OAS Launches Guide To Organising C’bean Elections Amid COVID-19

(CMC) – The Organization of American States (OAS) has launched a guide for organising elections in the region, saying that it is intended to contribute to the strengthening of political processes in member states.

The OAS said the “Guide to Organising Elections in Times of Pandemic” aims particularly in addressing the maintenance of democracy as “the best option to guarantee peace, security and development.

“The consequences of the pandemic, the high possibilities of contagion through human interaction, the risk of death, the application of restrictive measures, pose serious difficulties to the organisation of electoral processes, so democratic alternatives must be analysed that do not damage the legitimacy of origin of those elected, democratic transitions, the alternation of authorities and the length of the terms of government,” writes OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro in the prologue.

The guide highlights that, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, “several countries have adopted measures to protect the health of their inhabitants, having to postpone electoral processes originally scheduled for the first half of 2020.

“The actions and decisions taken in electoral matters in response to this situation require the commitment of the political system to safeguard the continuity of democratic processes.”

The OAS said its General Secretariat, with the collaboration of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), compiled a series of measures for holding “safe, clean, and transparent elections, while contributing to reduce the risks of transmission of COVID-19”.

The OAS said the guide offers “elements to take into account when deciding whether to hold elections or postpone them, and proposes measures that can be adopted”.

These include organisation and electoral administration; use of technology; participation and inclusion; campaigns; communication; and voting and vote counting.

The OAS said it was the first international organisation to deploy an Electoral Observation Mission during the COVID-19 pandemic, “and that experience is also reflected in this document.

“The measures included in the guide aim to strengthen the capacities of electoral bodies to organise elections and, in particular, protect electoral and other state officials, guarantee the right of citizens to exercise a secure vote and provide the necessary conditions for political parties to participate under conditions of equity and transparency,” the OAS said.

“The document was prepared by the Department for Electoral Cooperation and Observation of the Secretariat for Strengthening Democracy, with the aim of supporting member states at a time of special historical difficulty,” it added.

So far this year, the OAS has observed elections in Suriname and Guyana.