Last Updated on Friday, 20 March 2020, 19:31 by Writer
The United States-headquartered Carter Centre’s election observation mission on Friday left Guyana, saying the electoral process has so far ground to a halt and the security environment in the country has declined.
“The Carter Center made the difficult decision to have the team leave Guyana earlier today after weighing a combination of factors, including the absence of an ongoing electoral process, increasing restrictions on international travel because of COVID-19, and the decline in the security environment in Guyana,” the Centre said.
The Centre, which has been observing general elections since 1992, rapped A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) supporters for impeding the work of international observers. “International observers have been harassed, and protestors supportive of the APNU+AFC coalition have at times blocked international observers from doing their work,” the Centre said.
APNU General Secretary, Joseph Harmon has since denounced such attacks on observers and journalists.
The Carter Centre noted that “specific threats have also been made against the international community that are unacceptable and further undermine the credibility of the electoral process.” Earlier this week, based on threats, Guyanese police had cordoned off the American, British and Canadian embassies in Georgetown.
The Centre added that the security environment in Georgetown has declined in the wake of the impasse created by the non-transparent tabulation process in Region Four. During High Court hearings and meetings of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), small groups of vociferous pro-government supporters have been gathering outside the High Court and GECOM.
People’s Progressive Party (PPP) supporters, who claims it won the March 2, 2020 general elections based on its copies of statements of poll, were also sharply criticised for disruptive behaviour at the Region Four Returning Office located at Ashmin’s Building, High and Hadfield streets in Georgetown. “The environment at the GECOM office where the tabulation was being conducted for Region 4 was at times chaotic because of the large number of persons present and the efforts by PPP/C representatives and others to disrupt the declaration of results,” the statement said. This is the first time that an international observer mission has publicly cited the PPP/C supporters for the situation inside the Returning Officer’s office, a point that had often been raised by APNU+AFC.
The Carter Centre noted that when the tabulation process had resumed following litigation and a court order, it “still did not comply with expectations set by Guyana’s chief justice and failed to meet international standards.”
The Carter Centre election observer mission left Guyana saying that the tabulation process in Region Four continued to lack credibility, echoing a criticism by the Commonwealth, European Union, Organisation of American States, and Caribbean Community (Caricom) observer missions. Separately, the United States, Britain, Canada, the European Union and France have frowned on the transparency and credibility of the election process marred mainly by what happened in Region Four.
The Center says it remains committed to promoting democracy and constitutional reform in Guyana and is willing to return when the electoral process resumes, assuming international travel is feasible.
The Center hopes that conditions will be in place for Caricom to return to Guyana to supervise a national recount. The Carter Center says it noted GECOM’s willingness to support the recount under Caricom’s supervision and appreciated the measures taken to make that happen.
The Centre hoped that the High Court can speedily hear all remaining election-related cases that may pave the way for a recount under the watchful eyes of Caricom. “Both the president and the leader of the opposition agreed to the recount process, and GECOM was satisfied with its legality. The Center hopes that any remaining legal issues hindering the recount can be addressed quickly to avoid further delaying a satisfactory resolution to the electoral process,” the Centre said.
Guyana’s electoral process, according to the Carter Center, began well and polling it observed on March 2 was well-administered and reflected international standards for democratic elections. The process was sound and capable of delivering results that credibly reflect the will of the people. According to the Carter Center, tabulation was well-conducted in nine of 10 regions. “In Region 4 – by far the largest region – the credibility of the tabulation process deteriorated when, after some delay, results were announced before the region’s full results were transparently tabulated in the presence of party scrutineers and observers. As a result, The Carter Center and other international election observation groups denounced these results as not credible,” the Centre said.
The Center says it hopes that the electoral process can still be concluded with credible results and that the will of the Guyanese people – as expressed at the polls on March 2 – will be carried out.
Beyond the election, the Carter Center says it continues to believe that Guyana’s winner-takes-all system is in need of reform and encourages all parties to commit to national reconciliation and to completing key constitutional reforms in the near future.
The Carter Center says it has conducted its nonpartisan international election observation work at the invitation of the government of Guyana and in accordance with the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observers. The Center thanked the government for extending an invitation to international election observation organizations and would like to thank GECOM Chairperson Claudette Singh for her welcome and openness. “She has, thus far, shown great personal commitment to achieving a credible election process,” the Centre said.
The Carter Center says it remains committed to its mandate to observe the entirety of the electoral process and remains on standby to return to Guyana.
These elections are the fifth that the Carter Center has observed in Guyana since 1992, reflecting an ongoing commitment to the consolidation of democracy and a desire for Guyanese to live together in peace, security, and prosperity.