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APNU+AFC cautious about electoral reforms that may further politicise GECOM

Last Updated on Sunday, 25 October 2020, 14:36 by Denis Chabrol

Aubrey Norton

The People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR)-led A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) is wary of electoral reforms that can risk the further politicisation of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).

Executive Director of the Leader of the Opposition’s Office, Aubrey Norton said the search in 2018 and 2019 for  a Chairman had seen the nomination of persons by then Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) who were politically aligned.

He said there would be need for consensus between the government and the opposition on electoral reforms after an exchange of proposals.

Referring to Canada’s desire to assist Guyana with electoral reforms, Mr. Norton noted that the Developed Nations usually cite the need for independent electoral authorities but the experience shows that the situation is different in Guyana.

“I don’t know in the Guyanese context that that is appropriate. We have seen in the last election all the names that were put up by Mr. Jagdeo for the Elections Commission ended people that were PPP inclined; some even became ministers after so you imagine if you had gone down the road of accepting those people,” he said.

Mr. Norton said the coalition would not “rush” into electoral reforms that could risk handing over the electoral machinery to political operatives who are disguised as civil society.

After then President David Granger had rejected all of Mr. Jagdeo’s nominees and had unilaterally appointed Retired Justice James Patterson, the PPP had won a court case that had essentially found that his appointment had been unconstitutional. Among the PPP nominees had been Attorney-at-Law Sanjeev Datadin who is now a governing party lawmaker, Attorney-at-Law, Ms. Oneidge Walrond-Allicock is now Tourism, Industry and Commerce Minister and then Private Sector Commission Chairman, Gerry Gouveia is now National Security Adviser to the President.

Several international election observer missions over the past 20 years have repeatedly called for electoral reforms including the de-politicising of the seven-member Elections Commission whose six members are equally split between the governing and opposing parties.

Then pro-PPP Elections Commissioner Robeson Benn had expressed concern that most GECOM employees are Afro-Guyanese and that was “racist or reflexively racist”. The PPP is mainly supported by Indo-Guyanese while APNU+AFC.