WPA knocks proposed amendments to ROPA

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—calls on PPP to withdraw proposals

The Working Peoples Alliance (WPA) has joined with others in condemning the PPP’s proposed amendments to the Representation of the People Act and the manner in which the government has approached this very sensitive and important issue.

“We view these proposals as part of a larger PPP plan to gain control of the electoral machinery through intimidation and misuse of its legislative majority to gain unfair advantage over other political contestants. For the WPA, these proposals are nothing more than a PPP initiative aimed at political witch hunting rather than a genuine attempt at electoral reform,” the party said in a statement.

According to the WPA, given everything that has happened in relation to elections since December 2018, this latest PPP move can be considered an act of political provocation. That party has made its determination of what occurred during the period in question and has advanced a unilateral approach to correcting the wrongs it perceives. It is a wrongheaded approach that reeks of unvarnished domination.

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“As the developments surrounding the election demonstrated, Guyana’s electoral architecture is incapable of producing elections and electoral outcomes which are acceptable to all political sides. This is a fact that must be taken into consideration when treating with electoral reform. Hence the WPA is outraged that the government would produce draft amendments without first engaging in meaningful consultations with the political opposition and related Civil Society organizations. It is obscene that a major contestant would arrogate unto itself the role of sole source of wisdom on this issue—a clear contradiction of democratic norms in a plural society.”

The WPA said the list of amendments reads more like a recipe for punishment rather than a serious document that attempts to grapple with an important area of our political landscape. The penalties proposed are most draconian and have no place in a democratic space. “One cannot help drawing a relationship between the ongoing prosecution of senior GECOM staff and the stiff penalties being proposed. WPA reiterates that the purpose of electoral reform should not be settling scores with political opponents. It is an abuse of executive privilege. The Attorney General’s assertion during an interview with Demerara Waves Radio that irreconcilable differences would be settled in the National Assembly reveals a deliberate intention to use the government’s legislative majority to ram the amendments down the throat of the country.”

The WPA said too that it observes with alarm the exclusion of key elements of electoral reform from the PPP’s proposal. Issues such as the tension between the National Registration Act and the Representation of the People Act, Campaign Finance reform, GECOM’s structure, and the make-up of our hybrid National Assembly are not addressed in the draft amendments. “As regards the latter, WPA views the proposal to breakup Region 4 into four sub-districts as a thinly veiled effort to appropriate the benefits of the First-Past- the-Post system. If as the AG has argued, the proposed changes are administrative, why not let GECOM make them? Why make those changes in one densely populated region and not others?”

“WPA urges the PPP to withdraw the proposals and as a start adopt a more inclusive approach. This should be followed by the widest consultations aimed at consensus rather that further confrontation. At a minimum the opposition parties, GECOM, the Bar Association and other electoral and constitutional advocacy groups should be involved in the initial consultations. Failure to walk that path would further widen the gulf between the political camps. The PPP has to recognize that in the circumstances, it cannot continue to read its mandate in sweeping terms. In the end, the entire country suffers.”



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