Kaieteur News – The APNU+AFC is on record as supporting electoral reforms. As late as last October, at a press conference, the Opposition said that it supported electoral reform.
The Opposition Leader was quoted then as saying that any help to reform the country’s electoral laws would be welcomed. One month prior, in September 2021, the Leader of the Opposition was reported to have pledged to work with the People’s Progressive Party Government in achieving electoral reform. Harmon had hinted that, “While that [electoral reform] can take some time, we can examine a bipartisan Bill that seeks to amend aspects of the electoral law.”
According to a report in another section of the media, Harmon had said that the reforms must take into consideration the rulings of local and regional courts and that the Coalition was not interested in the holding of any new elections with the same electoral laws in place.
Harmon said after the current election petitions which challenge the March 02, 2020 elections are heard and determined, the Coalition will not be interested in the holding of any new elections with the same electoral laws in place.
When the APNU+AFC took over in 2015, it was in possession of a solid body of recommendations which it could have used to undertake electoral reforms. Among the recommendations were those from the Organisation of American States (OAS), which called for the electronic tabulation of the preliminary results to obviate the extended time, which it takes for tabulating preliminary results manually; and for automatic recounts where the difference in votes between the top two candidates falls below a certain threshold.
The Carter Center had also suggested that the country’s electoral laws be amended to allow for individual candidates to stand for President. It had also called for attention to be paid to the structure, staffing, recruitment and training of GECOM staff.
In fact, the OAS Mission to the 2011 Elections had recommended a comprehensive review of the transmission, tabulation, and declaration of both preliminary and final results procedures so as to ensure a timely and transparent process. However, in the five years when it was in office, the APNU+AFC did nothing about electoral reform.
The APNU+AFC was aware of the recommendations concerning the make-up of the Guyana Elections Commission. Even the Carter Center whose founder had brokered the Carter formula which is used to constitute the Commission had made recommendations for changes. In its 2015 Observer Mission Final Report, there is an appendix in which it lists previous recommendations, one of which calls for a revamping of the Carter Formula.
The Carter Center had this to say on the issue, “The so-called “Carter formula,” which has been followed since 1992, provides for an election commission with balanced representation of ruling and opposition parties. While adoption of this model was critical to the success of the breakthrough transitional elections in 1992, in subsequent elections, it has allowed party interests to interfere with effective electoral administration. As part of electoral reform efforts, Guyana should give careful consideration to alternative models, possibly reducing or eliminating political party representation and increasing the role of independent members of civil society and professional experts.”
Given this background, the casual observer may be confounded by the Opposition and its sidekick’s recent stance towards the project, which has been launched for electoral reform. There can be little objection to the government taking the lead on this issue. After all, it is the Government’s duty to acquire the funding and technical support needed for initiating electoral reforms.
The Opposition feels that there is a need for consensus. But what sort of consensus? Consensus about how the process should proceed?
The process is merely at the preliminary stages. The agency which is providing the technical expertise is expected to meet with all stakeholders and from this to develop an approach. And, therefore, the Opposition’s opposition is premature.
The Government cannot be faulted for not consulting on the process leading to the process. The APNU+AFC Coalition does not recognise the PPP/C administration. Therefore, how can the government consult with an entity, which does not recognise it.
Concerns have been raised about the choice of the International Republican Institute (IRI). This is an organisation, which has had a controversial record and which even the pro-business PPP/C should be wary of.
The IRI is the anti-left wing surrogate of the National Endowment for Democracy which the PNC knew had a role in the establishment of the free-press in Guyana under the Hoyte regime. And the ideological leanings of the IRI can hardly be of bother to the right-wing politics of the APNU+AFC and the PPP/C.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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