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Pre-Election Statement on Jamaica Elections, Aug. 27, 2002

Kingston, Jamaica….The Carter Center continues to observe the preparations for the upcoming Jamaica parliamentary elections. The Carter Center and its Council of Presidents and Prime Ministers of the Americas were invited by the Electoral Advisory Committee and welcomed by all major political parties to observe the elections.

As international observers, we attempt to analyze the electoral process in its entirety, including the preliminary phases, during the election and after the electoral process is completed. In keeping with these tenets, a small Carter Center delegation conducted a pre-election assessment in Jamaica in May 2002 and provided preliminary observations. A second team visited Jamaica from Aug. 20 - 24, 2002, to follow-up on key issues identified in the first visit, such as the electoral authorities' technical preparedness, ability to prevent and resolve conflict, mechanisms to address violations of the electoral law, and to explore issues of greatest interest to those with whom we met.

On this second visit, we were privileged to meet with members of the EAC, the Electoral Office of Jamaica, political party representatives, members of the Jamaican security forces, CAFFE, and members of the private sector, unions, churches, media and nongovernmental organizations. We are grateful for the openness with which they shared their views. We further appreciate the continued promise of access throughout the formal election period.

The following observations are in addition to those previously made and are offered in a spirit of support for the democratic process in Jamaica.

  1. Electoral authorities continue to exhibit great professionalism and appear technically prepared for the national election. A widely accepted voter's registry has been produced, polling site locations have been identified following a consultative process, and the requisite number of election day workers have been recruited and trained. Participants in the EAC exercised the opportunity to review the names, and notable efforts have been made to ensure the workers' impartiality.
  2. The democratic process was given a boost in June 2002 when the prime minister and leader of the opposition demonstrated critical and positive leadership in the signing of a code of political conduct. Discussion of the code of conduct has become a regular feature in the media, and efforts are now underway to have local candidates, in their constituencies, endorse the code of conduct through their own signatures. We urge all citizens to act as monitors of this code and to hold their politicians to the letter and spirit of the document.
  3. The EAC has focused on creating conditions under which conflict and electoral malpractice can be addressed in a speedy manner with the participation of the key electoral actors. The Elections Centre has been designed to receive and process election related information and facilitate discussion of and resolution of reported difficulties. The Centre provides a location for the participating representatives of the electoral authorities, political parties, and security forces to meet and provides the basic framework for conflict prevention and timely resolution. The success of Elections Centre will depend upon full participation of the members and will necessitate further defining and clarifying the resolution process, bearing in mind the need for flexibility and coordination.
  4. Among the key participants in the Election Centre will be the newly appointed Political Ombudsman Bishop Herro Blair, whose remit goes beyond the Centre to the monitoring and promoting of the political code of conduct. We are heartened by the great confidence his appointment has been awarded by every segment of Jamaican society, and we encourage that his office be provided the appropriate resources and support in order to allow him to best fulfill his mandate.
  5. Immediately prior to the arrival of the Carter Center delegation, political confrontation and deaths in St. Catherine's Central threatened the otherwise largely peaceful election climate. The Carter Center abhors violence in all forms. Nevertheless, we are encouraged by the mechanisms used to resolve this particular conflict. On this occasion, additional violence was averted by the prompt intervention of the electoral authorities, political ombudsman, local church leaders and by the responsiveness of the area candidates. They have all shown a renewed determination to cooperate to prevent or resolve further conflict.

    Panels comprised of "ministers fraternal" and lay community leaders can play a significant role in resolving local conflict and encouraging respect for the code of political conduct. We recommend their involvement in conflict resolution be formalized under the auspices of the political ombudsman, with the support of the electoral authorities, and that such panels be established in all constituencies.
  6. The Carter Center recognizes the importance of domestic observation to support the citizens' right to vote. We applaud the efforts of CAFFE to recruit, train, and deploy observers throughout the island and urge all segments of Jamaican society to step forward and respond to this initiative.
  7. The Jamaica electoral law provides for the ultimate tool of null and voiding an election in the case of campaign period intimidation or election day violations. The constituted authority will be made up primarily of the selected members of the EAC who have communicated their determination to fully apply the law as necessary. This, we hope, will encourage the parties to adhere to the provisions of the code of conduct and deter others from tampering with election materials and legal electoral procedures.

Finally, we are pleased to see campaigns increasingly focused on issues and will look forward to the upcoming planned debates.

International and national observers cannot guarantee the integrity or nonviolence of elections. What we can do is observe, report on our impartial observations and offer suggestions to improve the process. It is Jamaicans, the election authorities, the citizens, the security forces and political parties, who must guarantee the transparency and peacefulness of the elections with their participation, vigilance, and good faith.

The Carter Center team was comprised of Laura Neuman, senior program associate of the Carter Center's Americas Program and Dr. John Harker, international peace-building and conflict prevention consultant. The Carter Center is an independent, non-partisan and neutral organization based in Atlanta, Ga. Founded in 1982 by Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, The Carter Center has observed more than 30 elections on four continents. We wish to thank the United States Agency for International Development and the Canadian International Development Agency for their financial support to the Center's election observation project in Jamaica.


Read more about the work of The Carter Center in Jamaica.

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