It can’t be business as usual in the selection of new Chief Elections Officer, DCEO

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…WPA says, as it underscores the need for electoral reform before Local Government Elections 

The Working People’s Alliance (WPA) said the Elections Commissioners should be removed from the process of selecting the new Chief Elections Officer (CEO) and Deputy Chief Elections Officer (DCEO), even as it underscored the importance of having Electoral Reform before the much anticipated Local Government Elections.

Keith Lowenfield, the former CEO, and his Deputy, Roxanne Myers were unceremoniously let go in August, when the Commission, by a majority decision, voted to terminate their services along with that of Region Four Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo, over allegations of electoral fraud.

In a recent statement, WPA said in its ongoing review of Guyana’s 2020 General and Regional Elections, it concluded that the termination of Lowenfield, Myers and Mingo’s services has put the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) in an extremely difficult situation ahead of the Local Government Elections, which is scheduled to be held later this year.

“Since filling those vacancies is a prerequisite for the preparation and conduct of the elections, that exercise should commence in earnest,” the Alliance said.

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However, WPA submitted that it would be suicidal to conduct any election before the completion of the reform process.

“There have been widespread calls by local and international actors for professional and non-partisan staff to conduct the affairs of GECOM coupled with a change from the current partisan commission to one made up of non-partisan representatives,” WPA said while warning that changes to the composition of the Commission may more than likely generate much controversy since the political parties will not easily give up control of the process.

Nonetheless, it said going forward, the Elections Commissioners should not be involved in the recruitment process as the system currently permits.

Currently, the commissioners conduct interviews of candidates and recommendations for recruitment are based on the tally of their scores. However, WPA said, the process has attracted much criticism as critics contend, with some justification, that the process is driven by subjectivity that tend to mirror the partisan bias of the commissioners

“The accusations of political bias and attempts of fraud on the part of GECOM staff at all elections since 2006 can be traced right back to the interviewing process.

In the circumstances. WPA feels that the removal of the commissioners from the interviewing process could go a long way towards addressing this problem and restoring some degree of confidence in GECOM staff,” WPA submitted.

It said while political parties may try to indirectly influence the process, freeing the commissioners of the burden of being actively involved in the interviewing process allows them to better police it.

Earlier this year, the US announced an 18-month Electoral Reform Project in Guyana to be executed by the International Republican Institute (IRI), however, the project has received much push back from sections of civil society.

Both the Government and the Opposition have repeatedly underscored the importance of electoral reform, however, since the highly controversial 2020 Elections, no significant progress has been made in this regard.



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