This week the political parties and candidates were presented with the Code of Conduct to be observed for the 2019 general elections.
The Code of Conduct was created to promote conditions that are conducive to free and fair elections and foster a climate of tolerance. The Code applies to political parties, candidates for election, election agents for candidates and supporters of political parties and candidates.
In commenting on the Code of Conduct during a press conference that was held on Monday this week, His Excellency Governor Augustus Jaspert said: “The House of Assembly recently approved a Code of Conduct – all political parties and all persons are clear about the expectations of campaigning and making sure that there is fair and open elections. That’s what people should be looking at in terms of the correct conduct during the election period.”
Prior to its arrival in the House of Assembly the draft Code of Conduct included a part that cautioned politicians from making unrealistic promises. However, it was mentioned during the press conference that that part of the document was removed during the committee stage when it passed through the House of Assembly.
Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Deputy Governor Carolyn Stoutt Igwe in explaining why that section was removed from the document said: “Like every bill that goes before the House of Assembly during Committee stage members share their views on the various clauses. So it was determined after much discussion that it should be removed because it was felt that it could be subjective.”
She explained, “Something might seem unrealistic today, but not because something seems unrealistic today means that it can’t be done, so it was felt that it was somewhat subjective so it was agreed that we would remove it. That was one of the only clauses actually that was removed.”
Now that a political Code of Conduct is in place it was explained that there is monitoring going on to ensure that the campaigning of the various parties and candidates does not go over board: “There is not anyone that is physically responsible; however the office of the supervisor of elections is responsible for oversight of elections. There is monitoring going on in terms of what is happening making sure persons are complying with the Code.
“One of the responsibilities of the Code is also for political parties to educate their members as well as their supporters about the Code. So it is not only the responsibility of our office to say we are checking on what is going on: political parties also have a responsibility,” the Permanent Secretary stated.
As it relates to enforcement it was noted that there are election offences that are stipulated in the Elections Act and Stoutt-Igwe said that although the Code is separate, it contains some of what was mentioned in the Elections Act as it relates to offences
Supervisor of Election Juliette Penn said that it behooves the politicians and their supporters to conduct themselves in accordance with the Code: “The Code of Conduct was discussed in the House of Assembly; it was agreed to by the members of the House of Assembly so … we are hoping that they would govern themselves according to the Code of Conduct.”