FNM leader Dr Hubert Minnis.
By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
FREE National Movement Leader Dr Hubert Minnis yesterday called for “international organisations” to chaperone the 2017 general election, as he highlighted a number of “irregularities” that allegedly took place during Tuesday’s gender equality referendum.
Dr Minnis, in a press conference yesterday morning in the House of
Assembly’s Minority Room, said the process used in Tuesday’s referendum revealed a number of “flaws” which he said “resulted in many persons being denied their fundamental right to cast their ballot and could possibly cast a long dark shadow on our country’s ability to hold free and fair elections.”
One example of such, Dr Minnis claimed, was that despite agreements made with Parliamentary Commissioner Sherlyn Hall to allow members of the major political parties to act as observers, many FNM observers were denied entry into the polling divisions “because they wore red shirts.”
Dr Minnis also claimed that “in many cases” polls were opened and balloting proceeded before FNM observers “were finally allowed in the room.”
Other flaws Dr Minnis cited included a lack of “clear instructions” from parliamentary officials regarding the “presence and dress code of observers,” hard copies of the register of voters not being available on time and in “most cases not available at all” at some polling places; and voters allegedly being instructed to “write ‘no’ or ‘yes’ in answer to the questions rather than to mark an ‘x’.”
“These irregularities are of great concern to us especially in light of the upcoming general elections and we wish to put the government on notice that these irregularities must be fixed,” he said. “In light of this, the Free National Movement will demand that international organisations be invited to observe the Bahamas general elections in 2017.”
Dr Minnis also criticised the Christie administration for using “their control over the government’s purse” to “push for an outcome of their choosing” instead of remaining impartial. He said this was evident in the government’s decision to fund the YES Bahamas campaign “while at the same time denying funding to the ‘no’ campaign.”
“Free and fair elections are the foundation of any democracy, ours being no exception,” Dr Minnis said. “It is demonstrably unfair for a government to use the peoples’ taxes to fund one side of the issue while denying funding to the opposite view. An FNM government will enact legislation to remove this discriminatory practice in future referenda.
“Unfortunately, the process used in yesterday’s referendum revealed a number of flaws which resulted in many persons being denied their fundamental right to cast their ballot and could possibly cast a long dark shadow on our country’s ability to hold free and fair elections.”
The four bills, which aimed to bring gender equality to the country’s Constitution, were overwhelmingly rejected by voters at the polls on Tuesday. The full results were not released Tuesday night, however Mr Hall told reporters that it was evident all four questions on the ballot were “overwhelmingly” rejected.