As Guyana heads towards General and Regional Elections, the Carter Centre has noted that preparations are on track and adhering to the established timetable in all ten of the country’s Administrative Regions.
According to the Centre’s report “ballot papers were printed under the supervision of two members of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and arrived ahead of schedule, on February 7th. Arrangements for identification of appropriate polling stations have been finalized. For this election there will be 2,352 polling stations, a slight increase from 2015.”
With regards to voter registration, the Centre has stated that “the 2020 election process has been more complex than in the past, as GECOM has had to deal with two different sets of registration data: one from the existing National Register of Registrants (NRR) and the other from a truncated house-to-house registration exercise conducted by the commission in 2019. While the Carter Centre has not reviewed all changes made to the voter register, it is satisfied that preparations have been made in a professional manner within the existing legal provisions.”
Nomination Day constitutes the first step for the political parties to secure a spot on the ballot paper. The 2020 election will have the largest number of contesting parties in Guyana’s history.
The representatives from the Centre who were present at the nomination ceremony indicated that the process was smooth. “Although some new parties raised concerns about the order in which parties were received by GECOM, all parties were given an opportunity to correct defects in their lists and were able to do so in the time allotted. GECOM eventually approved lists from 11 of the 13 political parties that applied for a place on the ballot.”
Long-Term Observers (LTOs) from the Centre have observed 23 campaign rallies and events and reported no major incidents during this important and sensitive period. Campaigning has largely proceeded peacefully, although observers have heard allegations of isolated incidents of harassment of supporters of both the ruling coalition and the opposition, as well as of destruction of campaign posters.
The Carter Centre noted that there has been an increase in rhetoric on the campaign trail.
“The Center is encouraging political parties and candidates to refrain from the use of provocative speech to help guarantee a peaceful polling process. The Ethnic Relations Commission introduced a code of conduct that drew on the existing legal obligations of parties to comply with the Representation of the People Act and the Racial Hostility Act. The code calls on all parties to refrain from using any words or engaging in actions that might stoke tension or be offensive.”
The Carter Centre has been discussing the tabulation procedures with GECOM’s secretariat and feels that the procedures in place appear to follow the legal provisions. However, there are concerns that the procedures have not been made clear to key stakeholders. The Centre encourages GECOM to publicise and distribute existing procedures as widely as possible, including to all political parties, civil society organizations, media, and electoral observers, in order to clarify any misunderstandings and avoid disputes over the process.
According to the Centre, it conducts its election observation missions in accordance with the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and Code of Conduct for International Election Observers that was adopted at the United Nations in 2005 and has been endorsed by more than 50 election observation groups.
The mission assesses the electoral process based on Guyana’s national legislation and its obligations for democratic elections under both regional and international agreements.
It first became involved in Guyana in the early 1990s. The 2020 elections will be the fifth that the Carter Centre has observed in Guyana since 1992.
Shortly before polling day, Aminata Touré, former prime minister of Senegal, and Jason Carter, chairperson of The Carter Centre Board of Trustees, will join the mission to serve as co-leaders of the observation delegation. They will be accompanied by Centre staff from Atlanta and additional short-term observers, who will observe polling, counting, tabulation, and the announcement of results.
The Centre will remain in Guyana in the weeks after polling to observe the resolution of any electoral disputes.
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