GEORGETOWN, GUYANA — On May 11, Guyanese citizens turned out in large numbers to cast their votes in what is probably the most important election since the watershed elections of 1992. Guyanese voters waited patiently in long lines from early in the morning until into the evening. All across the country, thousands of dedicated poll workers, party agents, and officials of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) served with honesty, integrity, and professionalism. GECOM officials and poll workers are to be commended for these efforts.
All Guyanese should be proud of what transpired on election day. This is especially true because their efforts took place in an atmosphere of tension and anxiety that, unfortunately, was generated by key political leaders who played on fears during the electoral process. Rumors and allegations of provocative confrontations between ruling and opposition supporters swirled throughout election day. On closer inspection by international observers, most issues, with only a few exceptions, turned out to be largely unfounded or easily explained. In spite of such attempts to sow discord, Guyanese generally remained calm, cast ballots, and retired for the evening while their votes were counted and transmitted to GECOM throughout the night.
On election day, Carter Center observers visited 297 polling stations in all 10 regions, or about 13 percent of total stations, providing a relatively high degree of observation coverage. Carter Center observers witnessed opening, polling, closing, and counting procedures in all areas. In addition, Carter Center teams are currently in 9 of the 10 regions to observe the work of GECOM returning officers. Overall, Carter Center observers reported:
- A generally calm and peaceful atmosphere throughout election day. The implementation of procedures was rated positively at all stations observed during the polling period, and no major irregularities were reported.
- A strong presence of political party agents at polling stations visited, with APNU/AFC agents at more than 91 percent of stations visited and PPP/C agents at more than 90 percent of stations visited.
- A positive environment in almost all polling stations. Carter Center observers reported a positive overall assessment of the electoral process and environment at 98 percent of stations visited.
- During the counting process, statements of poll were completed according to procedures in polling stations visited, and party agents and domestic observers were invited to sign and received copies of the results.
- Tension along party lines was observed in a few areas, which may have contributed to the delay in transferring electoral materials and processing results. GECOM and the police coordinated a response to these issues that improved the transfer of materials.
Guyana has an abundance of resources, rivers, forests, and mines. Its greatest resource, however, is its people. Neither the Guyanese people nor the country as a whole have been able to develop to their full potential because of the political mobilization of ethnic and racial differences by the main political parties. The Carter Center sincerely hopes that now that the people have expressed their will peacefully and with dignity, Guyana’s political leaders will assume their responsibilities and respective roles as the next government and opposition, and will make a great effort to unify the country and strengthen accountability so that Guyana can grow and develop to take its rightful place in the world.
As GECOM officials continue to conduct the tabulation and results process, The Carter Center strongly urges political parties and their leaders to act responsibly and call for patience among their supporters and allow the process to proceed to its conclusion, reflecting the dignity that their constituents displayed on election day.
Although former U.S. President Jimmy Carter had to leave Guyana before election day, he was able to meet with key political leaders and other members of Guyanese society.
“Guyana and its people hold a special place in my heart, and I would like to thank them for the well wishes they expressed for me,” Carter said. “I had a bad cold and am feeling much better now. Democratic elections have winners and losers, and it is important for politicians to display leadership and magnanimity as Presidents Desmond Hoyte and Cheddi Jagan did at key moments in the past. I believe that the people of Guyana — especially its youth — want a future based on an inclusive democratic society that benefits all Guyanese.”
Following the elections, The Carter Center plans to remain engaged in the weeks ahead.