Electoral Integrity
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THE Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is in the process of appointing a new Chief Elections Officer (CEO) and the filling of a number of other senior positions in the GECOM Secretariat. A number of persons have already been shortlisted by the commission. It is anticipated that the appointments will be made soon having regard to the fact the Local Government Elections are already overdue. In fact, the PPP/C administration had already made budgetary allocation for the holding of local government elections this year. However, the stalemate at the level of the GECOM Commissioners as to the procedures for the appointment of a new GECOM CEO has resulted in some delays.

The main reason for the appointment of a new CEO emanated from the apparent attempt by the then CEO, Keith Lowenfield, in collaboration with elements of the APNU+AFC, to falsify the results of the March 2, 2020 National and Regional elections to reflect a victory for the APNU+AFC coalition, using figures that were at variance with those contained in the Statements of Poll (SOPs). Following the intervention of the courts, including the Caribbean Court of Justice and CARICOM leaders, a recount was done but the results were again falsified by the GECOM Secretariat to project a ‘victory’ for the APNU+AFC Coalition. It was not after a final ruling by the commission that the results of the SOPs be used based on the recounts that a declaration was made in favour of the PPP/C.

One consequence of those actions on the part of the GECOM Secretariat was the undermining of the credibility and integrity of the GECOM Secretariat and the then CEO in particular to conduct elections in a free, fair and unbiased manner. It will take a monumental effort on the part of the GECOM to repair the damage done to its integrity and credibility and to restore confidence in that body to conduct future elections in a transparent and unbiased manner.

This is why it is so important to have someone to head the GECOM Secretariat who is not known to have any political baggage and who is possessed with the necessary qualities of managerial competence, integrity and a high degree of professionalism. The commission will no doubt be guided by past experiences, but it is preferable for there to be consensus on the appointment of someone to that important office.  A consensual appointment will go a far way in terms of confidence-building measures and trust in the secretariat.

In addition to a new CEO and other senior officials, there are also plans to amend the elections laws to allow for greater penalties for those found guilty of violating the laws governing the conduct of free and fair elections. The APNU-AFC has already voiced its objections to the new proposals by the PPP/C which includes stiffer penalties including imprisonment for those found guilty of electoral fraud. The APNU+AFC has already signalled its objections to the proposals made by the PPP/C for reasons best known to them.

The holding of Local Government Elections is an important aspect of the democratic and governance processes in the country and every effort should be made to ensure that there are no further delays. The PPP/C administration is fully committed to the holding of such elections. It is now for the APNU+AFC to demonstrate that it is willing and prepared to support the holding of such elections. It has an obligation to ensure that the electoral body responsible for the holding of such elections are free from ‘rogue elements’ and that there is a restoration of full confidence and trust in the GECOM Secretariat to conduct such elections.

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