Home Letters GECOM Chair must act to protect foreign relations
In my recent studies of international relations, a country’s foreign affairs have become domestically electoralised; meaning, a country’s foreign or diplomatic or economic relations largely flow from the outcome of its elections. If its elections are not free, the implications are far-reaching, and affect every issue pertaining to (the future of) the nation, including domestic affairs.
The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM Chair, really) must therefore take note that the future of Guyana is in its (her) hands. If the outcome does not reflect the will of the voters, the Chair will be responsible for what happens to Guyana; and, of course, the sanctions (against her and many more) that would come from the US, as warned by Mike Pompeo on Wednesday.
What has been happening to the election in Guyana under GECOM’s watch, and the international attention given to it and the united global response against electoral fraud, has damaged perceptions (image) about Guyana. It has also damaged the reputation of GECOM, and that of the Chair in particular. (Global community is also looking down at Guyanese abroad; their reputation for hard work, industriousness, productivity, professionalism, moral fabric, intellect. Guyana has produced so many reputable scholars who are embarrassed by the electoral fraud in Guyana.)
The world is looking into Guyana as never before, because of oil and economic potential. And as reported in foreign media and witnessed by observers, never, in a country’s history, was there such a bold attempt (in public view) to rig an election. In addition, western nations feel vital interests are at stake in Guyana, and they cannot allow a rigged election. It is accepted that, in a globalised context, what happens in Guyana affects the world (not discounting that Guyana is not even a small fry in world affairs).
Reversing the negative image of Guyana is now in the hands of the Chair of the Elections Commission. Only she can alter the terrible image of the country, and Guyanese are appealing to her to do the honourable thing.
Unlike during the Cold War, when the Western nations did not care about electoral fraud in their backyard as long as their vital interests were not threatened, elections now are internationalised through foreign observers and morality. The Western world can no longer watch in silence when elections are rigged. Democratic nations must condemn such blatant fraud.
In addition, fraudulent elections pose a threat to the basic interests of Western nations. They trigger domestic crises that lead to mass migration into the developed Western nations, thus burdening their economies. As experienced in several Latin countries, fraudulent elections have led to humanitarian crises. The West does not want to deal with another economic or refugee crisis that would flow from a government emerging from electoral fraud. As such, their unitary position is against fraud in Guyana.
For Guyana, fraud inevitably would affect foreign or international relations, investment, border tensions and disputes, treaty obligations, foreign aid, trade deals, security commitments, national security and defense, military and technical training, loans and the country’s overall development. No doubt, international negotiations and agreements would be under serious threat as a result of the failure to declare the right outcome of the elections. The fraud is bound to impact Guyana’s position at the World Court on the border dispute with Venezuela. In addition, neither Venezuela nor Suriname nor Brazil would want to ratify or recognize any border treaty or World Court ruling on territorial issues when the outcome of an election in its neighbour is under dispute. Also, other countries would not wish to engage or assist a government that comes to power through electoral fraud.
International institutions would continue to hold off on loans. There would be an appeal to India to stall her soft loan for road development. India’s financial assistance to Guyana is perhaps the largest in the world: loans, infrastructure, health, scholarship, technical assistance, and other aid. Business initiatives would be curtailed. International pressure may force China to follow suit.
And the US would instruct the Federal Bank in Manhattan to freeze the oil money. The effects on the economy would be devastating, similar to what happens in Zimbabwe, a prime example of what happens to a resource-rich country that engaged in fraud.
Venezuela is currently experiencing a tough response to fraud. Guyana also had its own experience, during the 1970s and 1980s, of facing sanctions because of fraud and establishment of the dictatorship.
No amount of oil resources or funds arising out of oil or growth would change Guyana’s image as a country where the Elections Commission attempted to rig an election. And the negative image and its global effects are all attributed to the March 2 post-election count and the failure of the Chair (one person, the Chair) to make a declaration of the results.
Regrettably, GECOM (really, the Chair and three other Commissioners) has, since March 3, come across as the plotters of fraud. They are perceived as protecting the political interests of one side over the correct declaration of results of what was a credible election. And this perception has come about because of countless efforts by so many global actors to get GECOM (the Chair) to do the right thing on the election.
The overwhelming number of Guyanese at home and in the diaspora are yearning to move away from electoral fraud, and have so appealed to the Chair to respect the recount.
They don’t want to return to fraud pre-1992. Guyanese remember too well how electoral riggings led to the 28 years of misrule that resulted in political and economic disorder that hampered national development and triggered widespread starvation and mass migration, so much so that more Guyanese make their home abroad than at home.
Does GECOM or the Chair want the nation to return to that era? The chair has a unique opportunity to rehabilitate the image of GECOM and that of her own. The whole world is telling the Chair to make a declaration that reflects the will of the electorate and is in accord with her own National Recount order; no voter must be disenfranchised. She must end the defiance of the international community in making a declaration. If the Chair does not act decisively in making a declaration of the elections based on the Caricom recount, it would be a squandered opportunity to place Guyana on the right path, which is a bad omen for Guyana’s future. And Pompeo may well include her name in a list of sanctions.
The Chair would be subject of ridicule and condemnation. Once she does the right thing, she would go down in history in elections in which her name will be written in golden letters.
Dr Vishnu Bisram