Caricom and GECOM Chair Claudette Singh are applauded for standing by the people of Guyana in their struggle for consolidation of electoral democratic gains that was first made in 1992 after the long struggle to win the right to vote in free and fair elections. Other regional bodies like OAS and UNASUR also support electoral democracy in Guyana. Guyana became the last among Caribbean countries that allowed free and fair elections, years after Haiti and South American countries ended dictatorship. Guyanese and other pro-democracy activists and commentators had expressed skepticism Caricom’s position on the ballot in Guyana but the organization did not disappoint when it called on the government to respect the will of the people.
During the period of the dictatorship (1966 to 1992), Caricom did not condemn electoral fraud and authoritarian persecution in Guyana. The right to vote after 1992 was never in doubt until the elections in March 2020 when rigging returned. All elections between 1992 and 2020 were democratic and certified by observers. All elections between 1966 and 1992 were rigged. Guyanese and other Caribbean people feel the country’s return to democracy in 1992 should never be under threat again as when the colonial power departed in 1966.
In taking a united position on the ballot in Guyana and threatening firm action against swearing in of a government based on electoral fraud, Caricom is reinforcing Guyana’s shift towards a democratic system. Caricom, under PM Mia Mottley’s leadership, signals that it takes democracy seriously. Other international bodies and the powerful ABCE countries have taken a similar position. The whole world is in unison on democracy in Guyana, electoral fraud will not be tolerated.
Between 1966 and 1992, the autocratic rulers of Guyana felt confident they could get a pass from their fellow Caribbean rulers and the ABCE countries on electoral fraud to keep out the communist PPP. But when communism collapsed in 1990 and Jagan’s PPP transformed itself and no longer posed a threat to western interests, free and fair elections were allowed. Caribbean leaders began to say no to electoral fraud in Guyana and appear to mean it now.
Caricom leaders since March 4 have stepped up the pressure on Guyanese authorities to respect the will of the voters and call on GECOM to use the recount to make a declaration of the outcome. Guyanese accuse GECOM chair of pussyfooting on the declaration of the results. The regional body proclaims a policy of zero tolerance for electoral fraud, violations of human and democratic standards, and military prop up of a dictatorship as happened between 1966 and 1992.
After this electoral impasse is resolved, Caricom must promote good governance especially in Guyana where people suffered some three decades of authoritarianism and mal-governance ever since the country obtained political independence in 1966. The region must encourage political pluralism, individual rights, civil liberties, and human rights that are indispensable to a thriving democracy.
But for now, a declaration of the outcome of March free and fair election is critical as it is synonymous with democracy. It cannot be business as usual, closing one’s eyes, to electoral fraud as happened during the era of Burnham and Hoyte. Political parties in Guyana don’t pose any threat to western interests. And it is for this reason that ABCE countries are backing democracy in Guyana. The declaration of the result must be good enough to stand up scrutiny and satisfy the international community so that the country can avoid international sanctions. Comments by ABCE, Caricom, Commonwealth, and OAS countries on the March 2 election cannot be seen as an empty gesture.
GECOM inspired little confidence among Guyanese for its handling of the count of votes after the election recovering its reputation during the recount. The Chair, Claudette Singh, herself, was commended for her position not to disenfranchise any voter during the recount exercise on account of election day errors of GECOM staff. The global community and Guyanese urge her to act noble and honourably. They pin their hope on the Chair to act decisively in rejecting the Lowenfield report disenfranchising 115K voters. They feel she should prepare the final result herself or get another staff member to do it and declare the right winner in order to strengthen electoral democracy in Guyana.
Dr. Vishnu Bisram
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