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AFC identifies GECOM make-up among key areas for constitutional reform

Last Updated on Friday, 12 August 2022, 22:12 by Denis Chabrol

Mr. Khemraj Ramjattan

The Alliance For Change (AFC) on Friday said it wants Guyana’s constitution to be amended to increase the make-up of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to 10 members and for political parties to join forces after general and regional elections.

AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan, however, feared that a return to the first-past-the post electoral system would remove it from the National Assembly.

That party, which is in coalition with A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), made known its position just days after Attorney General Anil Nandlall tabled legislation that would lead to the establishment of a constitutional reform commission.

Mr Ramjattan explained that his party wanted to see the six-member GECOM be increased to 10 with the inclusion of representatives of civil society. “There are some reasons why we feel that is necessary because it is not going to make, say the Chairman of the Elections Commission, being the judge of the two sides as is presently constituted so you can have three other persons that can make independent decisions and that can help,” he said. Currently, under the 1990 formula GECOM is made up of Chairman, who is nominated by the Opposition Leader and has a deciding vote, and three commissioners each from the government and opposition. Several international observer groups have over the decades recommended reform to GECOM’s composition to make it less political.

Ms. Cathy Hughes.

AFC Chairman Catherine Hughes said her party was also keen on having Guyana’s Constitution amended to allow for political parties to coalesce after an election. “That was the other very, very strong reform that we wanted to see also,” she said. For several decades now, parties have to coalesce before rather than after they contest an election. In 1964, the People’s National Congress and the United Force had coalesced to shut out the People’s Progressive Party which had secured the single largest block of votes.

On whether the AFC would advocate for Guyana to once again have a first-past-the-post electoral system in which Guyana would have to be divided into constituencies in which the candidate with the most vote wins that area, Mr Ramjattan is worried that a third party like his would be forced out of the parliamentary decision-making process even if it garners thousands of votes.  In that regard, he said Proportional Representation electoral system is best for Guyana. “We will be certainly wiped out. Proportionality of parliamentary representation is best for third parties because we could win 49,000 votes and still not have one seat in Parliament in the first-past-the post system and we will ve very much against that; we prefer PR- Proportional Representation- and for that reason we are going to oppose strenuously anything dealing with first-past-the-post,” he said.

Then British Guiana’s electoral system had changed from constituency to PR.

Former President Donald Ramotar recently recommended a return to first-past-the-post.