Local government elections are to be held on November 12th. With the polls, the never-ending stream of suspicions have emerged as the Government established new local government units and merged others. The Opposition argued that these were done to give an advantage to the Government and the Opposition, through one of its representatives, promptly launched legal proceedings. This event provided the explanation for the ‘disappearance’ of the Chief Election Officer, Mr. Keith Lowenfield, on one of the most critical days of the elections process, after the submission of lists, when corrections have to be made and defects rectified.
Ominously, Returning Officers were accused by the Opposition of declining or refusing to exercise their authority, or were unaware that such authority existed. Did it have to be on this particular day that Mr. Lowenfield had to attend his lawyer’s chambers to sign an affidavit, a process that takes no more than an hour, counting the travelling time from GECOM’s High Street Office to the Attorney General’s Chambers in Carmichael Street, a ten-minute drive away? Disappearing acts of election officials or being incommunicado at critical moments of the elections process have a particularly sordid history. For the future, it is hoped that at important junctures the Chief Election Officer will be available at all times, day and night, to his senior staff, Election Commissioners and the Chairman. Returning Officers should be similarly available to selected officials of contesting parties and be helpful rather than obstructive. Their duty is to solve problems, not to create them, and to exercise flexibility and discretion in removing obstacles to the smooth flow of the elections process, without violating any law. This is what their training should emphasise…..