions we were observers at, as well as the conduct of the voters themselves.”
According to a preliminary report released by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association group Friday: “In our view, the 2013 general elections in the Cayman Islands met the international standards for democratic genuine and transparent elections and the results truly reflect the will of the people.”
Asked if they could evaluate on a scale of one-to-10, 10 being the highest, the Cayman Islands’ elections process, the international team gave the Cayman Islands a “9 out of 10”, when it came to properly and fairly conducted public voting.
Four observers from the Commonwealth and two elections analysts also noted Friday that Caymanians across the board were friendly and receptive to them being in the country for the vote, the first time such an international election observation mission has been conducted here.
Observers, led by Mario Galea, MP, of Malta, noted few problems on election day itself and said the overall conduct of voting operations was rated as either “good” or “very good” at all district polling stations. A full report from the Commonwealth team is expected within two months.
Local election observers were expected to make a report to outgoing Supervisor of Elections Kearney Gomez in about two weeks.
Governor’s office representative Tom Hines, who attended polling stations in George Town and West Bay as part of the local election observers team, said he was amazed by the 80 per cent voter turnout.
“In this age of apathy it was inspiring to see so many people wanting to exercise their democratic right to vote,” Mr. Hines said.
He also congratulated the deputy returning officers at each polling division for their professional management and ability to think on their feet. “The very few questionable situations I observed, they dealt with quickly,” Mr. Hines said.
Local observers were also congratulated by Mr. Galea for their involvement at each polling location. The Malta MP said each local representative appeared to take their job seriously.
The only concern Mr. Galea expressed was that the local observers had been appointed by the elections supervisor, rather than a non-governmental organisation group.
“I would rather they had been appointed by civil society, or NGO’s,” he said, adding the issue was more one of perception than anything else.
Despite the smooth flow on election day, the international observers noted a number of systemic issues left to be addressed by the Cayman Islands in terms of the legal framework for future elections.
For instance, the current multimember voting system used by Cayman was called contradictory to “the equal suffrage principle of ‘one person, one vote’”. The equality of vote, observers said, was further undermined by the fact that some lawmakers were chosen by vastly greater numbers of voters than others.
Also, observers pointed out certain residency requirements for both eligible voters and for eligible election candidates “appear to be overly restrictive”. In addition, they also pointed out that some 5,000 Caymanians of voting age remain unregistered for unknown reasons.
Campaign finance limits set in the last six weeks prior to the election date were thought to be “unrealistically low” by the Commonwealth observers, who also noted that campaign finance reports turned in by candidates did not have to be verified by any state agency.
Finally, the group noted there were accusations of bias by one political party against certain “private media” outlets, but did not specify whether these allegations were true and noted the team simply didn’t have enough time to do qualitative media monitoring.