May 15, 2022
Kaieteur News – The Electoral Reform Group (ERG) has called for an investigation of the 2020 general elections, more social consultations, and reform of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) as part of its contribution to the draft Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill and Regulations.
According to a release from the Attorney General’s Chambers, the state authority met with the group on May 9. This group, along with GECOM and Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo, it noted provided the most “substantive” contributions regarding the reform election laws, and that representatives of the government were gearing to meet with the organisation.
The release said that ERG had submitted comments on the proposed amendments in December 2021. But at the meeting with Attorney General, Anil Nandlall, SC., other government officials, and representatives of the Private Sector Commission, ERG pointed out that President Irfaan Ali was yet to facilitate an investigation into the last election controversy. “The ERG observed that upon assumption of office, the President had stated that there would be a thorough investigation into the political crisis following the March 2 elections in 2020, but this has not occurred. Such an investigation is a critical step toward diagnosing the causes of problems and will better guide reform proposals,” the group submitted.
ERG representatives, while grateful for the opportunity to engage the government on electoral reform issues, noted that the meeting “fell short of what is required of an adequate process of social consultation”. The AG, nonetheless, indicated government’s commitment to electoral reform, but said that it is dealing “only with statutory changes to the Representation of the People Act at this time, specifically excluding changes to the Constitution.” He mentioned that constitutional changes would require bipartisan consensus.
The ERG maintained, however, that sustainable electoral reform requires comprehensive social consensus with effective civil society involvement. ERG said that the narrow focus on the RoPA amounts to reinforcing a system in dire need of reform instead of fixing it. A key sticking point was that, the government continues to overlook the obvious, urgent need for restructuring and reform of GECOM. “The present GECOM structure is not working adequately to deliver elections that are free from suspicion and readily acceptable to major stakeholders, and thus needs to be reformed to enhance the Commission’s capability and fortify its role in the ongoing process of election system review and reform, as exists in other countries.”
The ERG representatives also indicated support for the principle of proportionality but held that this did not negate the urgent need for reform. The AG, however, defended Guyana’s current electoral system arguing that proportional representation guaranteed the democracy of the system. “This position ignores the findings of studies and recommendations in the media for years that indicate that a large proportion of the population has no confidence in Guyana’s electoral system,” the release added.
On the matter proposing the breakup of Region Four into separate districts for election purposes, the ERG reiterated its position that this was not justified, given that the problem that occurred in 2020, was caused by a breakdown within GECOM and not by Region Four voters. “It is therefore not clear how this measure is an improvement of the electoral system. The ERG representatives expressed the view that more careful consideration should be given to the proposal for dividing Region Four (and other regions) into a number of constituencies,” the ERG noted.
The AG’s position during the meeting, according to the ERG release, took many critical issues off the table for consideration, including several matters listed in the ERG’s submission.