The efficiency of the electoral process could be improved if counting were to take place at the polling stations immediately after the conclusion of the polls.
That’s the view of the Commonwealth Observer Group which travelled to Antigua and Barbuda earlier this month for the purpose of observing the March 21 general election. The recommendation was included in the group’s interim report that was issued 24 hours after the polls that saw the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) returning to government.
The team was led by Janet Bostwick, chairperson, who spoke to OBSERVER media yesterday during a press conference at the Halcyon Cove.
It is the norm in Antigua and Barbuda to transfer the ballots from the respective polling stations to a designated counting centre in the constituency.
However, over the years, residents have complained about the lateness of the results.
Bostwick said the group arrived at that conclusion after observing the close of polls and the counting processes in two constituencies.
As it relates to the electoral framework and preparations, Bostwick said, the group is aware that since 1984 there have been only minor changes to the electoral boundaries of Antigua and Barbuda.
However, over time, with population growth and natural shifts in demographics, this has led to a large disparity in voter populations.
“We further noted that the Constituencies Boundaries Commission reported in December 2017 that it would not propose to amend the constituencies given the likelihood of an early election. This is an important issue, which we hope can be addressed well ahead of the next election,” the chairperson said.
She also told reporters that concerns were also raised about the lack of transparency and accountability regarding campaign financing, noting that it is important that there is an effective framework for the funding, expenditure and campaigning of political parties and candidates, which might also encourage a more positive and policy-focused campaign.
The Commonwealth observers are also advocating for a code of conduct to govern the behaviour of political candidates in the lead-up to an election.
“In our briefings and our observation of the campaign through the media, attention was drawn to the surge of vitriolic and personal attacks exchanged between political parties and candidates. Although there have been efforts to develop a code of conduct by civil society, these efforts had not succeeded in encouraging political parties to adopt more positive tones,” Bostwick told reporters.
As it relates to the March 21st polls, Bostwick explained that the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC) is to be commended for its effort in delivering a successful election within the timeframe.
She also outlined that although the observers witnessed minor variations in practice, they were satisfied that this did not impact the credibility of the electoral process and the outcome.