Voting slump

pmdispelspartyrumoursA recent study has projected that soon less than half of eligible voters will participate in regional elections.

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart reported on the 2012 International Idea Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance study today, while addressing the opening ceremony of the OAS sponsored seminar on political financing in the Caribbean.

Stuart argued that the link between perceptions of political corruption and the growing apathy and alienation among the electorate was not difficult to establish. The Prime Minister further argued that a minority of voters (with their own agenda) could again determine the future of a nation.

He recalled that Professor Deosaran had publicly warned that the current political realities were daunting and overwhelming.

“Again, these serious threats to democracy and sovereignty are worldwide,” Stuart said. “For this reason, Transparency International and the Carter Centre have repeatedly highlighted the dilemma of regulating political parties and campaign finance by law while at the same time recognising their entitlement to democratic freedoms. That is the challenge that confronts us now.”

However, he said he saw some hope since 2009 with the “Draft Model Law on the Registration and Regulation of Political Parties” which was drawn up with the help of the OAS.

Stuart said the draft clearly outlined the functions of the proposed Political Parties Commission, recommended to be established as a corporate body with its own constitution.

He explained that the commission would have the powers to register or refuse to register political parties following transparent and stated guidelines. He added it would be empowered to allocate state funds to political parties; to receive reports from candidates as well as parties; monitor the conduct of candidates and political parties; investigate complaints and to penalise candidates and parties for non-compliance with the regulations.

The Prime Minister said: “The model legislation lists the permissible as well as the prohibited donors to campaign financing. It stipulates the limits on the value of donations and expenses in cash and kind to candidates as well as parties for both administration and campaigns.”

Stuart pointed out that a major requirement of all political parties would be to maintain financial records, produce annual audited accounts and, during election years, declare their assets, liabilities, and expenditure in relation to elections.

He explained that these documents would be available for inspection by members of the public. Stuart stressed that even though there was much objection to the granting of scarce government funds to political parties, the draft legislation supports state funding of registered political parties.

The Prime Minister explained that every year each political party would get a share of public funds based on the principle of proportionality or equity, adding that state support could be in cash or kind, including access to advertising in state controlled media. (NC)

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