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Approximately five years apart, Guyanese trudge to the polls to elect the government that best represents their interests and policies. This act may sound simplistic but for the fact that our political history is replete with dissension, thus compromising the efficiency of the voting process and oft times resulting in acrimony that somehow explodes into ethnic warfare.
Local history is replete with instances of unsavoury, violent revolts after Regional and General Elections when large sections of the population feel either disenfranchised or short-changed due to shenanigans at the polling stations. Undoubtedly, the absence of proper systems and strategies to conduct credible elections has the propensity to plunge a country into violent conflict thus creating an unstable environment. Therefore, it goes without saying that it is incumbent on our leaders of respective realms, political and civil society among others, to employ the requisite mechanisms to guard against any action or inaction which inevitably magnifies the possibility of creating an unstable environment.
Firstly, this entails the establishment of a clean voters’ list, the crux of credible and transparent elections. Minister of Local Government, Nigel Dharamlall has only recently announced that local government elections are scheduled for March 2023, a mere three months hence. Though these elections are long overdue and highly desirable, one would expect, for the sake of peace and accountability, that they are conducted within the ambit of transparency and credibility. As of the time of penning this article, there are doubts concerning the authenticity and legitimacy of the preliminary voter’s list, consisting of 91% of the estimated population. There seems to be dissension as opposition members affiliated to the process argue that the list is bloated and cannot deliver credible and transparent results.
GECOM is governed within the ambits of specified laws and those officials can only remove names from the National Database of Registrant in instances of the death of the voter and subsequent submission of those details from the General Registration Office or the party making such an objection. In the past, this statute has overlooked scores of deceased persons as well as droves that have long emigrated. Obviously, such an anomaly sets the stage for acrimony evolving from a flawed voters’ list.
Stringent checks of the Preliminary List of Electors (PLE), Division 522112, have uncovered evidence supportive of this contention where large numbers of those deceased in excess of five years as well as migrants who’ve left these shores well over a decade have been included on the voters’ list. This trend is common throughout all electoral divisions and supports the appeal to the relevant authorities to expeditiously address this anomaly.
Interestingly, only 68.8 percent of the electorate voted in the National and Regional Elections in 2020. The highest proportion (74.4 percent) and the lowest proportion (64.4 percent) of votes cast were recorded in Region 5 (Mahaica/Berbice) and Region 8 (Potaro/Siparuni), respectively. In any survey, one must consider some degree of voter apathy which is somewhat beyond the control of electoral officials. However, going into elections with a bloated voter list deliberately sets the stage for contention and acrimony.
Currently, the evidence clearly supports the contention of a bloated electors list which evidently supports the fear of a flawed list that by extension, is susceptible to voter impersonation. It is also apt to note that it was this anomaly that instigated a clarion call for a credible voter roll by international observers at the 2020 polls.
Back then, the evidence suggested that there was an unusually high voter turnout at many rural polling stations in contrast to national and regional trends which many felt, necessitated an immediate and intense investigation.
The hypocrisy of our self-proclaimed “Guardians of Democracy” birthed after 2020 Regional and General Elections, valiantly fighting against the production of a clean voter roll, is now laid bare and begs the question, “Where are your friends now?”
The voter’s list, approved by the Jagdeo/Ally cabal, is polluted with the names of those long returned to their maker or have permanently taken up residence in other countries. This is an untenable situation and citizens must forcefully demand a clean voters list prior to any elections. The opposition parties must underline their reprehension, choosing not to participate in the pending LGE since participation will only serve to legitimize the list and lend support to a broken electoral process.
The Jagdeo/Ally cabal believes in total dominance and therefore will never take any action to remedy the list in the absence of maximum pressure. Thus, stringent efforts should be made in ensuring that the cabal creates the conditions necessary for transparent and credible elections. Citizens can meaningfully voice their support by joining the weekly protest in front of the GECOM Kingston offices. They must also solicit the intervention of international organisations and foreign governments in their bid to enforce pressure on the PPP/C Government to adhere to the requirements of transparent and credible elections.
Conversely, voter impersonation must be nipped in the bud thus the need for electronic voter verification, which militates against voter fraud and allows for rapid transmission of results.
The ruling cabal’s unwillingness to address the electoral roll is tantamount to the manipulation of the electoral process. Obviously, the Jagdeo/Ali cabal is seeking to emulate the governments of Afghanistan, Sudan, Namibia, and the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, accused of encouraging and promoting voter fraud due to their laissez-faire attitude in producing a credible list. This is the dangerous step the Jagdeo/Ali cabal is attempting to emulate.
The bald reality is that credible and transparent elections are a prerequisite for a stable democracy. Therefore, the ruling cabal must facilitate the legislative agenda for a new and credible voter roll, electronic verification, and eventual smooth voting process. To do otherwise is to debunk the democracy it so eloquently, but sanctimoniously advocates.