APNU+AFC to formally ask President Ali for national consultations on electoral reform

Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 May 2022, 13:48 by Denis Chabrol

Left to right: Vincreroy Jordan, Geeta Chandan-Edmond, Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton and Shadow Attorney General Roysdale Forde.

The opposition A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) 0n Tuesday said it would be formally recommending to the government that a broad-based national consultation on electoral reform be held, even as it defended its decision for doing so six months after the draft Representation of the People Act was published.

“What we will do is present a formal position on this issue. We have listened to civil society, we have had internally our preparation of a document that will be discussed when we engage GECOM (Guyana Elections Commission) and the wider society,” Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton told a news conference. That correspondence is expected to be penned to President Irfaan Ali.

Asked why has APNU+AFC’s approach taken six months since the Guyana government first circulated the proposed draft amendments to the Representation of the People Act, Mr. Norton said that was not so and the coalition sought to avoid the process being politicised by the governing People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC). “We understand politics in Guyana. If we had ran out and be in the forefront opposing what the PPP was doing, it would have been seen as political…What we have allowed is for civil society and others to comment,” he said.

Mr. Norton said the APNU+AFC allowed civil society the space to do its work as a pathway to take action and consensus.

The Attorney General Anil Nandlall has already met with representatives of the Electoral Reform Group and the Private Sector Commission about one week ago to discuss the proposed amendments to the Representation of the People Act.

Already, the ERG has expressed frustration with the fact that the Attorney General has indicated that the focus would only be on the Representation of the People Act rather than addressing the need for reform of the Guyana Elections Commission, adjusting the constituency system as had been recommended by several election observer missions over the years. ““A key sticking point was that, as reflected in the AG’s stance, the Government continues to overlook the obvious, urgent need for restructuring and reform of GECOM. The present GECOM structure is not working adequately to deliver elections that are free from suspicion and readily acceptable to major stakeholders, and thus needs to be reformed to enhance the Commission’s capability and fortify its role in the ongoing process of election system review and reform, as exists in other countries,” the ERG stated.

The APNU+AFC said the electoral reforms must be hinged on the objectives of ensuring that only eligible persons must be registered, results must accurately reflect the will of those who voted, and  registration, production of voters’ lists; voting and counting; and tabulation and declaration of must win the trust and confidence of the public, participating parties, and other relevant stakeholders.

According to the opposition, national consultations for electoral reform must involve the public, civil society, and the parliamentary political parties. Those, the coalition, said must be modelled after the 1999/2000 Constitution Reform Commission process and must include a multi-stakeholder/expert committee, a consensus chairperson, a public call for oral and written submissions, and several national conversations (open forums).

APNU+AFC said the electoral reform process must include the in-depth involvement of experts on electoral laws, electoral systems, elections technologies, and elections management. “We anticipate no difficulty in recruiting such expertise, given the international support for electoral reform in Guyana.

Pledging parliamentary support for such reforms, the coalition wants both the constitution and relevant laws to be amended, the APNU+AFC said  such reforms should be done swiftly to avoid the postponement of local government elections. “My party will not support the autocratic imposition of changes to our electoral system. Accordingly, we reject the present PPP-led so-called national consultation on RoPA.

The opposition says as part of the reform process, there must be a thorough review by GECOM of its performance in managing recent
elections. “The plethora of faults and irregularities (intended and unintended) in the 2020 elections alone must not be brushed under the carpet to resurface again. They must be swept out for good. To achieve this, a thorough and honest review must be conducted as a necessary first step,”  the APNU+AFC said. In that regard, the coalition said it endorsed GECOM  Commissioner Vincent Alexander’s call for a review of the election by another body.