On Monday, Federal Elections were held in Canada without any fuss and fear. Except for schools being closed to facilitate the polls, it was just another workday. Canada has approximately 27 million voters and straddles 6 different time zones spanning four and a half hours. By 23:15h Eastern Time on polling day, mere minutes after the last polls closed in outlying provinces, the media was already announcing the results and naming the eventual winner: Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party.
In all of this, the role of Elections Canada— their GECOM equivalent— cannot be overstated. Long before the elections, the list of voters would have been ratified and voter ID cards mailed, yes mailed, to all registered and eligible voters. There was no attempt to manipulate lists, no doubt about the integrity of staff or deletion of registered voters who would have failed to uplift voter ID cards because these were mailed as mentioned above. Voter ID cards are printed on light cardboard and sized to fit a standard sized envelope for ease of postage. Change of address and such matters are all done online. Canadians are required to walk with their cardboard voter ID and a picture ID such as a driver’s licence or passport to cast their ballot which can be done in a matter of minutes. The holding of elections is not rocket science as the Canadians have just demonstrated.
Contrast that with what we have in Guyana, where GECOM, our elections machinery, is being accused of the following:
1. Placing itself outside and above of the Constitution by creating and implementing work programmes that ignore the constitutional mandate to have election within 90 days of the NCM.
2. By virtue of the above, GECOM has appropriated the role for determining when elections will be held in Guyana.
3. Delaying the elections – The combined delay is nearly one year from the constitutionally mandated date of March 21, 2019.
4. Persisting with prejudiced recruitment of senior executives.
5. Retaining the services of senior staff who are partisan even after footage of covert meeting were shown on social media with Govt officials.
6. Undertaking actions such as the unnecessary H2H to create more confusion, further delay elections, possibly disenfranchise legitimate voters and waste billions of taxpayers’ dollars.
7. Siding with the Government at every opportunity.
8. Refusing help from external sources that would expedite election preparation and lend to public trust in GECOM and the elections processes.
9. Threatening to delete the names of registered voters who have not uplifted their ID cards even when this is illegal.
As if the above is not egregious enough, GECOM is contemplating a complicated merger of the old PLE and the data gleaned from the last H2H, which is unverified at best, since the Opposition representatives were not present at the time of obtaining this data, when the most logical and practical approach would be to update the old PLE which was last used in November 2017 to add people attaining voting age and to delete deceased persons evidenced by a death certificate. Some believe that this is merely another attempt to appease the Govt and to delete and disenfranchise Opposition supporters. In fact, the situation is so bad that people are openly commenting that the next General Elections will be rigged and that GECOM will facilitate it. While that is a bit extreme, GECOM must be concerned about its image. However, there is absolutely no effort on the part of that agency to change the narrative and to build trust. The Chairman of GECOM is yet to hold a press conference and so the public has been left to speculate.
The bottom line is that there cannot be free and fair elections in Guyana if GECOM does not operate in an open and transparent manner. At this stage, nothing short of the Carter Center is needed to get this embarrassment, which we all know as GECOM, back on track if we are to have free and fair elections in Guyana. The intervention of the Canadian Official is welcome but a competent and powerful observer mission has to be situated within the heart of GECOM Secretariat where critical decisions are being taken to have any chance of being effective. Giving advice, as the Canadian proposes to GECOM Chair, whose actions thus far are all in favour of the Government, will be like whistling in the wind.
The example of Elections Canada is relevant as here in Guyana there is strong evidence to suggest that the agency responsible for holding free and fair elections might be pursuing an agenda to do the exact opposite. After all, it is an irrefutable fact that PNC, the main party in Govt today, rigged the elections from 1968 to 1985.
By the way, if there is another rigged elections, America and Canada will bear the brunt of the consequential mass exodus as many citizens already have visas particularly for the US.