The Electoral Observation Mission of the Organization of American States (EOM/OAS) that accompanied the general elections in Paraguay on April 21, today presented its verbal report to the Permanent Council, which emphasized the "total normality" with which election day took place, and made recommendations to improve processes in the future.
According to the final results proclaimed by the Superior Court of Electoral Justice of Paraguay, the winner of the election was Horacio Cartes, who with the support of the Asociación Nacional Republicana (ANR) was elected President for the next five years.
The Secretary General of the OAS, José Miguel Insulza, said that "we rarely experience a more peaceful pre-election period than that which we saw in Paraguay," and said that the election marks the successful completion of the process that began in June 2012 after the crisis produced after the removal by impeachment (provided for in the Constitution of Paraguay) of then-President Fernando Lugo.
"I am delighted with this report because the decisions we made at the time were not easy, and it has been shown that they were successful. It was an election within the standards of democracy, and we recognize it as fully valid and democratic. Therefore we wish every success to the new government," said Secretary General Insulza, who led an OAS mission to Paraguay in the midst of the crisis after which he issued a report of recommendations to the Member States.
The OAS leader also set forth the case of Paraguay as an example of how the consistency of decisions made by the Member States and the respect for the national laws of each country contribute to resolving crisis situations.
The report was presented by the Secretary for Political Affairs of the OAS, Kevin Casas-Zamora, who spoke on behalf of the Chief of the EOM/OAS and former President of Costa Rica, Óscar Arias. The team officially began its work on November 20, 2012, and concluded it on Election Day with the participation of 79 observers from 21 Member and Observer States, who were present in the 17 departments of the country, the city of Asunción, as well as polling stations set up in the Province of Buenos Aires in Argentina, and New York, New Jersey and Washington, DC, in the United States.
In addition to the President and the Vice President of the Republic, during the elections 45 Senators and 30 alternates were chosen, 18 Mercosur Parliamentarians and 18 alternates, 80 Deputies and 80 alternates, 17 Governors and 17 Departmental Boards.
Casas-Zamora emphasized in his presentation that election day took place in "perfectly normal" conditions; that the Paraguayans had a "massive turnout;" the voting centers were set up on time and with the necessary equipment; there was a "majority of women in the voting centers exercising the duties of chair and board members "and in general, the process took place as stipulated by law.
At the same time, the report reveals that the Mission "received isolated reports of vote buying;" the "ambush" or "corrals", through which "members of indigenous communities are transported to polling stations before one or two-day stays in the area;" there were complaint of discrimination in the media to cover the various candidacies and voter identifications theft. All complaints, stated the OAS official, were transferred to the Paraguayan authorities.
Among the recommendations, the Mission includes improving the mechanisms of formation and training of polling stations; strengthening the process of voter registration abroad; reforming the partisan composition of the central electoral body; strengthening mechanisms to "investigate, judge and punish adequately electoral crimes and misdemeanors;" investigate and punish the practice of "ambushes" or "corrals;" and reforming laws to ensure the fair distribution of spaces for campaigns in the media and to ensure gender parity in nominations.
The report concluded with a commitment of the Mission "to return to Paraguay during the coming months to make known to the authorities the final report of the Mission and offer the cooperation of the OAS to support the continued strengthening of the electoral cycle in the country." Casas-Zamora also expressly thanked the contributions to the EOM from the governments of Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, South Korea, Spain, the United States, France, Israel, Italy, Peru, Switzerland and Suriname.
The Permanent Representative of Paraguay to the OAS, Martin Sannemann, expressed thanks on behalf of his government for the support received throughout the process from the Secretary General and the EOM, and celebrated that the report confirms that "all forecasts that we the Paraguayans made have been fulfilled. The electoral process in Paraguay took place in normality, and now representative democracy is the form of government accepted by all. We, the Paraguayans fulfilled the processes established in our Constitution."
Ambassador Sannemann conveyed his gratitude to the countries that accompanied the process begun by his country in June 2012, and called on those who did not to reconsider. "To those who supported us: in Paraguay have done things correctly, and we have not let you down. To those who did not: we ask you to appreciate the reality shown today as the only way to find the truth." Moreover, he welcomed the recommendations of the Mission because" we always can and desire to learn. "
The Paraguayan diplomat concluded his speech with a message to the future. "We are aware that we need to go much further to reach the ideal country that many of us aspire to, but we will continue our efforts to build that bright future," he said.
During the regular meeting, the representatives of Haiti (on behalf of CARICOM), Honduras (on behalf of SICA), Chile, Canada, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, the United States, Peru, Mexico, Colombia and Venezuela all took the floor.
A gallery of photos of the event is available here.
The video of the event will be available here.
The audio of the event is available here.
For more information, please visit the OAS Website at www.oas.org.