PPP calls for strong penalties for Election Day offences

…urges GECOM’s CEO to issue, publish clear instructions to presiding officers

The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) delegation which met with the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) on Tuesday has called for strong penalties to be instituted against any staff found breaching the law on Election Day.
This was revealed by People’s Progressive Party (PPP) General Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo, during his interaction with the media after the meeting. Jagdeo led a delegation that included People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Presidential Candidate Dr Irfaan Ali, former Attorney General Anil Nandlall and the Party’s Chief Scrutineer, Zulfikar Mustapha.
“A lot of those items dealt with clear instructions to presiding officers and to polling day officials so that there is no room for capricious action. Because we have witnessed this often on the part of GECOM staff,” Jagdeo said.
“So we asked that the CEO will share the written instructions given to the presiding officers and the ROs so that when we have those too, in cases where a staff acts in a partisan manner like refuse to allow a candidate in or not counting a ballot where the clear intention of the voter is expressed, we can whip out the CEO’s instructions and say, here are the written instructions.”
According to Jagdeo, this will cut out the hassle of trying to make contact with the Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, in order to ascertain the way to proceed. Jagdeo reminded that at times, it is hard to find Lowenfield or reach him by phone.
Jagdeo revealed that they also asked for fixed timelines to be set for when the returning officers make their declarations of the results in their respective regions. According to him, this will assist in transparency.
“Some regions, you can’t start early. Because they’re vast,” Jagdeo acknowledged. “Region four, region three, you can start a bit earlier. Given the geographic area, it would allow you to bring in all the statements of poll by a particular time. We’ve asked for strong penalties for people and other issues.”
It wouldn’t be the first time the PPP has raised issues about penalties for offences committed by GECOM staff. Following the controversial House-to-House Registration exercise, the Party had urged strong sanctions against staff found to have registered persons who are ineligible to vote.
With all the contention that has led up to this point, the elections are expected to be watched intently by a number of international observers and technical advisors in the country to oversee the process. For instance, it is the first time that the European Union will be deploying a fully-fledged team of observers on the ground for Guyana’s elections.
The Carter Center is also involved, with it being announced that former Prime Minister of Senegal, Aminata Touré, and Chairperson of The Carter Center Board of Trustees, Jason J Carter (the grandson of former US President Jimmy Carter) will co-lead the Carter Center’s international election observation mission in Guyana.
Other overseas-based observers expected to participate in overseeing the election include teams from the Organization of American States (OAS) as well as the Caribbean Community (Caricom).
GECOM is also getting assistance from a number of technical advisors who were provided by other countries and international organisations. Canada, for instance, is providing GECOM with Jean-Pierre Kingsley, a Canadian elections expert.
The Commonwealth is also providing the services of its senior technical advisor, Dr Afari Gyan, who arrived in Guyana last month. In addition, Dr Syed Nasim Zaidi, an elections advisor from India, has also joined the team.