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Electoral fraud and vote rigging are illegal practices in the electoral process. In many democratic states, such practices carry severe punishment, including imprisonment.
In many Caribbean societies, there have been several post-election claims electoral fraud and vote-rigging. This has continued to plague various administrations as such actions are contrary to the principles of democracy. As a result, many electorates contend an overwhelming sense of betrayal and discontent regarding the electoral process.
During the past few weeks since elections here, rumours of electoral fraud have circulated on social media, coming especially from people in the hierarchy of the current opposition. A snap election being called; numerous citizens lost the opportunity to exercise their democratic choices due to the limited time-frame. Those who had the opportunity to so, ensured that regardless of the circumstances their rights as citizens would have been historically recorded.
However, just one month after elections, the former Prime Minister posted on his social media page that the election was riddled with incidents of bribery, vote-rigging, election fraud and other unethical practices. This raised many concerns as many citizens believed that their votes should count – and the claims by the former PM triggered further prejudice and hostility towards the incoming administration.
Felicia Browne, human rights advocate, maintains that even before an investigation or finding of wrongdoing the taint from a suggestion of impropriety can do irreparable damage to the targeted individuals, parties and even constituencies.
In a small society, such claims and allegations can have serious consequences for individuals and their communities. We have seen in many Caribbean societies, where political violence has stemmed from allegations of bribery and vote-rigging.
We should begin to address such practices through effective policies that will not only protect the rights of citizens but also allow politicians and their supporters to participate in a safe and just election. No voter`s vote should be worth more than another’s. Votes are sacred in that they allow every citizen the right to determine their government without fear or prejudice.
Though the claims (including highlighting names of individuals without their consent) by the former PM should be taken into consideration for further investigation, we should be cognizant of the dangers that linger when we place such sensitive information in the public domain. These are very serious accusations and the law ought to take precedence rather than personal grievances.
Every citizen has equal rights such that no politician is greater than the ordinary man or woman; nor the laws of the land. Browne adds that international organisations like the OAS and CARICOM Elections Observers have consistently provided recommendations towards having safe, violence-free and fair elections; some of which should be implemented in our state laws. Campaign financing and declaration of assets of potential and elected candidates should be given full consideration during constitutional reforms. According to Browne, citizens should not bear the blame for unethical practices while political officials are immune to reprimand.
They should also be held accountable for any form of unethical practice during their tenure in office. Additionally, an ethical commission should be established to oversee and provide guidelines on political practices.
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