Ambassador Frank Almaguer, chief of the Organization of American States’ (OAS’s) Elections Observer Mission, said Thursday that Belize’s dual (municipal and general) elections of Wednesday, March 7, 2012, were “a peaceful exercise of [the voting] franchise,” and the general elections was “a historically close election and certainly highly competitive.” However, in a report to Belize media Thursday, Almaguer pointed to a number of key election issues, such as the use of government assets for electioneering, the lack of female inclusion on the ballot, the lack of campaign finance legislation, and electioneering very close to the polls on election day.
The OAS chief noted that only one of the Parliamentary seats was won by a woman – that is Belize Rural Central, won by People’s United Party candidate Dolores Balderamos-Garcia. He also spoke of the enactment of campaign finance legislation: Campaign financing, he noted, is unregulated in Belize and there are no legal limits on campaign spending or no requirement for disclosure of campaign contributions or expenditures.
The OAS will recommend the development of campaign finance legislation to address the gaps that exist, said Almaguer. He also spoke of electioneering in and around polling stations, and said they would recommend positive steps to reduce the role and influence of party operatives and the observation of the 100-yard boundary within which no electioneering should occur, in order to protect the voter’s ability to cast their vote without the outside pressure they receive “when they have to literally walk through the gauntlet of political activists of all persuasions.”