APNU/AFC Opposition to formally request national consultations on electoral reforms

The People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) on Tuesday stated that the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Opposition will formally request from President Dr Irfaan Ali, a national consultation on electoral reforms.

Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton

“We have indicated that what we will do is present a formal position on this issue, we have listened to civil society, we have had internally our preparation of a document that will be discussed when we engage GECOM (Guyana Elections Commission) and the wider society,” Leader of the Opposition Aubrey Norton explained at the conference.
When questioned about the Opposition’s late approach which has taken about six months since the Government first circulated the proposed draft amendments to the Representation of the People Act, Norton stated that they were avoiding being politicised by the current Administration.
“Well, it hasn’t taken six months we have always formulated our position. But we understand politics in Guyana if we had run out and been in the forefront of proposing what the PPP was doing it would have been seen as political.”
“What we have allowed is for civil society and others to comment, we have supported and we believed at the right time we will engage and ensure the objectives we set out, I believe there’s a place for civil society and if political space can be created for civil society to act, then one stands a better chance of finding consensus and moving forward,” he stated.

Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC

The APNU/AFC stated that local, regional and national elections must meet three objectives – only who are eligible must be registered; results must accurately reflect the will of those who have voted and, every step of the election process that is registration, production of voters’ list, voting and counting and tabulation and the declaration of results must win the trust and confidence of the public.
The Opposition stated that they maintain that comprehensive electoral reforms must rest on four pillars, the first being “A thorough review by GECOM of its performance in managing recent elections – the plethora of faults and irregularities intended and unintended in the 2020 elections alone must not be brushed under the carpet to resurface again they must be swept out for good,” the party said.
To achieve this, they noted that a thorough and honest review must be conducted as necessary, agreeing with GECOM Commissioner Vincent Alexander that GECOM itself must not conduct such a review but should be the one to commission it.
Secondly, the Opposition highlighted that national consultation for electoral reforms must involve the public civil society and the parliamentary political parties which must be modelled after the 1999/2000 constitution reform commission process and must include key elements like a multi-stakeholder expert committee, a consensus chairperson, a public call for oral and written submissions and several national conversations – all being open forums.
Thirdly, they contended that the electoral reforms must include the in-depth involvement of experts on electoral laws, electoral systems, elections technologies, and elections management, anticipating that no difficulty in recruiting such expertise will be encountered given the international support for electoral reform in Guyana.
“Fourthly, wholistic constitutional and legislative amendments or enactments. The Opposition anticipates that electoral reform will require both constitutional and statutory requirements to the statutory amendments. We stand ready to lend parliamentary support to all agreed to changes.
Time is of the essence in initiating and completing these reforms to prevent the extended postponement of Local Government Elections,” APNU/AFC explained.
Meanwhile, only recently, Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall stated that with consultations currently ongoing on the proposed changes to the Representation of the People Act (RoPA), the Guyana Government is finalising a second set of amendments that would be released to the public soon.
“The second set of reforms, or proposed reforms relating to the Registration Act, shall be made public within a matter of days, as the work have been essentially completed in draft form. That will also be sent out, using a similar mechanism, inviting public consultations and recommendations and views,” Nandlall had disclosed.
This came on the heels of the Attorney General’s meeting with stakeholders who have made submissions on the proposed amendments to the RoPA, which were released to the public last November, and persons were invited to give feedback.
Submissions were received from several persons, groups and organisations, including at least one political party and the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM). Those who made submissions were invited to an engagement with the Legal Affairs Minister on Monday, but only representatives from two of those entities – the Private Sector Commission (PSC) and the Electoral Reform Group – showed up.
According to Nandlall, he pointed out to the stakeholders that these proposed amendments are specific to statutory reforms, while other issues, such as changing the country’s political system and restructuring GECOM, which were among the recommendations made by the stakeholders, will have to be done through the constitutional reform process that is slated to commence shortly.
“I also detailed the limitations of the engagement by highlighting the fact that this aspect of the reforms will not address constitutional matters, because those matters will require a two-thirds majority and this is a Government-driven process. We don’t have a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly. So, what we are concerned about here is reforms to the statutory provisions touching and concerning the elections – the Registration Act and the Representation of the People Act, in particular,” he asserted.
He went on to note, however, that Government will have a separate engagement with GECOM on the recommendations they submitted.
In the meantime, Government would continue with the consultative process on the host of proposed changes to RoPA, and will hold another engagement session with other stakeholders who made submissions.
To prevent a recurrence of the historic March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections, which resulted in a five-month political impasse caused by blatant rigging attempts, the RoPA amendments were released for public consultation before the document is finalised and taken to the National Assembly.