May 13, 2015 News
By Kiana Wilburg
The envoys of America, Britain and Canada (ABC) agreed unequivocally yesterday that the voting process of the General and Regional Election was “free, fair and credible.”
They urged that the next phase, which involves the counting of the ballots, requires patience. They are calling on the leaders of the political parties to remain committed to encouraging peace among supporters as well as the acceptance of the results which will be officially released by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).
Their comments were made at a press conference hosted at the boardroom of the Private Sector Commission’s Waterloo Street Headquarters.
Speaking to the media were Canadian Ambassador, Dr Nicole Giles, British High Commissioner, Gregory Quinn and USA Charge d’Affaires, Bryan D. Hunt.
Giles said that she was pleased to participate in observing the elections on Monday. The envoy said that the Canadian High Commission had teams deployed in Regions Three and Four. She, along with her colleagues, visited Skeldon, Linden and Anna Regina.
The High Commissioner said that she found that the enthusiasm that was displayed by voters to partake in the elections to be commendable and in many ways, humbling.
“I found it inspiring that the Guyanese voters waited in long lines to cast their ballot and I think people should be commended for that. But from what we observed, we believe that GECOM organized a smooth credible, free, fair and fair electoral process.”
“We had teams who observed the opening of the polls and teams who observed how GECOM officials professionally and consistently applied the laws in carrying out the electoral process,” said Giles.
The Canadian High Commissioner added that she observed the opening and closing of polls in La Penitence, Georgetown until 2 am.
The diplomat said that the people of Guyana have spoken through the ballots and on that note, urged the citizenry to practice patience. This sentiment was reiterated by her colleagues.
Dr Giles emphasized that it takes a while for the results to be delivered. She is calling on the electorate to “give GECOM the time and space it needs to do its job.”
The envoy said that the political parties made a commitment when they signed the Code of Conduct, which was an expression of their commitment to a peaceful election process and the acceptance of the results.
Giles said that she looks forward to seeing the parties continue to abide by this and encourage their supporters to do the same.
British High Commissioner, Gregory Quinn, said that the electoral process on Monday, demonstrated that everything was done in an efficient manner. Quinn said that once GECOM announces the results, it should be accepted by all.
U.S.A Charge d’Affaires, Bryan Hunt, shared his experience by the numbers. He said that from his end, there were 68 international observers, nine regions to cover, over 400 polling stations and zero material irregularities in the polling process.
Hunt said that it all means that the voting process was not only free, but fair and credible.
The ambassador said that the painstaking process is designed to give credibility and faith in the results when the GECOM chairman delivers it to the people.
Through an official statement just after the press conference yesterday, the USA embassy urged all Guyanese to remain patient and to avoid any actions that could provoke conflict or violence.
Private Sector Commission (PSC) Chairman, Ramesh Persaud, said that the entity was also involved in the observation process. He said that on Monday, several of its registered members visited polling stations and found that the rules were followed in all instances.
“I am impressed with the level of diligence taken to ensure the count was accurate… The overseas observers will continue to monitor the process and we have found nothing material that will affect the outcome of the result by GECOM based on what we saw to date. We are happy to be working along with ABC countries as well,” Persaud added.
Further, the People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C) had said that there were some irregularities with the voting process, such as violent attacks on polling officers. But the envoys said that they observed nothing of the sort.
Persaud added that there were instances for concern but nothing material that would impact the integrity of the results.
Hunt said that he was in touch with all the political parties on May 11 and every concern they expressed was diligently looked into.
“We made good efforts as the international community to help iron out concerns,” the Charge d’Affaires said.
Quinn added that there were lots of rumours “out and about” on E-day which all turned out to be inaccurate. Despite the noted concerns, the British High Commissioner said that one must bear in mind that “no electoral process is perfect.”
The envoys expressed that they have not started the compilation of recommendations to improve the electoral process as yet.
Hunt said that this will be done after the election period and will involve much reflection starting from Nomination Day as well as consultation with other observer missions.
The USA Ambassador said however that it is safe to say that the recommendations will probably focus on equal access to the media, campaign financing legislation, and legislation for the use of state resources during the campaign process.
“These are the biggest areas that come to mind but it would be premature to give details now,” said Hunt.
Supporting his comments, the Canadian High Commissioner said that in a post electoral period there are series of excellent recommendations but it is not usually taken up and implemented. Dr Giles said that often, Government just gets into the business of governing.
“So what I would like to see is that the new parliament immediately looks at the recommendations of the period and look at the needed legislative changes that would further strengthen the electoral process.
“We hope to see this happening in the next couple of months as opposed to the one we found ourselves in for 2015.”
Further, the Canadian government had made a generous offer to introduce an electronic tabulation system to ensure votes can be had in a timely manner.
But while this offer was not taken up, Giles said that Guyana’s process assures credibility in the results. She said that while it can be frustrating because of the time it takes to get the results, one must bear in mind the logistical challenges facing the nation to get the ballots from the hinterland areas.
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