The three-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) team of scrutineers of the just concluded national vote recount is recommending that the next government conducts a “political audit” of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and a fresh registration of all voters.
“A political audit of GECOM (its successes and failing and the factors contributing to this) both the commission and its administrative arm, is urgently warranted,” said the team which included two election experts from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Antigua and Barbuda, and a Political Science professor from the University of the West Indies (UWI).
The team cited the need for an immediate audit because “in a very real sense GECOM betrayed its obligations to behave impartially and independently.” The seven-member commission consists of three represents from the largely East Indian-backed People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and the African-based People’s National Congress Reform-led coalition of A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC).
The report made it clear that the recount showed that the results reflected the will of the more than 460,000 people at the general elections held three months ago. “Overall, while we acknowledge that there were some defects in the recount of the March 2, 2020 votes cast for the general and regional elections in Guyana, the Team did not witness anything which would render the recount and by extension the casting if the ballot on March 2 so grievously deficient procedurally or technically (despite some irregularities) or sufficiently deficient to have thwarted the will of the people and consequently preventing the election results and its declaration by GECOM from from reflecting the will of the voters,” the team said
The recommendation for an audit, the team says, is because of the deeply politicised Commission which is supposed to be independent but in reality is beholden to their political parties in an ethnically divided country. “We insist that to maintain GECOM in its present form would be a tragedy for the nation and the people of Guyana. GECOM, as we indicated, is a creature of the dominant political parties and there is consequently little interest on the part of the Commissioners in ensuring that elections and the electoral environment are conducive to integrity based elections which reflect the will of the people,” the CARICOM team says.
The CARICOM team said the Carter-Price model of 3-3 and a Chairman that reflects f balanced partisan representation – not unique in the Commonwealth Caribbean – in which the two dominant parties have equal representation and input was born out of a particular historical conjecture, it has served its initial purpose. “The time has arrived in the political history of the country where such partisan political dependence must be corrected to ensure the functional and professional operation of that body in the best interest of electoral and democratic governance. The essentially watch dog partisan political party institution (political parties watching each other), have clearly outlived its usefulness and must give way to a genuinely independent EMB (Election Management Body).
According to the Regional Scrutineers, Guyana’s election commission needs to be capable of not only managing its relations with all political parties in the country – including the numerous minor political parties – in a balanced fashion, but one which reflects professional conduct and the ability to act and speak with impartiality.
“Further, given what the TEAM witnessed during the recount process emanating from the Commission particularly with regards to the ill-advised nightly often contradictory media statements and posturing of some commissioners, the disinclination on the part of commissioners to demonstrate a modicum of independence from the two major political parties, it is clear that a reconstituted commission buttressed by a code of conduct are urgently required. In a nutshell, the Commission does not act impartially, given the partisan loyalty of the Commissioners,” the report adds.