IRI has no credibility to fix Guyana’s electoral process- WPA

Last Updated on Saturday, 15 May 2021, 21:27 by Denis Chabrol

The Working People’s Alliance (WPA) on Saturday called for the International Republican Institute (IRI) electoral reform project to be discarded because the United States (US) does not have any credibility to do so.

“We think it is an insult to Guyanese political intelligence that an organization so closely linked to the USA establishment and to one of its major political parties could, in the face of what is happening in in their country, place themselves as fixers of  Guyanese electoral problems,” that party , which was once a member of the opposition APNU+AFC coalition,  said. Several IRI Board members are Republicans, although IRI has reportedly told Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon that it does not represent any political interests.

The US-funded project, which is expected to last 18 months, in recent days appears to have hit rejection by the political opposition, the Guyana Human Rights Association and the African Cultural and Development Association.

Briefing papers circulated by IRI to political parties state that the IRI intends to mobilise Guyanese through civil society organisations and conduct an opinion poll to ascertain what types of electoral reforms Guyanese prefer.

The Guyana Elections Commission and the Attorney General’s Chambers have been identified as key agencies that IRI will interface with.

But the WPA contended that Guyana’s political  independence is being violated. That party endorsed the stance taken by the opposition-nominated GECOM Commissioners that the project ought to have been the subject of bipartisan agreement either between the President and the Opposition Leadee or through the National Assembly.

The WPA urged that Guyanese lead their own electoral reform agenda with Caribbean Community (CARICOM) experts alongside if  foreigners are to be hired to fix Guyana’s system.

“WPA wishes to also go on record as saying that even if external experts are contracted, the team should include local and regional consultants who are more familiar with the historical and political dynamics of the country. We reject the notion that the project should be handed over solely to a non-Guyanese organization,” that party said.

The WPA says it views the Guyana government’s invitation to the US-based IRI to spearhead electoral reform in Guyana as an “affront to the sovereignty of Guyana and the dignity of all Guyanese.”  “Six decades after independence, Guyanese should not outsource important projects such as electoral reform to external forces.L,” the WPA said.

Because the electoral architecture is one of the core areas of contention in Guyana’s  fractured society, the WPA said it is imperative that  any reform be driven by consensus among the contending partisan forces.

The WPA said the decision about how electoral reform should proceed and which external organization, if any, to consult with should not be determined solely by the government.

That party said such an important decision should involve consensus between the government and the opposition either in the Parliamentary Constitutional Reform Committee or between the two leaders. In this regard WPA condemns the manner in which the IRI has sought to impose itself on GECOM, a constitutional body.

Accusing the US of reducing the right to vote, the WPA said it could only back a project to expand such a right.

Other bases for rejecting IRI, according to the WPA, include claimed involvement in the  overthrow of President Jean Bertrand Aristide in Haiti, campaigning for regime change in Venezuela and a partisan position during the impasse that arose from Guyana’s  disputed 2020 election.  “We feel that any organization that took a partisan position on those elections is disqualified from participating in a sensitive exercise like Electoral Reform,” the WPA said.

Government has so far been mum on those calls for the IRI project to be dropped.