EU Elections Observer Mission in Guyana to “kick-start” elections reform

Almost one year since the European Union (EU) Elections Observer Mission (EOM) left Guyana, the team has returned to kick-start elections reform. The team at a press conference on Friday disclosed that it has commenced discussions with the Government, Opposition and other stakeholders on its recommendations contained in its final report and has scheduled a round table discussion for Monday.

“It’s obvious that this what happened last year should not happen again and I guess some changes in legislation concerning elections and also some technical practices should increase the possibility that it will not happen again,” Chief Observer of the EU EOM Urmas Paet stated.

He added that “now is the time for decisions and actions for elections reform to be effective. Its implementation needs to begin well before the next elections are called. Inclusive and transparent reform processes help build confidence in elections and their results.”

The team arrived in Guyana before the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections and left on March 20, 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Paet assured that they continued monitoring the process which involved legal challenges and a prolong recount of ballots until August 2, 2021 when the results were declared, and a new President was sworn in.

 The EU team made 26 recommendations in its final report to ensure that democracy is maintained.

The eight priority recommendations include fostering transparency and accountability in online and offline campaigning, transforming the state media into a genuine public service broadcaster and the launch of a consultation process to overhaul the function of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM); all of which seeks to address concerns raise by political parties and supporters during the 2020 elections.

Further, the EU EOM recommended to consolidating different elections methods and legislation.

Paet told reporters that “for clarity for voters and also for political actors, it should be wise to have one clear concrete electoral law where everything will be described what concerns selections and process and so on.”

Some of the laws which impacts the electoral processes in Guyana include the Elections Amendment Act 15 of 2000, the Representation of the People Act and the National Registration Act.

The Mission also recommended legislation to govern political finance, adopting clear written procedures for transmission and tabulation of elections results, accompanying any declaration of results with detailed polling station results and digital copies of all statements of poll. These methods will reduce disputes over the vote count for political parties which led to the delay in the 2020 elections results for five months.

In addition, the establishment of a comprehensive dispute resolution system as recommended.

The results of the elections are being contested in the High Court by the former APNU+AFC Government which believes it won the elections but Paet underscored that this process can run on for years.

These recommendations will all be discussed at a roundtable discussion slated for Monday. Those invited include President Irfaan Ali, other members of the Government, Speakers of the National Assembly, Opposition Members of Parliament, political parties, the judiciary and civil society.