The thirteen observers attached to the election observation mission from the Organization of American States (OAS) have preliminarily declared the 2015 general election in Belize “peaceful and successful,” and said that the work of electoral authorities in the lead up to Wednesday resulted in a, quote, “a generally inclusive and clean electoral process.” 71 percent of registered voters participated and the observers who came from 11 countries visited all six administrative regions of the country, and observed at 162 of the country’s 225 polling booths in 30 of the country’s 31 constituencies. Reporting to the press a few hours after re-elected Prime Minister Dean Barrow’s press conference a few steps away at the Belize Biltmore Plaza, Chief of Mission Ambassador Jacinth Henry-Martin noted some pre-election concerns, some of which she says the OAS has spoken to Belize about in its previous mission in 2012.
Jacinth Henry-Martin, Chief of Mission, OAS: The mission heard concern regarding various elements of the voting process including the size and integrity of the voters list, and allegations regarding the high number of transfers which appeared to some to leave insufficient time for adequate substantiation. Concerns were also expressed regarding the composition of the proxy registry and the time frame for political parties to access the final version of the registry prior to the election. The report of the 2012 EOM emphasized the need for the elections and boundaries commission to update the country’s electoral boundaries in order to affect greater equity across electoral divisions. The 2015 EOM noted that the issue persists. The mission also notes that there are no guarantees to political parties of equitable access to media outlets. Several stakeholders mentioned the lack of campaign financing legislation in Belize. A recommendation emanating from the 2012 EOM report and referenced the potential impact of campaign financing on the transparency of the electoral process. The mission also noted a perception of limited differentiation between the state and the governing party in terms of the use of resources during the campaign.
The OAS noted concerns about women and youth participation, with eleven candidates out of 88 being women, and youth restricted only to background roles. On Election Day itself, according to Henry-Martin, administration of the poll went smoothly. Here are her recommendations preliminary with regard to key items needed for the success of Belize’s electoral process.
Jacinth Henry-Martin, Chief of Mission, OAS: Number 1. That efforts be made by all political parties and the government to continue to promote the participation of women in electoral competition and to create avenues to encourage the participation of youth at all levels of the political process providing training programs and mentor-ship for women and young political leaders. Number 2. That a comprehensive re-registration of voters be undertaken in accordance with the representation of the People’s Act as recommended by the OAS EOM in 2012 and that they be established by the competent authorities a clear and feasible limit for electors to register as proxy voters in order to allow the EBD to have a finalized proxy register within a reasonable time prior to the day of election. Three, the mission reiterates the recommendation of the 2012 EOM report with respect to the need for adjustment due to the electoral boundary, and for differentiation in the responsibilities of the elections boundaries commission and the election boundaries department, EBC and EBD. Number 4, that legislation governing campaign financing be enacted as recommended in the 2012 EOM report, and that the dormant integrity commission be revived or another similar mechanism established to oversee and supervise financial inflows during the campaign.
The OAS mission, according to Henry-Martin, has no reports of any use of state resources in the election, but one report has been made of votes for money, which she describes.
Jacinth Henry-Martin, Chief of Mission, OAS: A report was made to at least one of our observers that there was some irregularity in that regard. It is going to be investigated. The observer did not personally witness it, and as such that will form part of the report, but the report was made to an observer.
The final report is due in another three months and will be publicized and shared with the new Government. Henry-Martin added that there is model legislation for campaign financing available with the OAS who can provide technical support to adapt it to Belize.