OAS officials visit the Queen’s College polling station. Photo: Donovan McIntosh/Tribune Staff
US PRAISES ELECTION
THE US Embassy in Nassau congratulated Bahamians for successfully exercising their democratic rights and participating in yesterday’s general election.
“The embassy deployed a team of six observers to monitor the elections; overall we observed a peaceful and orderly election at the majority of polling stations, in spite of the many challenges of the ongoing pandemic,” the US Embassy said in a press release yesterday. “The United States was part of a broad independent observation effort that included the Organization of American States, CARICOM, the Commonwealth, and other members of the Diplomatic Corps.
“Elections are one of the primary ways to ensure citizens participate in a democracy. We applaud the efforts of the Bahamian government, the Parliamentary Registration Department, civil society, the candidates, and above all the voting public of The Bahamas for strengthening their democratic institutions.
“The United States looks forward to continuing its work with the government and people of The Bahamas to strengthen our enduring partnership for the good of both of our peoples.”
THE chief of the Organisation of American States’ Electoral Observation Mission said he has not noticed any red flags in the voting process as Bahamians cast their votes yesterday.
The group will make recommendations after the election.
Denis Antoine made the comments while speaking to reporters following the EOM’s tour of polling stations across the capital.
After the international group of observers canvassed the Queen’s College polling station, Mr Antoine said it appeared as if the voting process was “going smoothly” based on their observations.
“I think things are quiet,” he said. “We’re continuing to observe and monitor the process to see how it’s going and then we will make our assessment and make further recommendations.”
Mr Antoine said he was also pleased with the health and safety protocols being enforced at the various polling stations to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 amid the virus’ most recent surge in the country.
“The COVID-19 (pandemic) presents a challenge and we are encouraging everyone to adhere to the protocols of the Ministry of Health and the electoral authorities,” he said. “It is a very challenging time and we do hope that everyone looks out for themselves and others. So we are hoping that it continues to go smoothly. We have seen evidence of persons taking care with masks and sanitising and we ask that that continues.”
The EOM chief said he and his team would continue to observe until the voting process ended. He said at that time, they will make their observations and recommendations known.
“This (effort) is in solidarity to the member states of the Organisation of American States,” he said. “We’re looking to ensure that we come and we participate by observing and we would make critical and very accurate assessments of the process and at the end of this process, we would present our report with recommendations for improvement.
“The timeline (for the report) comes after the election,” he also said. “We have to wait until the process is over. We cannot predict when and what date we can give at this moment.”
When The Tribune visited the polling station at Queen’s College, the site was relatively quiet, with no long lines or notable crowd sizes.
When asked to share his experience at the polls, one voter described the process as “seamless”.
“There were probably four people in front of me when I got there and they were all spaced out six feet apart,” he said. “It was a constant flow and I didn’t see any big crowds. People were constantly walking from the parking lot to the polls and back, but there was no congregation. There’s no big crowds, so it was a lot smoother than the last election.”
Another voter also said while he was initially hesitant to come out to mark his ballot because of the current COVID-19 surge, he was pleasantly surprised at the organisation at the QC polling station.
“I was a little concerned that it might have been out of control but everyone was very professional and careful to take safeguards and precautions, so everything worked out well,” he said.
A group of Commonwealth election observers, headed by former Prime Minister of Jamaica Bruce Golding, also arrived in the country several days ago to observe the election..
This is the second time the Commonwealth observed the Bahamian election — the first was in May 2017.
The Commonwealth observers will issue an interim statement on its preliminary findings tomorrow. A final report will be prepared and submitted to the Commonwealth secretary-general, and subsequently shared with relevant stakeholders and made publicly available.
The group will depart the country by September 23.