- The EOM team included specialists in electoral organisation, electoral technology, political financing, gender and political analysis.
- Robust participation in a country’s electoral process is essential to maintain and strengthen the democratic system of government and to identify, encourage and develop the next cadre of political leaders.
- The EOM encourages the people of Jamaica to continue to work with this important national institution to embed a positive, inclusive and peaceful political process.
Jamaica has received high praise from the Electoral Observation Mission (EOM) of the Organization of American States (OAS) for the manner in which the country’s 17th General Election was conducted.
Chief of Mission, EOM, Janet G. Bostwick, said several “good practices” were observed during the electoral process, which can be beneficial to other countries in the region.
“The EOM wishes to commend the professional conduct and diligence of the poll workers, supervisory personnel and security agents, who facilitated the voting process on both days (early voting day and Election Day),” she said.
Mrs. Bostwick was presenting the preliminary report on the mission’s findings during a press conference at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston today (February 26).
The mission, which comprised 23 international observers from 15 OAS member states and two observer states, visited the island to assess the proceedings of the 2016 General Election.
The EOM team included specialists in electoral organisation, electoral technology, political financing, gender and political analysis.
On early voting day (February 22), which facilitated the police, military and Election Day workers, the Mission Chief visited polling stations in three constituencies of two parishes. On Election Day (February 25), the EOM team was present in 13 parishes and visited 367 polling stations.
“The EOM noted that the polling stations opened on time and were equipped with the materials required for the elections,” Mrs. Bostwick said.
The Mission Chief further commended the electoral authorities for the timely and efficient tabulation, transmission and release of the preliminary results, which she said, “enhances the credibility of the process and is a significant tool for stability.”
She noted that while most voters had the necessary information as to where to cast their votes, and were assisted in this regard by the electoral authorities as well as party agents, the EOM team is suggesting that “posting the voters’ list outside of each polling station would enhance the delivery and transparency of the voting process.”
The EOM, in the meantime, raised concern about the low voter turnout, which was recorded at 47.7 per cent. This was a reduction from the 52.6 per cent of voters, who participated in the electoral process in 2011. There has been a trend of low voter turnout in Jamaica since the 1990s.
Mrs. Bostwick, in lamenting the apathy observed in the general population, particularly among young people, noted that robust participation in a country’s electoral process is essential to maintain and strengthen the democratic system of government and to identify, encourage and develop the next cadre of political leaders.
“The EOM recommends that the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ), the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ), the Political Ombudsman and other stakeholders, re-double their voter education and public awareness campaigns to inform and energise new voters, while encouraging the participation of the general electorate in the national electoral process,” the Mission Chief said.
The EOM has also recommended that the electoral authorities consider provisions to facilitate voting by qualified voters, whose names appear on the voters’ list, but who are unable to be present at their designated polling centre on Election Day.
These include persons in hospitals or nursing homes, citizens on remand or serving terms of imprisonment and Jamaicans posted or residing overseas.
In the meantime, the Mission Chief lauded the “authority and independence” of the ECJ, which she said, “remains a standard in the hemisphere.”
“The EOM is pleased to recognise the hard work and strong competence of this remarkable organisation,” she said.
Mrs. Bostwick also commended the work of the Political Ombudsman, who she said “occupies a neutral space between the political forces in Jamaica and seeks to mediate and moderate unhelpful attitudes and actions in the political and electoral context.”
“In countries where political polarisation is present, this role is especially valuable. The EOM encourages the people of Jamaica to continue to work with this important national institution to embed a positive, inclusive and peaceful political process,” she said.
A detailed report of the observations and recommendations of the OAS Mission will be presented to the OAS Permanent Council in Washington, D.C. It will also be shared with all stakeholders in Jamaica and will be available on the OAS website at www.oas.org.