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The Alliance for Change (AFC) is making known their steadfast commitment to electoral reform both at the constitutional and statutory levels. Speaking at the party’s recent press conference, party leader and Member of Parliament, Khemraj Ramjattan, said based on that commitment they attended the proposed national consultation exercise on the 25th October 2022.
The party, however, aborted participation when it became evident that the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) government, via Minister of Governance Gail Teixeira and Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC, made a farce of the consultation process.
“To begin with there was a half hour delayed start to accommodate the entry of a number of the PPP’s loyalist organisations and personally to make a crowd. Secondly, the monologues by both Teixeira and Nandlall then took approximately 2 hours. This was a complete monopolisation of a proposed 3-hour process.”
According to the party, participants including the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU); Timothy Jonas, SC, of ANUG; and Yog Mahadeo of Article 13, were irked and upset by the government’s domination. That being said, the AFC reiterated an electoral reform process must realise amendments to the law which must find consensus with the whole country and not half of it, to the extent that elections are held with a higher level of acceptance and a lower level of criticism.
At the constitutional level, the AFC said they will be pressing for: –
- For Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) that comprises an additional three civil society members to dilute the highly partisan politicised membership as presently exists. It is the AFC’s opinion the new composition will also help eliminate the judicial determinations forced upon the Chairperson in the existing arrangements.
- Term limits for the Commissioners and not a security of tenure for life.
iii. Explicit statement as to a residency requirement of each and every voter. This will help eliminate the confusion prevailing on resident requirement.
- Arising out of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) recent decision on the matter of the appeal ability or non-appeal ability of an election petition which is struck out for late or improper service to one of the Respondents. There is every need for this unsavoury constitutional landscape to be remedied by an amendment to Article 163 of the Constitution of Guyana.
At the statutory level the party is demanding:
- Amendments for early voting for polling day staff in similar manner as the Disciplined Forces.
- Use of available technology, namely, biometrics at the registration stage and electronic voting; and for house to house registration periodically, preferably 8 years.
Ramjattan noted the PPP should not be opposed to the AFC’s demands since they are consistent with the demands they made in 2015 when they lost the Elections and became the Opposition.
In October 2015 PPP’s General Secretary, Bharrat Jagdeo, at a press conference laid out a laundry list of demands for electoral reform. These were: –
- 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.
- Selection of a new Chairman of GECOM.