President David Granger on Thursday signaled that he was open to adding reform of the Guyana Elections Commission and campaign financing to an agenda of proposed talks with Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, but already the Guyanese leader wants GECOM Commissioners to be appointed by the National Assembly.
The President noted that ultimately there would be a role for the two major political parties in the appointment of GECOM Commissioners by consensus, convention or the constitution. In that regard, he preferred GECOM Commissioners to be appointed by the National Assembly similar to how the Police Service or Public Service Commission is appointed. “I’m in favour of reform but we must adopt the architecture, we must adopt the procedures which are in place for other constitutional commissions,” he told a news conference.
Elections observer missions by the Commonwealth, Carter Center and the Organisation of American States have over the decades repeatedly the scrapping of the Guyana Elections Commission’s seven-member Carter Centre formula- three commissioners representing the opposition, three from the governing party and an independent Chairman- because it entrenches the role of political parties in the process. Some recommendations had called for commissioners to be drawn from civil society and prominent and well-respected Guyanese.
“We can consider the reform of GECOM. We still work under the Carter formula which clearly appeared to have exhausted its usefulness….It is not a formula for consensus. It is almost a formula for gridlock so there needs to be a change,” Granger said.
Earlier this year, the President had been embroiled in the controversial appointment of a GECOM Commission Chairman who ended up being Retired Judge, James Patterson although Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo had submitted three sets of six names from which the President was expected to choose one. That appointment is the subject of an appeal.
The President said he was willing to discuss campaign financing legislation with the Opposition Leader when they meet next month for the first in a series of high-level talks.
The President said he has not seen draft campaign financing legislation which should be agreed by government and the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP). “As far as the campaign financing legislation, I have not seen a draft myself; nothing has been formalised. This is something that has to be agreed by both sides. It could be put on the agenda of the Leader of the Opposition but I have not seen a draft, I don’t know what the implications are,” he said.
Granger has already said he wants to discuss security, environment, and oil and gas with Jagdeo.
“The points that were raised with the Leader of the Opposition were mutually agreed. The agenda can be extended. It is meant to be a continuous engagement,” he said, adding that he hoped that the series of meetings could kick off in September.
On the idea of power-sharing, the President said the time has gone for members of the opposition to be included in the Cabinet. “As far as power-sharing is concerned, structurally it is too late to embark on a reconfiguration of the Cabinet,” he said. Reflecting on the months immediately after his coalition won the May 2015 general elections, a proposal that was made for an inclusionary democracy,” he said.
The President appeared to prefer a sharing ideas instead of power.
“There is no proposal on the table for power sharing, whatever that is but certainly in terms of inclusionary democracy, you know the history of that, I would continue to engage the Leader of the Opposition to ensure that important elements in society and the economy are discussed and we share ideas; it is better to say there is an idea-sharing proposal rather than a power-sharing proposal,”
During Jagdeo’s tenure as president, he had said that executive power sharing would require the building of trust.