Commonwealth Observers report - T&T elections conducted smoothly, democratically & professionally

Date: 
Tuesday, December 15, 2015 - 20:00

Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma has released the report of the Commonwealth Observer Group to Trinidad and Tobago’s parliamentary elections on September 7th 2015 and it's praising  this country for the smooth running of the election and professionalism of the EBC.

It called the election "credible and transparent".

The election was won by the Opposition People’s National Movement, led by Dr Keith Rowley, with 23 seats in the 41-seat Parliament, defeating the incumbent United National Congress party.

The Commonwealth Observer Group was led by Sir Paul Tovua, former Speaker of Parliament and current Chairman of the Political Parties Commission of Solomon Islands.

The Group concluded in its report that the elections in Trinidad and Tobago met all the key benchmarks for democratic elections. 

“These elections affirmed Trinidad and Tobago’s record of conducting credible and transparent elections, and are a testament to the people’s commitment to democracy,” writes Sir Paul in the foreword to the report.

“On voting day, we were impressed by the diligence and professionalism of presiding officers and polling officials, who were predominantly women.  

"They carefully followed the prescribed election procedures, throughout the entire process, including the close, count and results process.  We were particularly struck by the high level of trust the people of Trinidad and Tobago have in the electoral system and in the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC).” 

“Every election can be improved. In this respect, and in line with our mandate, we have offered some recommendations that the new Government, the EBC, all political parties, and other relevant stakeholders may wish to consider,” Sir Paul adds.

The report has been sent to the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, the Elections and Boundaries Commission and main opposition party.  

The following is the letter that Sir Paul wrote to the Commonwealth Secretary-General in presenting the report.

"The Commonwealth Observer Group you deployed to observe the 7 September 2015 Parliamentary Elections in Trinidad and Tobago has completed its report, and is pleased to  submit it to you.

These elections affirmed Trinidad and Tobago’s record of conducting credible and transparent elections, and are a testament to the people’s commitment to democracy. 

Whether they served as polling officials, security personnel, polling agents or participated as voters, it is the people of this country who deserve the greatest commendation for maintaining their country’s strong democratic credentials.

Our overall assessment is that these elections met all the key benchmarks for democratic elections. 

On voting day, we were impressed by  the diligence and professionalism of presiding officers and polling officials, who were predominantly women. 

They carefully followed the prescribed  election procedures throughout the entire process, including the close, count and results processes. 

We were particularly struck by the high level of trust the people of Trinidad and Tobago have in the electoral system and in the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC). 

Every election can be improved. In this respect, and in line with our mandate, we have offered some recommendations that the new Government, the EBC, all political parties, and other relevant stakeholders may wish to consider.

Notably, given the dynamism of political parties in Trinidad and Tobago, we encourage the Government to give priority to considering legislative reform that will enable the registration of political parties and regulate campaign finance.

Concerns were also expressed to us about the surge in personal attacks during the campaign period, including through social media outlets, and the misuse of social media for campaigning  after the prescribed campaign deadline. 

We were encouraged by the efforts of the Council for Responsible Behaviour to promote adherence to a voluntary code of conduct during these elections. 

We urge the EBC and all relevant stakeholders to work together to  harmonise frameworks around political party financing and conduct.

We were pleased to note that the EBC and others are already reflecting on reforms to address these challenges. 

We urge the new government to support such reforms to further bolster the country’s already strong democracy. 

As we depart Trinidad and Tobago, we would like to thank you for the opportunity to be present in the country during this important time. 

We further take this opportunity to convey our gratitude to the staff team for their invaluable support.

Yours truly,
Sir Paul Tovua"