Canada’s elections held on Monday; results known on Monday night shame GECOM

The Canadian elections held this past Monday highlighted the many things wrong with the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM). While the elections in Canada were held on Monday, September 20, with voting closing by 9.30 that night, the results were already known by Canadians and the world by midnight. In the meanwhile, it took our own GECOM months to even consider removing senior officers whom the world watched trying to rig elections’ results in Guyana in plain sight.
Now that they have done so, it has been weeks since the contracts of those senior officers were terminated. It is now taking GECOM weeks just to advertise the vacancies. It is, by any standard, unacceptable that a simple advertisement to fill a vacancy for a job – which has existed for decades, and for which the job description is well-established – cannot be made.
We know the composition of GECOM can make these simple acts complicated. But Guyana is due to hold Local Government Elections this year. Clearly, without a Chief Elections Officer and a Deputy Chief Elections Officer, with less than four months left in 2021, the LGE in 2021 is now in jeopardy.
One would have thought that GECOM would be working around the clock to ensure some haste in filling vacancies in its senior management ranks, to ensure GECOM is ready for elections, both LGE and general elections. At the rate it is going, even the general elections due in 2025 could be affected. The Irfaan Ali-led Government and the PPP have declared their intention to hold LGE as soon as GECOM is ready, and the PPP have always been consistent about local government and general elections – they must be held within constitutional timelines. The sloth of GECOM is something that must worry everyone.
Significant changes in GECOM’s management staff are necessary. A number of the senior staff and their aides are presently charged with serious crimes, and are before the courts. They have been charged with conspiracy to rig elections, and for fraud. While the courts are doing their work, one thing the population knows – a significant number of GECOM’s management staff were seen trying various machinations to change the March 2020 elections’ results.
These machinations included the Returning Officer of Region 4 changing numbers in the Statements of Poll, and the Chief Elections Officer arbitrarily changing numbers by removing votes based on spurious claims of phantom and dead voters. The world looked on in astonishment, the world spoke out, and the world acted against the blatant rigging attempts.
Clearly, there were intellectual authors of these rigging attempts. Clearly, there were those who aided and abetted the process. But one thing is certain, those who were engaged in the five-month rigging saga cannot be allowed anywhere near GECOM to manage another election. The majority of the Guyanese people and the world would have no confidence in those elections.
Because the work of GECOM must go on, because elections are due, GECOM must move swiftly to fill the vacant positions. If this means meeting every single day, then that is what GECOM must do. In the case of the Canadian elections, the election’s date was declared one month before the election. The electoral list was finalised, political parties submitted their candidates, political parties campaigned, and the elections were held without any impasse, without any problem, and elections’ results were declared the same night.
A whole election from declaration of date to declaration of results within one month, and GECOM cannot even prepare an advertisement to fill a vacancy for a job with a defined job description. This is why the Government has included reforms for GECOM as part of the prioritised constitutional reform agenda.
The Attorney General is the Chair of the Constitutional Reform Committee of Parliament. That commission must begin the work of reforms for GECOM now. Guyana cannot afford to experience another election like the March 2020 election. True, the conduct of the elections itself was smooth, but the management of the results exposed how easy it was for a cadre of people within GECOM to manipulate the results of the elections.
Urgent and rapid attention must be paid to this aspect of the elections. Already, since 1992, elections’ results from each station are immediately published by the posting of the SOP at the station where people voted. Once that is done, unless anyone objects to the results from that station, those results must be honoured. In the recent 2020 elections in America, we saw where counting of the votes in some stations was conducted on line. Where possible, this should be encouraged in Guyana. Let the people see their votes counted.
Among the reforms that should be considered is live streaming of the procedure at each station, where possible. But our media should begin to work together, combine their resources, and publish results as they are posted at each station. In this way we can leave little or no room for skullduggery by GECOM officers. This way, the public can know the results as they are ready at each station. This way, Guyana can be like many countries around the world, including all Caricom countries, and know the results the same night as they voted. The Canadian elections are yet another reminder that GECOM needs massive change.