GECOM secretariat the problem
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President, Dr Irfaan Ali
President, Dr Irfaan Ali

— President reiterates need for restructuring, stresses officers must be impartial

By Richard Bhainie

IN addressing electoral reform, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Secretariat must be restructured and officers of the entity must be professional in executing their duties. This view was expressed by President, Dr. Irfaan Ali, during an interview on Globespan 24×7 with Charles Sugrim and Dr. Asquith Rose on Monday. A question was posed by Dr. Rose to the President on whether the ‘Carter Formula’ utilised by GECOM whereby there are three Government commissioners and three opposition commissioners is effective and whether the President intends to change the structure. President Ali responded by highlighting that the elections fiasco in the March 2, 2020 General and Regional elections did not emanate from the Commission itself, but from the secretariat.

To make his point, he exemplified by identifying that two key figures, who are currently before the courts for alleged electoral fraud, Returning Officer for Region Four, Clairmont Mingo and Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield are not members of the commission but officers of the secretariat. The President explained that these persons were supposed to be professionals, who are unbiased in their execution of office but they failed to do so. “It is the professionals who are supposed to be unbiased that failed us in the first place, the secretariat itself, and that is what has to be addressed, the restructuring of the entity itself,” he said. “We didn’t reach to the commission, the problem started with rogue action, the problem started with unprofessional behaviour in the wide view of the world,” he further added.

President Ali expounded that one of the major problems that has to be addressed in Guyana is separating professionalism and politics. He noted that while electoral reform is critical, the issue must not be narrowed to the ‘Carter Formula’ and the commission but secretariat must be addressed as well. “The secretariat itself failed, the professionalism and professional conduct that was expected they did not deliver and that has to be fixed,” he said.The method of appointment of GECOM commissioners was based on a recommendation former U.S. President Jimmy Carter made for the 1992 election that has become known as the “Carter Formula”.

In a statement issued by the Carter Center in March, 2020 pertaining to the March 2, 2020 elections, the Center noted “the formula gives GECOM a partisan structure that has resulted in a highly polarised and sometimes ineffective board of commissioners. It also advantages the major parties and excludes newer parties.” The statement added: “The Carter Center reiterates a recommendation made in multiple prior reports that Guyana consider adjusting GECOM’s structure to increase its independence, effectiveness, and professionalism.”

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