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Pre-Election Statement on Jamaican Elections, Oct. 7, 2002

Laura Neuman in Jamaica: 876-968-5173, or
Kay Torrance in Atlanta: 404-420-5129

Kingston, Jamaica…
The Carter Center, as part of its continuing observation of the Jamaica electoral process, would like to offer the following interim comments. These are based on the findings of 12 international medium term observers, who have monitored the electoral process in 24 constituencies throughout the island since nomination day, Sept. 30.

  1. The Jamaican people continue to express confidence in the administration of the upcoming elections. Nomination day ran smoothly, with sufficient Electoral Office of Jamaica personnel and security forces in all constituencies observed. All electoral materials are prepared, and the ballots are being printed. Training for election day workers is complete, and "refresher" courses are underway. Although there have been disagreements relating to a few voting locations, consensus remains over the vast majority of locations, and postcards listing
    specific voting locations have been sent to all enumerated voters. Voters also can confirm their location via the EOJ Web site. We have heard concerns that past voting irregularities may occur again in this national election. We believe a number of the safeguards are in place, such as extensive use of political party scrutineers to verify the voters list, regular monthly meetings of the EOJ officials with the local political party representatives, nonpartisan election day workers, production of an acceptable voting list complete with photographs, the presence of domestic observers and trained political party poll watchers (indoor agents), and the constituted authority, that should prevent these occurrences. The EOJ should continue to administer the elections in a transparent manner and provide Jamaican citizens all relevant information about the electoral process. Such openness will raise further voter confidence in the period leading up to and on election day.
  2. The signing of the Code of Conduct by the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, and a majority of the candidates is a positive step forward. However, our medium term observers have received reports of inappropriate language, intimidation, and violence, in addition to fear of increasing tensions over the next nine days. Mechanisms have been developed to address the expressed concerns of voter intimidation. The political ombudsman, in collaboration with the Elections Centre and the Ministers Fraternal (panels of local church leaders), has taken steps to resolve many of these conflicts. Bishop Blair, in particular, has called on all candidates to live up to the requirements of the Code of Conduct and to ensure their party workers and supporters do the same. The signing of the Code was only the beginning; application and enforcement are necessary to ensure this tool leads to a more peaceful process. Therefore, we join the call to political party leaders at all levels to ensure responsible behavior on the part of all their supporters and we urge them to immediately act to prevent any further violence. Those with evidence of violations of the Code of Conduct also should be encouraged to contact the political ombudsman.
  3. A focus on the issues affecting Jamaica, rather than on negative campaigning, can serve to decrease tensions. Thus, we applaud the various initiatives that contribute to emphasizing the key issues, such as the upcoming televised national debate among the political parties and the issues forum organized by Jamaicans for Justice.
  4. Domestic observers, deployed widely throughout the island, can serve to enhance confidence in the electoral process. CAFFE, the local observer group, welcomes additional volunteers to reach their desired number of volunteers. The Carter Center looks forward to continued cooperation with CAFFE.

The medium term observers spent nomination day at eight nomination centers, and since then, they have met regularly with election officials, political parties, security forces, political ombudsman, the domestic observation group CAFFE, church representatives, and civil society organizations in 24 constituencies throughout the island. These medium term observers will continue to observe the campaigns and will be at polling locations on Oct. 11 when the security forces and election day workers vote. They will be joined by a larger delegation of short-term observers on Oct. 12.

We have received great cooperation and would like to once again thank the people of Jamaica for their open and warm reception.

The Carter Center's mission was funded by the United States Agency for International Development and the Canadian International Development Agency, and supported by the British High Commission and the South Africa High Commission in Jamaica.

Founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter, The Carter Center is a not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization committed to advancing peace and health worldwide.


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