ST JOHN’S, Antigua, CMC – The CARICOM Election Observation Mission (CEOM) on Thursday reported that general elections here were free and fair and the conduct was commendable but advised that there are areas that need to be addressed before residents have to vote again.
In its preliminary report on Wednesday’s election, which the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) won with a slim margin, taking nine of the 17 seats in the House of Assembly, the seven-member CEOM congratulated the staff of the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC), poll workers, candidates and the security forces for “the mature way in which the elections were conducted.”
“The level of discipline displayed throughout the entire process is highly commendable,” said Chief of Mission Josephine Tamai.
“The Mission’s assessment of the Election Day’s activities is that the voters were able to cast their ballots without intimidation and that the General Election was free and fair, and the outcome reflects the will of the people of Antigua and Barbuda.”
However, Tamai added: “While the conduct of the election is highly commendable, all stakeholders, including the main opposition party, with whom the Mission met, raised concerns about the delay in the publication of the register of elections. Therefore they had no opportunity to put forward claims and objections. The Electoral Commission informed the CEO that the date for the publication of the register was calculated based on the advice of legal counsel and, in its view, the calculation is correct.”
The CEO added that it was made aware that in 2021, persons were appointed to the Constituencies Boundaries Commission to address the disparity in the number of electors in the constituencies.
“While the Mission applauds the effort to address this disparity, there is an urgent need to ensure that this exercise is not delayed any further, as completion is essential before the next general election,” it advised.
The observer team also reported that stakeholders raised concerns about the need for more accountability and transparency regarding campaign financing regulations.
“This indicates the need for a framework to be put in place to deal with the issue of campaign financing,” it said.
The CEO visited 184 of 188 polling stations across 16 constituencies in Antigua but was unable to see polling stations in Barbuda because of logistical challenges.
It observed that the polling stations opened on time and were fully staffed, voting started promptly at 6 a.m., the two major political parties – the ABLP and the United Progressive Party (UPP), which won six seats – each had political agents present at all locations, all materials and supplies needed were present in the required quantities. Adequate security was in place at the sites.
The CEO added that transportation of ballot boxes from the polling stations to the counting stations was done with adequate security, in the presence of party agents, counting of the votes began promptly upon the arrival of the ballot boxes, and “the count of ballots was done transparently and professionally in the presence of party agents.”
The Mission is expected to prepare a detailed report for submission to CARICOM Secretary General Dr. Carla Barnett, which will include recommendations and suggestions for strengthening the electoral process in Antigua and Barbuda.