Before the Jan. 25 election took place, observers and participants alike shared the hope that the St. Kitts and Nevis Jan. 25 election would be similar to the 2004 campaign in at least one respect – that it would be ultimately judged as being “a free expression of the will of the people.” Those were the words used to describe the Oct. 25, 2004 election By the CARICOM Electoral Observer Mission, which monitored what turned out to be a landslide in favour of the ruling St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party. The 2004 Mission, which was able to visit 100 percent of the Federation’s polling stations, complimented the “high quality of training given to members of the poll day staff” in its Oct. 26, 2004 Preliminary Report. Also noted was the efficient manner in which their duties were discharged. The people of St. Kitts and Nevis were congratulated in the Report for helping to keep the elections free of any major incidents, and for participating so wholeheartedly in the democratic process. For putting together a cogent, informative voter education programme, both the political parties and the media were given plaudits. Having been invited to the Federation By the Government of St Kitts and Nevis to observe the electoral process, the Mission took a comprehensive look at the process, from the distributing of the paper ballots to the returning officers, to the ballot-counting process and the preliminary declaration of results. The Preliminary Report noted some infractions of the registration rules, mainly pertaining to the enrollment of voters in locales where they did not reside. Some voters lamented the lack of identification protocols at the polls, wherein a simple declaration of identity By the elector was the only recourse when uncertainties or challenges arose. In all, the Mission recommended that a more comprehensive regulatory system of voter registration be established. Other areas of concern included the lack of regulations governing campaign finance, and the rights of Federation citizens living abroad to claim to be domiciled in the country for purposes of returning to vote on Polling Day. Lastly, the Mission expressed regret at the moratorium on the Code of Conduct that had previously been agreed to By the political parties. In a statement released three days after the Jan. 25, 2010 election, the CARICOM monitors were generally very favourable, positing that “voters in St. Kitts and Nevis were able to cast their ballots without intimidation or harassment.” Of the vote counting process the report stated, “The Mission is pleased to put on record that the count was conducted in a transparent manner in that all stakeholders and observers: local, regional, and international were given approval to witness the count.” Voters received the highest of commendations from the CARICOM Mission when it stated, “It was truly remarkable that the long delays experienced By some at polling locations where the electorate was dense did not deter the voters from exercising their franchise. They showed up at the polls, even as it rained in order to elect the government of their choice and despite some of their earlier concerns expressed to the Mission regarding the voters’ list, the re-confirmation of voters and voter education to name a few, voting was conducted in a peaceful and incident free manner. The Mission must commend the citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis for displaying their commitment to the democratic process.” The 2010 Mission numbered six persons, headed By Ms. Versil Charles-Wright, Deputy Chief Elections Officer, Trinidad and Tobago who, along with Ms. Mignon Bowen and Dennisia Francisco — both of the CARICOM Secretariat — formed the Core Group. The other observers were Mr. Carson Raggie, Chief Elections Officer, St Lucia, Ms. Agnes Blaize, member of the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission and Mr. Earl Simpson, Deputy Director Electoral Office of Jamaica. The observers for the current elections were deployed in eight constituencies across St. Kitts, though given the team’s small size no representative was deployed to the three constituencies on the island of Nevis. All 71 polling stations on St. Kitts were visited and reviewed for their suitability and general appropriateness. The CARICOM team did express some concerns about certain aspects of the election process, which will be addressed in the up-coming full Report. The Commonwealth also provided a team of observers for the 2004 election. Their ‘Report of the Commonwealth Expert Team’ was similar in tone to the CARICOM report. Although noting that ‘the election was credible and that the result reflected the will of those who voted,” important issues regarding voter registration and other electoral processes were raised By the Team to ensure that future elections would be above reproach in those areas. Specifically, the Team indicated a need for a systematic national registration and the introduction of processes to ensure a reliable and accurate register of electors, the removal of deceased persons from the register, and the identification of non-resident electors. Also recommended was the establishment of voter identification technology. Additional areas of concern encompassed such areas as increasing the role that women play in Federation’s political process, strengthening the role of civic organisations, a comprehensive voter education programme, and the initiation of campaign finance rules. The Team advocated that the Federation seek assistance from the Commonwealth to address some of the noted issues.
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