OAS congratulates people of Suriname for exemplary civic spirit in 2015 general elections
PARAMARIBO, Suriname -- The electoral observation mission of the Organization of American States (OAS/EOM) has congratulated the citizens of Suriname for their exemplary civic spirit and active participation in the electoral process, reflected in the voter turnout in Monday’s general elections.
The 24-member team comprised of 13 nationalities, headed by Chilean international expert Irene Klinger, observed the elections in 61% of polling stations in all ten districts of the country and was pleased to witness that the process was carried out in an orderly, peaceful and even festive manner.
The OAS/EOM thanked the government of Suriname for the invitation to observe this process and recognizes the efforts undertaken by the ministry of home affairs, the Central Polling Authority and the Independent Electoral Council to prepare and conduct the 2015 general elections.
The OAS team reported that the polling stations observed opened on time, were adequately staffed and fully equipped with all the materials required for the election. The mission highlighted the extraordinary commitment and diligence of polling station members, oversight personnel and security agents in the exercise of their duties and commends political parties for the camaraderie shown throughout the day at polling stations.
The OAS/EOM was pleased to verify that some of the recommendations made by the OAS in 2010 have been adopted for this electoral process. These include the introduction of separate ballot boxes (stembuzen) for the local and national elections, which facilitated the ballot counting after the closing of the polls, and the increase in the political representation of women in political party candidate lists.
In the spirit of further assisting Suriname in its efforts to continue strengthening its electoral process, the electoral observation mission offered the following preliminary findings and recommendations, which are based on a thorough analysis of the electoral legal framework, and on the information gathered by the delegation as a result of exchanges with national and electoral authorities, as well as with the Surinamese civil society, political parties and the international community in the pre-electoral phase and during election day.
1. The OAS/EOM noticed that the average number of people represented in each electoral district varies significantly. A seat in one district can represent almost ten times more voters than in another. Suriname could explore mechanisms to remedy these disparities to ensure a more balanced representation of inhabitants per district while at the same time securing representation for all regions.
2. The mission noted that Suriname has limited regulations regarding political-campaign financing and information disclosure on sources of funding. In addition, no form of political party direct or indirect public financing exists. The OAS/EOM identified the need for Suriname to discuss and incorporate regulations regarding political-campaign financing and to consider introducing some sort of public funding scheme for political parties.
3. The OAS electoral observation mission was pleased to observe the increased number of female candidates and the progress seen in their ranking in higher positions in party lists as a result of the efforts made by the National Assembly and civil society organizations. On this occasion 128 candidates, or 33% of the total number, were women compared to 90 in the last election. The mission urged parties to continue providing women with more favorable positions within party structures and in the candidate lists in order to enhance their possibilities of being elected. Affirmative action measures, such as quotas and alternation mechanisms, could be introduced to promote gender equality in electoral competition.
4. The OAS/EOM welcomes the efforts made to improve the access to polling stations for persons with disabilities, including the introduction of special voting booths. However, throughout the country OAS observers noticed that there were discrepancies in the procedures used to assist the elderly and persons with disabilities. In some polling stations family members accompanied them, while in others assistance was provided by polling station personnel and party representatives. The mission suggested that electoral authorities consider drafting a uniform procedure for assisting those voters who require additional help.
The mission reminded the public that official results of the National Assembly and regional and local council elections will be provided by the Central Polling Authority and certified by the Independent Electoral Council in accordance with the national legislation.
The EOM thanked the governments of Canada, Chile, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, the United States and Spain for their contributions that made this mission possible.
In the coming weeks Klinger will present a detailed report on the observations and recommendations of the OAS electoral observation mission to the OAS Permanent Council in Washington, DC.