by Eulana Weekes
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): The people of Nevis are yet again preparing for another election, the Nevis Island Assembly Elections slated for December 12, 2022, and as Nomination Day approaches, Monday, December 05, questions arise as to whether or not the CARICOM Election Observation Mission will be deployed to Nevis upon invitation.
WINN FM contacted the Premier of Nevis, Hon. Mark Brantley on Saturday, November 3, to solicit whether or not an invitation was sent to CARICOM to field a CARICOM Election Observation Mission for the Nevis Island Assembly Elections.
Brantley, in response, stated, “I do not have the authority to do that. So what I did was asked the Prime Minister to do so on my behalf, but I have not yet received a response.”
Leader of the Nevis Reformation Party, Dr Janice Daniel Hodge, commented on the matter. She is of the opinion that Brantley has the duty to follow up with the Prime Minister to ensure that independent observers are present for the elections.
“If that’s really what his response was, I am very alarmed that for something as significant as the election, he would have that nonchalant approach; but then again, I think it is just indicative the way that he has neglected to deal with affairs of the people of Nevis and so, even though he does not have the authority as he thinks, he has a responsibility to follow up and to ensure that we have free and fair elections here and that people can have the level of confidence that at least we have independent observers. So, I find it rather disconcerting that he would take such a position on such a significant matter that is really an opportunity for the people of Nevis to make a decision regarding their leadership going forward.”
In recent months, the Nevis Reformation Party (NRP), just like the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party leading up to the National Assembly Elections, continue to ask for transparency and better management of the electoral system.
A supporter of the NRP suggested that the CARICOM Election Observation Mission should have already been deployed to the island.
“I believe the CARICOM Election Observation Mission should be on island roughly a month before any election to properly observe and assess the political climate. Coming in two or three days before polling day is just to observe the poll rather than the election. They would not be able to observe the cheating, the bribery or the buying of votes that takes place before and on election day.”
The CARICOM Election Observation Mission Handbook confirms that the election observation can be broken down into three main areas of focus. (i) The Pre-Election observation period; (ii) Election Day observation; and (iii) Post-Election observation.
As it relates to the Pre-Election Observation Period, the Handbook states that “the preferred option is for an advanced Party to arrive in the host country a full week (seven days) ahead of polling day, consisting of the Chief of Mission, Deputy Chief of Mission, and Members of the CARICOM Secretariat.”
The Handbook further reads, “This advance group, it is anticipated, will be able to:
(a) Gauge more accurately the atmosphere on the ground leading up to the election;
(b) More accurately assess the level of preparedness of the electoral body conducting the elections;
(c) Ascertain the level of access afforded to each political Party [and] to private and state-owned media;
(d) Assess and determine potential ‘hot spots’ and areas for deployment of resources;
(e) Observe and assess the level of security risks associated with the mission;
(f) Schedule and undertake meetings with various stakeholder groups, including NGOs and civil society;
(g) Prepare for arrival, accommodation and transportation of the other members of the Mission.
Whilst there have been continuous conversations on the ground about whether or not a group of CARICOM observers will be present for the Nevis Island Assembly Elections, the Handbook also confirms the duration of time the observers have to carry out their tasks.
The Handbook reveals, “The reality, however, is that resources and other factors oft-times limit the duration and number of persons participating in the CARICOM Election Observation Mission (CEOM). The advanced Party, nonetheless, should not arrive less than three full days (72 hours) ahead of the opening of the polls, with the others arriving a minimum of 48 hours ahead of the opening of the polls.”
Meanwhile, The CARICOM Observation Mission Handbook says that election observations can play an essential role in promoting transparency as well as enhancing public confidence in an electoral process, but declares, however, that “the mere presence of Observers by itself does not confer legitimacy on, or give credibility to an electoral process.” The Handbook says what really matters is the degree and quality of the election observation itself. “For CARICOM, election observation serves as a viable platform to support existing democratic traditions within the Community as part of its wider policy of supporting democracy.”