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Western Nations urge issue-based election campaign

Western Nations on Thursday urged that the campaign for Guyana’s general elections focus more on issues and that there would be no abuse of State resources during the campaign, even as they pledged to offer assistance.

“We are hopeful that the upcoming electoral process will allow the Guyanese people to debate the important issues that are facing the country,” the top British, American and Canadian diplomats said in a joint statement.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Leadership and Democracy (LEAD) project was born out of the need for Guyana to focus more on issue-based rather than race-based politics. The US$1.2 million currently continues to focus on public education for Local Government Elections which would no longer be held this year because of the national poll. The “Governing Justly and Democratically”  agreement, which is LEAD’s backbone, was crafted based on Democracy and Governance Assessments conducted in 2006 and 2008 that essentially found that “ethno-political mobilization will be slow to change, but must be addressed if Guyana is to realize its great potential.”

Canada’s High Commissioner to Guyana. Dr. Nicole Giles;  Britain’s High Commissioner, Andrew Ayre and the Chargé d’Affaires of the US Embassy, Bryan Hunt called on Guyanese authorities to take on board several recommendations that were made by missions of the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the Commonwealth that observed the November 2011 elections and called for a number of recommendations to be implemented.

“The report also noted areas of improvement to make subsequent elections more efficient and fair. We hope Guyana considers these recommendations, including: improving mechanisms that guarantee more equitable access to media and political financing, adherence to timely and standardized procedures for the electoral process, improving communications with all stakeholders in particular GECOM, and strengthening the promotion of gender balanced participation throughout the electoral process,” they said.

House Speaker, Raphael Trotman said Wednesday that the political leaders should meet to hammer out agreements to ensure that there is no abuse of the publicly-financed radio, television and newspapers as well as other state resources such as vehicles and government employees for the election.

They welcomed President Donald Ramotar’s announcement of May 11, 2015 as the date for general and regional elections, saying that the polls are “ a critical first-step towards the return of a fully functioning Parliament.”

Canada, Britain and the US pledged to work with the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), all political parties, and civil society to support free, fair and peaceful elections.

The envoys noted the great strides made by Guyana during the 2011 polls and noted that the OAS and Commonwealth missions applauded significant efforts made by the GECOM to execute an overall inclusive and clean electoral process. The report mentioned the “high level of training and dedication exhibited by GECOM staff in the polling centers.”

There are expected to be more than 2,000 polling stations countrywide and a voters list of an estimated 500,000 eligible voters.