Above: OAS Head of Mission Ambassador Frank Almaguer (OAS Photo/Juan Manuel Herrera)
By the Caribbean Journal staff
The active role played by party activists during Belize’s general elections Wednesday produced a “less than conducive” voting environment, according to the Organization of American States, which fielded an electoral observation mission in the country this week.
“Agents from the two major parties maintained a presence at all of the polling stations observed by the mission,” the OAS team said in its report. “The electoral propaganda observed in the vicinity of polling stations and the prevalence of t-shirts bearing candidate names and symbols could be construed as electioneering.”
One OAS observer witnessed a party activist distributing money immediately outside of a polling centre to a group of people after they had voted.
The OAS said it applauded the “dedication and professionalism” of the more than 3,000 polling officials administering the general and municipal elections, ensuring a “smooth process” throughout the day.
The organization made a series of recommendations, including promoting female participation on the ballot, and the enactment of campaign finance regulations.
“The current framework places no limits on campaign spending and does not require disclosure of campaign contributions or expenditures,” the OAS said, repeating a recommendation it made in St Lucia and Guyana after their late 2011 elections.
It also called for steps to reduce the role and influence of party activists at voting centres through more uniform enforcement of the 100-yard boundary around polling stations.
The OAS will release a more detailed report in the next few weeks.