EU Mission lauds Govt for “full” implementation of some priority recommendations
…as team assesses Guyana’s electoral reform progress
The Guyana Government has been commended for fully implementing some of the priority recommendations that were made by the European Union Election Observer Mission (EU EOM) following the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections to enhance and strengthen the local electoral system.
In total, the 2020 EU Observation Mission had made 26 recommendations in its final report on diverse aspects of the elections, including the legal framework, election administration, the campaign and campaign financing, the media and social media, and electoral dispute resolution. Of these recommendations, eight had been identified as priority, which the EU says could have the most positive impact on the elections if implemented.
Consequently, an EU Election Follow-up Mission (EU EFM) has since been deployed to assess Guyana’s progress towards electoral reform.
The team recently held a roundtable forum with Guyanese electoral stakeholders to discuss this progress. They also met with several Government and Opposition officials as well as those from the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).
The EU EFM is encouraging legal and constitutional reforms to improve the electoral process in line with international standards for democratic elections.
At a press briefing on Wednesday, Electoral Analyst of the Follow-up Mission, Alexander Matus, disclosed that two of the EU’s priority recommendations were implemented in full by the Guyana Government.
“Our initial findings show that two of our priority recommendations were implemented in full and this had been through the adoption of the Representation of People (Amendment) Act and the National Registration (Amendment) Act late last year,” Matus noted.
These, he explained, include recommendations for clear tabulation procedures to be implemented, which was done in the RoPA amendments. The second priority recommendation that was implemented is for increased transparency in the results process, which was also catered for in the RoPA amendments through provisions requiring the Returning Officer to publish all Statements of Poll (SoPs) on the GECOM website immediately upon receiving them.
The EU EFM also highlighted another suggestion which they say the Guyana Government has “partially” implemented and this has to do with increasing the continuous voters registration process as provided for in the National Registration (Amendment) Act. This legislation change paves the way for registration transactions to be facilitated by GECOM on a continuous basis.
Additionally, Matus also pointed out that they have observed progress on another recommendation for the adoption of the Data Protection Act. The draft Bill is currently out for public feedback and submissions.
However, even as the Government was lauded for these efforts, Head of the Follow-up Mission, European parliamentarian Javier Nart highlighted some of the areas where they believe urgent action is needed.
“[One of the] important ones is financing… control of financing, accountability… is very, very important… When a party has no limit on spending, it’s like [racing] with a Ferrari against someone running on their feet. So, we have to have an equal playing field and it means the spending has to have a limit. Also, very important, is who is giving this money… ” he stated.
According to Nart, businesses often expect kickbacks from their financial support to political parties – something which he says is a global phenomenon. Another such issue around the world that the Head of the EU EFM raised is the use of State assets for electoral campaigning.
“When you are in Government power, the possibility of taking over the [State] assets for the party, sometimes that happens… And so, the public media, at the end, becomes kind of Government media for the party in power,” the EU EFM Head stated.
Of 26 recommendations made by the EU EOM two years ago, 21 of them require legal change while one requires constitutional change, that is, the composition of GECOM.
With regard to the legal changes, the Follow-up Mission went on to highlight some regional and international legal standards that have not been incorporated into the country’s electoral laws. These, according to the Follow-up Mission’s Legal Analyst, Anne Marlborough, are what many foreign observer missions such as the EU look for.
“At present, several of the instruments that are relevant to an election haven’t yet been transposed into domestic law… most particularly is the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – it still hasn’t come into domestic law. So, participation rights are not in the domestic law. Similarly, the regional and international Conventions against Corruption have not been translated into domestic law and those are of ever-growing importance,” Marlborough stressed.
However, she too recognised progress being made on some of the legal recommendations made including the consolidation of Guyana’s electoral laws, which she says is fragmented.
“You have a huge plethora of legislations – elections laws, Representation of the People laws and registration laws… So, we recommended consolidations so that people could find the laws more easily… We have learnt that there is a project right now underway by Government to consolidate the laws…,” the EU EFM Legal Analyst noted.
The Follow-up Mission will be presenting its final report on Guyana’s progress on implementing electoral reform in the coming months. This is in an effort to strengthen the local electoral system ahead of the next General and Regional Elections due in 2025.
“It is now mid-way through the electoral cycle leading to elections in 2025. Two years still remain in which electoral reform can be undertaken, particularly procedural and legislative reform… It is important that the momentum around legal and constitutional reform be maintained and built upon in the interest of improving future general elections,” the Head of the EU EFM said at the recent round-table meeting.
Nart further outlined that, “Electoral reform is critically important to rebuild confidence in the integrity of the administration of general elections. The EU Delegation supports continued democracy and good governance in Guyana and wishes to support stakeholders in their efforts to promote such reform.” (G8)