APNU/AFC in no rush for electoral reform – PNC executive

Despite attempts to rig elections

Despite efforts afoot to have electoral reform to correct all the loopholes that have been exploited over the five months after the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections, the APNU/AFC Opposition said it is in no rush to pursue the reforms.
During a virtual press conference on Friday, ANPU’s Aubrey Norton pointed out that there are many aspects that need to be taken into consideration before proceeding with electoral reform.

PNCR executive member Aubrey Norton

He was at the time responding to a question as to whether the coalition is comfortable going ahead with fresh elections without first addressing the loopholes in the electoral process.
“That is not to say we do not believe in electoral reforms but there is no consensus as to where electoral reforms should go… The major issue here first is the House-to-House Registration so we can get a clean list and while we are prepared to consider and discuss electoral reform, it is not something that we will hurtle to without careful analysis of the proposals as well as the institutional changes that are going to be made. So, we are open to discussions and to moving forward on it but we are not at all going to just rush into electoral reforms,” Norton, who is an Executive Member of the PNCR – the largest party in the APNU partnership – contended.
Instead, the PNCR Executive has called on the People’s Progressive Party Government to ensure that funds are set aside to have a countrywide House-to-House Registration to allow for a clean and credible voters’ list.
According to Norton, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) should be given the resources to put itself in a state of readiness to conduct fresh registrations countrywide.
“When elections are next held in Guyana, it is absolutely imperative that it be held with a new, clean and credible voters’ list which is based on House-to-House Registration. We call on the PPP regime to ensure that there are budgetary allocations for GECOM to allow for House-to-House Registration to be conducted in 2021 without any hindrance or delay,” he stated.
Norton’s call for House-to-House Registration comes on the heels of the APNU/AFC filing two election petitions, challenging the outcome of the March 2, 2020 elections. According to the coalition Executive, his party is confident that the election petitions will be successful hence the need to get GECOM in a state of readiness.
The Opposition is claiming, among other things, that there was voters’ impersonation at the March elections which were as a result of the bloated voters’ list that was used.
But the PPP/C Government said the coalition’s petitions lack merit.
Moreover, President Irfaan Ali is on record saying that electoral reform is a top priority for his Administration.
During an interview last month, the Head of State explained that they first have to address the issues that caused the prolonged delays following the March 2 polls before going ahead with preparations for fresh elections.
There were concerted efforts by the former governing A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) and some GECOM officials to undermine democracy after elections were held.
A number of ploys were involved, from GECOM officials inflating numbers to favour the former ruling party to supporters of the APNU/AFC using the courts to drag out the process after the elections were held on March 2, 2020.
However, a 33-day recount showed that the PPP won the elections, but it took the firmness of local and regional courts, the resilience of GECOM Chair, Retired Justice Claudette Singh and threats of sanctions from the international community led by the United States before former President David Granger finally stepped aside and allowed President Ali to be sworn in.
Against this backdrop, President Ali stressed the need to ensure that democracy is never threatened again.
In fact, Guyana has already been offered assistance, mostly technical, from several of its bilateral partners – including but not limited to the United States, Canada and India as well as various international organisations – to aid in the electoral reform process.
But according to Norton, “One of the assumptions that are being made in the developed world is that you can find people for the elections reform that are independent and as such, there is need for an independent commission… I don’t know in the Guyanese context that that’s appropriate… Electoral reform might be necessary but it has to be considered carefully and all the implications that we look at based on the nature of the Guyanese quality, rather than some general position that we must reform in keeping with what some external forces would have said.”
Meanwhile, Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall had stated that his Ministry is currently reviewing some key areas to reform.
These include: ensuring Statements of Poll (SoPs) are published by the respective political parties on a website and made public within hours after receiving them; ensuring there are oversight mechanisms to scrutinise the work of the Returning Officers (ROs) in order to guard against the declaration of false results; and also to scrutinise the employment procedures and practices at GECOM so as to ensure the best quality candidates are recruited to work during elections as well as to have fixed qualifications, character references and testimonials for high ranking staff at the electoral body.
He added too that they are also looking to implement a regime of offences that will carry heavy penalties for electoral wrongdoings so that persons will be deterred from taking such actions during the elections. (G8)