ORG: Lack of fixed election date facilitated campaigning that is questionable under COVID-19 protocols and opened the door to widespread misinformation and speculation
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Organization for Responsible Governance (ORG) is calling on the government to formally declare its intention on the date or anticipated time frame of next general election and clarify when it will be called as a means to end the current frenzy of political uncertainty.
In the face of a possible snap election and with the current voter registration confusion sparked late Sunday evening, ORG yesterday reiterated the value of establishing fixed election dates and echoed its stance highlighting the urgent need for electoral reform.
ORG Executive Director Matt Aubry said: “If we could look at a fixed date; if we could look at more clear, established rules; if we could look at more opportunities for inclusion and citizen engagement, it creates stronger democracy.
“I think that’s ultimately everybody’s benefit.
“When it comes to the issue of a fixed election date, it also brings more stability regarding the individual candidate’s capacity to develop and mobilize their efforts. So, taking some of the question marks out of the process does help.
“So, those groups, like ours, are trying to bring some more openness, transparency and accountability to the process. It gives a more stable opportunity for that.”
ORG Engagement Coordinator Steffon Evans echoed Aubry’s sentiments, stating: “Policies need to be visited that will safeguard democratic processes in The Bahamas and ensure that all parties involved have access to a system that is fair, transparent, equitable and consensus-oriented.
“Fixed election dates will be critical to mitigating uncertainty around elections. While the leader of the sitting government currently decides on the election date, a fixed date will give all political parties and independent candidates the opportunity to prepare and to engage citizens, which is also an important part of a fair electoral process.”
A statement by ORG noted: “In this political season in particular, the lack of a fixed date has facilitated campaigning by political parties in ways that are questionable under COVID-19 protocols and opened the door to widespread sharing of misinformation and speculation around the election.
“In addition, the lack of stronger policies and protocols around elections also reduce the capacity of citizens’ ability to adequately perform their civic duties of participating in the process of selecting their leadership.”
Evans added: “Citizens need time to familiarize themselves with aspirant candidates, review the performance of incumbents, understand the new permanent voter registry and ultimately to form their own positions on where they feel the country should head in the future.”
Program and Policy Consultant for ORG Tiffany A Bain also expressed that while the need for a proposed snap election, as hinted by House Speaker Halson Moultrie Tuesday, may be necessary, it is crucial that consideration is given to the participation level of all stakeholders in the political process.
“Concern needs to be given to how political behavior can translate into policy, particularly when it can limit citizen access and opportunity to participate in the electoral process,” Bain said.
“It is critical to ensure that all everyone who wants to exercise their right to vote be supported and respected.”
One of ORG’s mandates is to help citizens better understand the voting process, their rights as voters and how to be active citizens, as they have a vital role to play in the country’s political arena “so they can advocate, not to just have a one-way conversation to present what they feel is critically necessary”.
Aubry said: “Ultimately, if one party goes in and another party goes out, you can see if it is all in the government’s hands that there can be a loss of momentum, there can be things that fall off in terms of priority.
“However, if the citizenry has identified their priorities, those then can be the constant.
“We need to think about elections and election practices that support the greatest involvement, not just in terms of coming out and making your vote, but also in terms of being able to use that vote as meaningfully as possible.
“So, that’s why there should be a fixed election date.
“The ultimate goal would be to bring more regularization and standardization to the election process.”
ORG is encouraging all citizens of voting age register to vote for the upcoming election and visit http://orgtransparency.com/voter-resources to learn more about voting in the country.