Last Updated on Friday, 15 September 2023, 12:05 by Denis Chabrol
President Irfaan Ali on Friday told the 35-nation Organisation of American States (OAS) that election observers are vitally important in warding off efforts to thwart the will of the people rather than merely observing the casting of ballots.
“All nations. in this Council, let Guyana’s experience serve as a testament to the indispensable role of electoral observer missions. Democracy tries not only on the will of its people, but also on the trust in his process. Let us commit to welcoming and facilitating such missions ensuring that the core of democracy, the balance remains untainted, transparent and truly representative,” he told the OAS Permanent Council in Washington DC.
The Guyanese leader recalled efforts to change the outcome of the March 2020 general and regional elections, and credited observers from the OAS, European Union, Commonwealth and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in preventing an unlawful regime from taking root.
“This experience underscores the immense value and imperative need for electoral observer missions. Their role extends beyond mere observation. They act as a guardian of democracy and ensuring that elections reflect the true voice of the people,” he said.
Dr Ali urged the OAS member states to recognise the vital importance of such election observer missions because they provide unbiased and expert assessments. He said election observers could identify potential pitfalls, discrepancies and breaches and ensure that elections are not just a process, but a true representation of a nation’s aspiration.”
In introducing Dr Ali, OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro noted the role of the Western Hemispheric organisation’s election observer mission in derailing the will of Guyanese in the March 2, 2020 general and regional elections. “In 2020, Guyana confronted the great threat to its democracy. The results of free and fair general elections were being overturned by an attempt to thwart the will of the electorate.
The OAS was pleased that our work and the work of the electoral observer mission helped to ensure that through an open, transparent and supervised, the people’s will prevailed and democracy was recaptured from those who sought to desecrate it,” Mr Almagro said.
Particularly for Region/ District Four (Demerara-Mahaica), there had been several declarations, anyone of which could have led to then incumbent A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) being declared the overall winner of those polls. However, a national vote recount saw Dr Ali’s People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) being declared the winner in August, 2020.
President Ali praised the international community for standing steadfast with Guyanese to block the subversion of the democratic process. “It was a testing period for a nation’s democratic values when the principles enshrined in our Constitution and the essence of our people’s will were under threat,” he said.
During controversy over the tabulation process at the Region Four Returning Office, then Foreign Minister Dr Karen Cummings had gone there and met observers, raising concern about whether their accreditation would have been cancelled. Citing COVID-19, the then government did not give the observers, except the CARICOM special mission, approval to return to witness the vote recount.
APNU+AFC, instead, continues to repeatedly accuse APNU+AFC of rigging the 2020 polls by voter impersonation of deceased persons and migrants as well as engineering the disappearance of vital supporting documents several ballot boxes on the East Coast Demerara. A number of then senior officials of the Guyana Elections Commission and two senior members of the People’s National Congress Reform, the major party in APNU, still have pending charges for electoral fraud before the court. One election petition had been thrown out by the High Court and another is the subject of an appeal.
Successive governments since 1992 have ignored repeated recommendations by internati0nal and regional election observer missions to broaden or de-politicise the Guyana Elections Commission, enact campaign financing legislation, revamp the voters list and cease dominance of the State-owned media.