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Matters pertaining to elections continue to make the headlines in Guyana. The Attorney General has been, and continues to be, one of the major spokespersons for the PPP/C on electoral matters.
His most recent pronouncement focused on two issues:
1. Legislative amendments to the Representation of the People`s Act to cater for what he referred to as “transparency in the declaration of the results”. He proposed that the statements of poll be made public immediately after the count, thus allowing the public to know the results which should be announced; and as a consequence, deterring anyone from trying to produce or announce a false result. This proposition seems commendable since all of Guyana`s elections, post 1968 have been challenged, with those of 2006, 2011 and 2020 casting serious doubt on the integrity of the officials who were responsible for the final tabulations. However, any such proposal must be thoroughly examined to avoid compounding the apparent problem rather than resolving it. A public conclusion and the likely jubilation before an official result, may well lead to instability and the attendant post- election disturbances if a recount overturns the public perception. Such possibilities cannot be ignored.
2. Secondly, he focused on the removal of the Chief Elections Officer and the Deputy Chief as a precondition for the conduct of any further election. This is an extremely prejudicial disposition, especially in the circumstance of both officers being before the Court for electoral related matters. The learned Attorney seems to have thrown the presumption of innocence ‘out of the window’, not to mention that in 2006 similar allegations were levelled against electoral officials. On that occasion, the Court was allowed to be the final arbiter, albeit the substantive matter was never heard, and the officials were allowed to remain in office, conduct a subsequent election, and were fingered again, in 2011, for electoral malpractices. The duplicity raises serious red flags.
Those matters apart, one may still pose the question as to whether the proposed amendments will address the unresolved concerns that have been raised from 1968 onward about the stuffing of the ballot boxes and fraudulent votes which are made possible by the use of a bloated list.
Given the finger pointing that attenuates the credibility of elections in Guyana, shouldn’t any attempt to improve the system include the major stakeholders, at least? Rather than one party using its privileged position to propose a solution, from its perspective, it would be better to work towards consensus as has been the practice from 1991 unto recent. Of interest is the fact that previously there was unanimity on the need for a new voters list. That was reneged on and the current proposition completely ignores that previous unanimous decision, which a major stakeholder still holds out as one of the impediments of a free and fair election.
Incidentally, international observer groups also identified the 2020 voters list as being less than satisfactory for the conduct of elections.
What about the President`s recent recital: “All are involved, all are consumed”? Isn`t this applicable to legislative and electoral matters? The likely retort that the Opposition sits in the National Assembly will not suffice. The issue here is inclusion versus majoritarianism. The majority is not all. Inclusivity provides for all. Elections are too important a matter for consensus not to be sought.
It may also be argued that reviews of matters related to elections, because of the inter-relatedness nature of electoral matters, should always be holistic and all-embracing, since they are of concern to the entire population.