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No overseas observers for Bermuda election

Reports that the UK Government asked the Bermuda Government to allow election observers here for next week’s poll are inaccurate, Cabinet Office said yesterday.The Royal Gazette asked for clarification of reports that the UK had made the request and that it had been rejected by the Premier.

But the UK has clearly been hoping that Bermuda take up the idea — even if it has made no formal request.

A Government House spokesperson said that Governor George Ferguson raised the matter with Premier Paula Cox.

“The Governor suggested to the Premier that consideration be given to inviting observers from other Branches of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association branches to observe the elections,” Government House said in a statement.

“The Governor was clear that neither he nor the UK Government had concerns about the likely conduct of the election.

“But having outside observers has become a relatively standard procedure in elections, for instance in all member countries of the Organisation of Security and Co-operation in Europe, so that the last US and UK elections had observers.

“The two most recent elections in Overseas Territories, in the British Virgin Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands, had observers from invited Commonwealth Parliamentary Association branches.

“The issue was raised in the last report on Overseas Territories of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, which recommended that the practice be encouraged. In making the suggestion, the Governor was clear that this was a matter for the Government of Bermuda.”

A statement from Cabinet Office said that reports of a refusal were inaccurate because “no such requests have been directed to the Government of Bermuda.”

“Bermuda certainly values its important relationship with the UK as there are significant areas of cooperation and mutual benefit between the two jurisdictions,” the spokesperson said.

“As it relates to this particular matter of election monitoring, the Bermuda Government clearly and publicly articulated its position on the issue one year ago. It is referenced in the Introductory section our December 2011 response to the OT White Paper consultation as point number 10:

‘10. The final point relates to the democratic principle of non-interference in domestic political affairs where there is a long history and tradition of stable government and seamless transitions between different administrations following general elections. Bermuda has a strong, vibrant democracy supported by good governance and accountability. In these circumstances, the Government of Bermuda would wish Her Majesty’s Government to acknowledge this fact and not involve itself in any attempts to institute election monitoring in Bermuda.’

“This continues to be Government’s stance on the matter.”

Government House later added that “the Governor suggested to the Premier that consideration be given to inviting election observers from other Commonwealth Parliamentary Association branches; but no formal request was made.”

On Tuesday, Mark Simmonds, the UK’s Overseas Territories Minister, raised the issue in the House of Commons.

“I have to say that we are slightly disappointed that Bermuda has not recognised the need for election observers. The Governor of Bermuda has suggested to the Premier that as a sign of a mature, advanced and open democracy the country might invite an external independent team — perhaps a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association group — to observe its elections, but unfortunately the Government have decided not to do so,” he said.

“I raised the issue with the Bermudan Attorney-General and Minister of Justice last week, and she assured me that she would reflect our views to the Premier.” The Opposition One Bermuda Alliance was asked for its reaction but did not do so by press time.

(Photo By Akil Simmons) Premier Paula Cox and Governor George Fergusson pictured earlier this month.

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Published December 13, 2012 at 8:00 am (Updated December 13, 2012 at 1:55 am)

No overseas observers for Bermuda election

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