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The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) regime has announced that Local Government Elections (LGE) will be held on March 13, 2023. Following the announcement, President Irfaan Ali said, “We urge all stakeholders to participate fully in this process. We ask all political parties in opposition to get ready, you have long enough notice to be part of this democratic process.” The president added that the hosting of LGE is a result of the commitment of the PPP to upholding the rule of law and following a democratic pathway to good governance.
It would appear, though, that the PPP regime’s announcement and the related rhetoric of its officials — including that of the president — are hypocritical, self-contradictory, and, considering the facts of the matter, almost preposterous. It is as though the PPP, and its decision makers exist in some sort of alternate reality.
First, the Preliminary List of Electors is bloated. This indisputable fact will certainly result in the final Official List of Electors (OLE) being bloated as well. Obviously, since the entire conduct and outcome of elections are products of an accurate list of eligible voters, one cannot arrive at a legitimate and credible electoral outcome based on a list that is blatantly inaccurate.
However, the PPP is moving full speed ahead while pointedly ignoring calls from respected organisations including CARICOM, which “. . .recommends the urgent need for the total re-registration of all voters in Guyana. It behooves the [Guyana Elections] Commission (GECOM) to create a new voter registry especially given the suspicion that the register was bloated, a suspicion which is not without merit.” The Organisation of American States (OAS) calls for “undertaking a house-to-house registration exercise earliest.”
Second, President Ali mentioned “democracy and good governance.” It seems clear though, that the PPP administration is a stranger to both democratic norms and the most basic standards of respectable governance. For example, in any territory that claims to be democratic, the minimum standards of respecting and responding to the will of the people are expected to prevail. The PPP regime — contrary to those expectations — continue to ignore the will of citizens. There have been numerous protests calling for the regime to fix the problems in the electoral system, all to no avail.
Leader of the Opposition, Aubrey Norton, said:“We remain steadfast in our call for GECOM to implement the necessary improvements (whether statutory, constitutional, technological, or administrative) to ensure elections of the highest standard. In this regard, we stand by our positions on the need for a clean voters list and biometric identification at polling places.”
Chairperson of the Alliance For Change (AFC), Mrs. Cathy Hughes told the press that the party has reservations going to the elections with a flawed list. Hughes said, “If we are going to have any elections, if we are going to talk about democracy, we must have a system that everybody has confidence in. If not, you’ll have half the population unhappy and what kind of actions would you have as a result of that.” Considering Guyana’s history of post electoral issues, Mrs. Hughes’ concern is totally justified.
Third, the hypocrisy of the PPP is on shameless display. One recalls that in 2015 the PPP supported cleaning up Guyana’s electoral process including the list of voters.
At that time the PPP called for:
- Enhanced biometrics
- Electronic voting
- Bringing the GECOM Secretariat under the purview of the Commission to enable the Commission to give the Secretariat general orders and directions.
- Recruitment of GECOM’s key election officials such as Returning Officers and Presiding Officers and Poll Clerks through improved transparent and impartial processes.
- A new voters’ list to be compiled on the basis of a fresh house to house enumeration.
- Review the process that allows for voting by the Disciplined Services.
- Amend the relevant sections of the Representation of the People Act to allow for the enactment of appropriate legislation to facilitate implementation of agreed reforms.
Now, though, that the PPP has its tentacles firmly wrapped around the levers of political power, the regime suddenly has no problem with the system and the overburdened list. Could the PPP’s hypocrisy be any clearer?
The PPP regime needs to get out of its alternate reality and come to grips with a few key facts. The PPP must understand that it does not represent the will of all Guyanese, not even close, as such, the regime needs to listen and be responsive to citizens who are dissatisfied with its policies and performance. The PPP must recognise that it has a razor thin majority in parliament and conduct itself accordingly.
Finally, the PPP should internalise the fact that considering the circumstances in which it came to power, the regime lacks anything close to universal legitimacy. If the regime were thinking properly, it would be bending over backward to gain that legitimacy. Unfortunately, thinking properly is not known to be a characteristic of autocratic regimes such as the PPP appears to be.