This follows a similar mission that came in July 2011, making it the first time ever that it became necessary for foreign observers to be called in for local elections on the island. At the time however, the opposition party was concerned about the possibilities for massive voter fraud and other irregularities that they felt could provide an unfair advantage to the ruling party of the Nevis Reformation Party.
Even before the poll was conducted then on 11th July, a High Court Judge had to rule for the reinstatement of names of voters that had been illegally removed from the list. This matter eventually mushroomed into a major court battle that saw, first the High Court, then the OECS Appeals Court, determining that the election was conducted under the cloud of numerous electoral irregularities and disregard for the laws that governed such polls.
One seat, that of St. John’s constituency, had to be declared vacant, approximately 1 year into the term, paving the way for a by-election in 90 days; but before that was held, the Premier of the island, Mr. Joseph Parry opted instead for a full island-wide poll, in all five constituencies; thus, the election on Tuesday 22nd January, 2013.
The announcement of the CARICOM participation was made on Sunday night by the Supervisor of Elections, Mr. Raphael Archibald, when he delivered a pre-election address on the government-owned radio and television station, ZIZ.
Archibald indicated that the team “from the CARICOM Secretariat will be here on Tuesday to observe the elections. I urge you to welcome them and give them your fullest cooperation as they seek to carry-out their observations.”
However, speaking on WINN FM radio on Monday afternoon (21st January), Deputy Leader of the opposition concerned citizens Movement, CCM, in Nevis, Mr. Mark Brantley, appeared shocked when he was told that such a team was to be engaged in the election as observers.
Brantley said, “Well if CARICOM observers are on the ground that is news to me and my party because our party leader wrote some weeks ago, asking for observers (and) we have never had a response from the Prime Minister and up to this morning, … I spoke with my party leader and we were not aware of observers being on the ground.”
He said however that if it is true, it would be good news to him and the CCM party but he repeated that they were not aware of it at all. The CCM Deputy leader also said if the observers are only now arriving here, it would be a little unusual because they would normally come several days in advance, to travel around the island to meet people and officials, including those from the various political parties.
“But if that is the case I welcome them even at this late stage because we are persuaded that there will be efforts to subvert the vote and there will be efforts, continuing efforts, to corrupt the process.
In 2011, other observer teams came from the OAS, the local Christian Council and Evangelical Association and the St. Kitts & Nevis Chamber of Industry & Commerce.