OAS observers conclude that Grenada’s elections left “very positive” impressions

Grenada’s general elections of this past July 8 left “very positive” impressions on the Organization of American States (OAS) election observers, Assistant Secretary General Albert Ramdin confirmed in a preliminary report delivered to the Permanent Council today. It was the third time that the OAS was observing a Grenadian election.

The OAS Member States hailed the report and congratulated the people of Grenada for their demonstrated commitment to the democratic process, in which the Tillman Thomas-led National Democratic Congress (NDC) won 11 of the 15 parliamentary seats at stake, the remaining four seats going to Keith Mitchell’s New National Party (NNP). Members of the OAS Electoral Observation Mission were on hand for Thomas’ July 9 swearing-in as Prime Minister of Grenada.

An eight-point proposal was included in the OAS report, highlighting recommendations for the Parliamentary Elections Office to take a more visible, ongoing role in voter education and outreach to a variety of political stakeholders “to promote the democratic process at all times, not merely in the election period.”

Ambassador Ramdin, who led the OAS Electoral Observation in Grenada, told the member countries’ ambassadors in the OAS Permanent Council that anxieties expressed by various political stakeholders prior to the elections “proved unfounded.” The OAS team of election monitors, numbering 38 on Election Day, had visited all polling stations at least once—and some twice or three times during the day—and concluded that “the environment in which citizens voted was orderly and peaceful,” Ramdin told the Permanent Council meeting, chaired by Belizean Ambassador Nestor Mendez.

“There were no reported instances of unruly behavior or of intimidation of voters at polling sites or of any serious irregularities,” Ramdin added, pointing as well to an “extremely high” voter turn-out, estimated at more than 80 per cent.

In his detailed report on what the OAS monitors observed of the process that culminated in the July 8 general elections, Assistant Secretary General Ramdin commented on the orderly conduct of poll workers and others involved, noting that polls closed promptly at 5:00 p.m. and, “as at the opening, electoral officials followed the proper procedures carefully and efficiently.”

The OAS Electoral Observation Mission also noted “relatively few areas in which it felt that the electoral process in Grenada could be improved.” The Mission recommended that in order to improve the system, an accurate voter’s list should be produced at an early date; all political parties and civil society should collaborate to agree on conduct during election campaigns; and that a cross-party accord on campaign financing and media access would be useful to promote transparency and accountability. In response to their requests, the OAS confirmed its commitment to helping civil society organizations in Grenada as they seek to build capacity “to assume a broader ongoing neutral role in monitoring and debating governance issues.”

Ambassador Ramdin specially acknowledged the “crucial financial support” and observers provided by the governments of Canada, China, the United Kingdom and the United States to facilitate the Electoral Observation Mission in Grenada. In addition to the team members and the OAS Office in Grenada, Ramdin also thanked St. George’s University in Grenada as well as the University of the West Indies for providing observers.

Grenada’s Permanent Representative to the OAS, Ambassador Denis Antoine, stressed that in observing last week’s elections, the hemispheric organization witnessed “democracy in action.” The process of general elections affirmed that democracy is alive and well in Grenada, Antoine added. He also thanked the OAS for its continued engagement with Grenada, and said that the Electoral Observation Mission’s recommendations were well-received.

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