EU election experts in Guyana to assess electoral reforms before next general elections

Last Updated on Tuesday, 9 May 2023, 21:41 by Denis Chabrol

European Union parliamentarian Javier Naart who is from Spain.

The European Union’s (EU) 2020 election observer mission (EOM) follow-up mission is in Guyana to assess whether progress has been made on electoral reforms in keeping with recommendations, EU Ambassador to Guyana René van Nes announced on Wednesday.

“There are electoral experts right now in Guyana who are here over the coming weeks to discuss electoral reforms ahead of the general elections in 2025,” he announced in an address at the Europe Day reception to mark the anniversary of  signing the Schuman Declaration on 9 May 1950.

According to Mr van Nes, during the three-week visit by the technical experts, they would be joined by EU parliamentarian, Spain’s Javier Nart in mid-May to hold three days of high-level talks with stakeholders including the media. “The two technical experts  with technical expertise will prepare his visit, that will do all the groundwork and talk to everyone that is involved in the electoral process to give him a good picture of where they stand and they will then brief him so that on his visit, he can talk on the basis of the technical assessment that has already been made,” he later told reporters.

The follow-up mission was in keeping with an agreement that had been made with the Guyana government in 2020.

Chief among the Head of the EU’s EOM, Mr Urmas Paet’s concerns had been the absence of proper campaigning financing rules for A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) and the People’s Progressive Party (PPP). “The mission saw governmental donations provided in the context of APNU+AFC campaign events in particular in Region 9. To a lesser extent, the PPPC was also observed using state resources at regional level. In-kind vote buying in indigenous communities was a widely reported practice of both APNU+AFC and PPP/C,” the EU EOM had said in 2020.

Mr van Nes said that among the EU’s work here is the strengthening of democratic institutions, promoting good governance and combatting corruption.  The EU envoy recalled that his bloc played an important role in the 2020 general and regional election with the fielding of an electoral observation mission.

He said the follow-up visit is part of the EOM’s mandate to assist Guyana, if it wants, to improve its electoral system. “Now, they are here to talk with the government: So where are you in that process? What is your thinking? Of course, these are recommendations. It doesn’t mean that Guyana has to implement them so they are here to have a conversation and to see what happened with these recommendations,” Mr van Nes said.

The EU EOM’s major recommendations include campaign financing legislation and a  review and consolidation of laws that clearly set out procedures for tabulation and declaration of results, hold consultations on the overhaul and functioning of the Guyana Elections Commission, foster transparency and accountability in online and offline campaigning, transform the State-owned media into a public service broadcaster and have a comprehensive dispute resolution system.

There has been no campaign finance legislation despite recommendations by several other regional and international election observer missions for several decades now. However, the Irfaan Ali-led administration has since passed a raft of amendments to the Representation of People Act to govern the tabulation, publishing and official declaration of results to avoid a repeat of the 2020 fiasco which had been condemned by major Western nations and regional and international observers and organisations.

Both APNU+AFC and PPP have traded accusations of rigging. Several now former top Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) officials and APNU officials are facing the court on electoral fraud charges.