There exists no compact between voters and candidates in our electoral system: we vote for lists of largely anonymous people. Voters are more influenced by what they see rather than what they hear or read and, regrettably, what they tend to see is race. To this extent our electoral system encourages clannish or tribal behavior.
The more closely the electoral process in Guyana is examined, the more forcefully the conclusion can be drawn that all of the major defects are inter-locking and all reward ethnic behaviour. Party control of GECOM privileges the interests of political parties over the interests of citizens as a whole; casting ballots only for parties, not individual candidates reinforces MPs as representatives of parties rather than voters; the law to prevent crossing the floor privileges accountability of MPs to parties over accountability to voters, who are powerless to remove MPs with whom they are dissatisfied.
Moreover, if opportunities for political inter-action between voters and elected representatives were routinely available, the pent-up enthusiasms released at elections time would inevitably be less franatic. Similarly, were local candidates seeking votes in constituencies, the tendency towards sweeping promises would be tempered by local interests and needs. Candidates in our system accept no personal responsibility to serve in the voters’ interest. The electoral system as a whole encourages anonymity and lack of accountability.
In light of this inclination towards discord, the energies of those politicians who encourage restraint are to be commended. Fortunately, since the early shooting to death of Courtney Crum-Ewing with its strong political connotations, provocation to violence has been largely resisted for which the electorate is to be congratulated.
The failure of GECOM, to lay to rest persisting unease over the substantially higher number of names on the Voters Registration List than in 2011, is regrettable. The increase is on average 39% in hinterland Regions. These concerns to date have been expressed in measured and reasonable terms and deserved an equally reasonable response from GECOM.
The GHRA urges the leadership and members of all contesting parties to respect the Rules governing conduct at polling stations and to accept results of the election in a lawful manner, neither indulging in nor being provoked to violence.
During briefings of visiting electoral monitoring missions, the GHRA has pointed out that in addition to exhortations against ethnic manipulation and provocative language, international observers also take note of the serious weaknesses in our electoral process. We make similar recommendations to religious and other domestic leaders, that counsels of peace be accompanied by concerns about the provocative systemic factors that contribute to the need for such exhortations. Such messages would then strengthen the growing number of civic voices calling for electoral reform.
Collectively the aim should be to ensure that this is the last ethnically-fuelled elections the society has to endure.