Electoral reform needed in Guyana, low confidence in declared results- US opinion poll

A countrywide face-to-face opinion poll conducted earlier this year for the International Republican Institute (IRI) has found that more than 80 percent of Guyanese see the need for electoral reforms, and although the vast majority of eligible persons voted in the 2020 general elections many of them do not trust the declared results.

Of the sample of 1,500 persons 18 years and older, 58 percent said electoral reform was “very necessary”, 23 percent said it was “somewhat necessary”, while 5 percent said it was “somewhat not necessary” and 6 percent believed it was “not at all necessary”

The International Republican Institute (IRI) poll, which was conducted by CID Gallup throughout all regions of Guyana, also gleaned that 33 percent of the respondents wanted to see reforms in the areas of electoral administration changes – for example, decision making within GECOM, registration process and voter’s list-, implementing punitive measures for elections officials and staff, and a participatory and inclusive process for advancing electoral reform. A breakdown shows that 28 percent want electoral administration changes – for example, decision making within GECOM, registration process and voter’s list, 13 percent see the need for implementing punitive measures for elections officials and staff, and 12 percent say there should be a participatory and inclusive process for advancing electoral reform.

The poll, which IRI said the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) funded programming, has been shared with stakeholders, who have been consistently engaged with IRI on these issues.

Specifically, 60 percent of Guyanese believed that a comprehensive review of all election laws  was “very necessary”, 21 percent said it was “somewhat necessary”, 6 percent said it was “Somewhat not necessary” and 7 percent “don’t know or refused to answer.” Overall, 66 percent of those polled believed that legislative reforms could successfully”  address  weaknesses in the current system, with 30 percent saying it could so “very successfully” and 36 percent “somewhat successfully.”

The Guyana government has already circulated draft amendments to the Representation of the People Act that includes the administrative break-up of Region Four for the purposes of general administration and declaration of results, and multimillion dollar fines and jail terms for breaching the electoral laws.

While 5 percent of those polled say citizens cannot get involved in electoral systems reform, 27 percent say they can do so by learning more about elections and voting, 25 percent say volunteering with community groups (civil society) who do work on this topic, 22 percent say by raising awareness of the issue in their communities and via social media, 15 percent by engaging local and national government leaders and 9 percent by voting for parties or candidates that promote electoral  systems reform.

Credibility of election results

Asked whether they believed that the declared official election results reflect the will of the people, 22 percent said “definitely yes” and 16 percent said “probably yes” while 13 percent said “probably no”, 38 percent said “definitely no” and 11 percent said they did not know/ refused to answer. Under the category of ethnicity, 48 percent of Africans said “definitely no” to the question on they believed that the declared official election results reflect the will of the people compared to 28 percent of East Indians who also said “definitely no”

In terms of those who thought that the declared official election results reflect the will of the people, 16 percent Africans, 28 percent East Indians, 21 percent Indigenous, and 20 percent mixed said “definitely yes”.

Despite the fact that only 38 percent believed that the elections reflected the will of the people and 51 percent did not, the poll found that 81 percent of Guyanese voted in the 2020 election. The remaining 16 percent did not vote. Reasons given for not doing so are not eligible to vote (29 percent), nor registered to vote (14 percent), lack of interest (11 percent), Lack of confidence in the electoral process (6 percent), lack of time (5 percent), unable to locate polling station (4 percent), health reasons (3 percent), none of the parties or candidates inspired me (3 percent), and 1 percent each said their vote did not matter, lack of trust in the privacy of their vote and the voting process too cumbersome


GECOM

A look at what happens at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), showed that 55 percent of Guyanese are not satisfied  with the system that decides who serves on that body and 36 percent are satisfied. A breakdown shows that 35 percent are not at all satisfied and 20 percent are little satisfied.

In terms of whether GECOM has clear criteria for hiring elections officials, 37 percent said “yes”, 40 percent said “no” and 23 percent did not know/ refused to answer. Responding to the question on whether GECON should hire persons who are known to be politically affiliated, 72 percent said “no”,  19 percent said “yes” and 9 percent did not know or refused to answer.

If the poll is anything gauge to go by, Guyanese are almost evenly split on whether 5they are confident in GECOM’s s ability to organize and supervise elections. Of the 50 percent who are not , 26 percent say they are “not confident at all” and 24 percent are little confident,  19 percent are “highly confident” and 23 percent are “somewhat confident” and 8 percent did not know or refused to answer.

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