Bahamas News

Election Observers: Bahamas needs Campaign finance reform and electronic voting

Bahamas, May 12th 2017 – Nassau – Now that the election is official over, preliminary reports coming from the electoral observers suggest that the lack of technology available for the electoral process within the Bahamas posed a real problem and puts The Bahamas behind Caribbean counterparts.

Chief of Mission, Josephine Tami revealed, “Definitely we will be looking at the boundaries commissioner, the issue of technology – that’s a major issue that can create improvement, and campaign financing regulations. Those would be the top three.”

Focusing on technology, Caricom Deputy Chief of Mission, Orrette Fisher stated, “You [the Bahamas] are behind the rest of the Caribbean in that regard.” Pointing to some of his observations, Fisher also revealed, “The list of advancing polling, that the people who applied were unable to go online and to confirm whether or not they were eligible to vote on that date. I think the whole issue of how the application is made to be on that list, and then the manual entry of the people in the list.”  The observer believed that many of the problems also encountered during the pre-polling activities could have been averted with an electronic system.

As far as recommendations are concerned, Mr. Fisher then suggested, “Having an entire database and then extracting the list from that would have been a much cleaner process and the technology is available and is being used elsewhere. So I think that is something that would definitely require some consideration and there are other areas within which technology can be used to advance the process.”

With regards to campaign financing regulations, OAS Ombudsman, Sherry Tross stated,  “The mission heard concerns from several stakeholders regarding the influence of foreign money in the current electoral process and the absence of a level playing field. The Bahamas has no regulations regarding political – electoral financing or disclosure of sources of funding. There is no public funding for political parties or candidates; meaning electoral campaigns are privately funded. The origin of private funds is not regulated and there are no prohibitions on foreign and anonymous sources. Also, the Bahamas sets no limits on campaign spending and political parties are not required to disclose their finances.” Tross added,  “In order to guarantee a more level playing field and transparency in the electoral process… the mission urges the Bahamas, once more, to consider introducing legislation to regulate political campaign financing.”

The 11-member team of observes deployed by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Organization of American States (OAS) arrived in the Bahamas on May 4th 2017 and held discussions with national stakeholders, including the major political parties, civil society and members of the international community. They also visited 223 polling stations across 20 constituencies during the election period.

 Story By: Kay-Marie Fletcher

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