The call for electoral reform in Guyana could not be more imperative, given the plethora of internal and other issues that contributed to the almost derailed March 2020 General & Regional Elections.
As the administrator of our elections, The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) ought to play a pivotal role in advancing the necessary reforms. However, there is a sense of ongoing pussy-footing that raises serious concerns for Guyana, as a democratic nation. With GECOM being the recipient of election reports from internal and external sources, the institution is obviously well positioned to make public numerous recommendations. Although it is clear that GECOM has lost much face and confidence of the Guyanese people, the nation is yet to see any definitive action to suggest proactive correction is taking place. The laid-back approach advances a “wait and see who will make the most noise” attitude in the face of the existence of overwhelming evidence of this necessity.
The way forward clearly must be driven by the focal ideals of efficiently and transparently delivering free and fair election results at all times. It is recognised that much of the challenges to this come from the continuous filibustering approach of some in the Commission itself, who have been biasedly self-serving to the PNC-R party, contrary to their constitutional obligations. However, all are aware that the current construct of the Commission allows the Chairwoman a casting vote, which MUST be used to rationally address the means to GECOM’s readiness.
The logical question therefore is: Why was the recent GECOM meeting aborted? The Commission must assert itself and get down to serious and urgent work. It is known that the International Republican Institute (IRI), after consultations with the Attorney General, representing the Government, and the Leader of the Opposition, was scheduled to make a presentation to GECOM Chairman and Commissioners on the proposed Electoral Reforms that are desperately needed for GECOM to hold free and fair elections.
Is the Commission still bending backwards to the whims and fancies of the PNC directors? Certainly, this pussy-footing by the Commission must stop.
It is a known fact that representatives of the PNC-R, who largely stood to benefit from the March 2020 thievery attempts, would not want to proceed with these reforms. The obvious reason is that the current structure favours their unprincipled approach, and allows the continued skullduggery.
The PNC-R representatives have long been very vocal about the need to keep the current status quo. The Demerara Waves article: “APNU+AFC cautious about electoral reforms that may further politicise GECOM”, published on Sunday, October 20, 2020, reports PNC-R Executive Mr. Norton as saying that “the coalition would not “rush” into electoral reforms that could risk handing over the electoral machinery to political operatives who are disguised as civil society.
What Mr. Norton and the PNC never wanted is the levelling of the playing field.
Vincent Alexander, on the other hand, has led all of the disruptive, suffocating manoeuvres in the Commission. He is a well-known ‘obstructionist’ and vindictive PNC discard who continues to try to make himself relevant. His track record confirms removal as the Chairman of the Young Socialist Movement, and also the Regional Executive Officer by President Desmond Hoyte, before being kicked out of the PNC. Further, he was removed from Parliament, and was described as an obstructionist in the Ministry of Education.
After the passing of the No-Confidence Motion on the night of 21st December 2018, Alexander’s clandestine manoeuvres and skullduggery were taken to a heightened level to postpone the National and Regional Elections. He raised ID card issues and tried vainly to defend the continuance of the illegal house-to-house registration. Further, he supported the manipulation of activities related to the staff selection, but eventually, all his ill-fated efforts were thwarted.
At the Commission’s meeting last Tuesday, he again demonstrated tremendous fear of Electoral Reforms and concocted representation which prevented the Commission from getting the most valued information on the way forward from the IRI. His frivolous objections led to the frustration of the meeting. However, it must be noted that the IRI had already held fruitful meetings with the Attorney General and the Leader of the Opposition and his team.
It is recalled that the same Alexander played a big role in the frustration of the ‘Special Task Force’ that was set up after the 1994 Local Government Elections to introduce Local Government Reforms.
Local Government Elections (LGEs) are due this year, and GECOM has been allocated enough money to fund these Elections. Hence, while we are looking at electoral reforms, it is imperative that GECOM immediately remove the “Riggers” and prepare to hold the LGEs this year. There cannot be anything so disastrously wrong to prevent the holding of these elections mere months after the National and Regional Elections were held. In operationalising its SoPs, there must be a period of continuous registration, followed by the necessary claims and objections period to update the National Register of Registrants (NRR) and be ready for the 2021 LGEs.
It is of note that the PNC cabals prevented the Carter Center from coming to Guyana to witness the Recount Process, and is also trying through their operatives to condemn any agency of repute that would lend to fairness in the reforms.
The Guyana Human Rights Association, which could not find its voice during the relentless attempt to change the results of the election, is now making recommendations. It is important to recognise that changes to the associated legislation would, in many instances, require a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly.
The PNC are fully aware that they were humiliated at the last two LGEs which were held when they were in power, and it would be more difficult for the PNC to win votes at the upcoming LGEs.
Let’s have the electoral reforms now!