Govt must enforce Guyana’s electoral integrity

Dear Editor,

The Ministry of Governance and Parliamentary Affairs released draft amendments to the Representation of the People Act (RoPA) on Friday in keeping with President Dr Irfaan Ali’s directive to publicise the intended amendments by the end of this week in order for planned consultations. After more than year and a half, the APNU/AFC attempts to rig Guyana’s 2020 General and Regional Elections, the Government has released proposed amendments setting out processes to be followed for the declaration of results along with penalties ranging from millions in fines to life imprisonment for violations. However free and fair elections in Guyana are foundation of our democracy and the PPP/C Government is committed to protecting the rights of all Guyanese to vote and enforce our electoral integrity.

In 2020 Guyanese and the world had witnessed a breach of public trust that resulted from illegal acts by the APNU/AFC that subverted Guyana’s electoral process. Enforcing the legal framework of elections is essential in order to maintain electoral integrity. Even the best legislation can be thwarted or negated without sufficient enforcement – enforcement is a deterrent to fraud and a safeguard against problems that threaten electoral integrity. Dishonest or fraudulent practices are not the only source of integrity problems. Problems may also result from human error or unintentional omissions. Even when there is no ill intent, these mistakes should be subject to appropriate corrective measures. Different institutions and mechanisms must be put in place that are responsible for enforcing election integrity and legislation, as specified by the legal framework in Guyana going forward. Generally speaking, effective enforcement involves: Clear definition of the types of violations or offences; the opportunity to make a complaint; determination to investigate; decision to initiate proceedings in order to determine facts and obtain evidence; administrative or civil proceedings, or prosecution and criminal proceedings to hold offenders accountable for their actions; a detailed ruling and the opportunity to appeal; and appropriate and effective penalties and sanctions for those found responsible. There is an ongoing debate over a single, universal definition of electoral integrity. It is not (yet) clear whether it could serve as a comprehensive and independent concept, an overarching quality standard, or as a synonym for a “good election”. This is an active conversation in scholarly and policy circles over the proper definition and application of the term.

Without electoral integrity, leaders and officials lack accountability to the public, confidence in the election results is weak, and the Government lacks necessary legitimacy.  Electoral integrity allows for peaceful resolution of conflict, open dialogue, debate, and information sharing amongst leaders and the public.  The Commission acknowledges that “at its root, electoral integrity is a political problem”, not just a technical problem.  Integrity depends on public confidence in electoral and political processes. It is not enough to reform institutions; citizens need to be convinced that changes are real and deserve their confidence. Inclusiveness, transparency, and accountability are all fundamental to developing that confidence to ensure that elections have integrity, other factors outside of the electoral institutions themselves need to be taken into account and strengthened. Election officials, Judges, and courts must have independence that is respected by politicians. Last week, President Ali told a virtual press conference six weeks will be given for the review and comments on the amendments after which it would be laid before the National Assembly.


David Adams