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Examine all options for continued free and fair elections- US

Last Updated on Thursday, 31 August 2023, 15:29 by Denis Chabrol

The Region Four Returning Office for the March 2, 2020 general and regional elections. That office was located at Hadfield and High Streets, Georgetown.

The United States (US) believes that Guyana should examine all options, including biometrics, to guarantee free and fair elections, outgoing American Ambassador to Guyana, Sarah Ann-Lynch said Thursday.

“I think it’s important to explore all tools that Guyana has access to, in order to again ensure that elections continue to be free and fair,” she said when asked by Demerara Waves Online News.

Opposition A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC), Elections Commissioner Vincent Alexander on Thursday said the administration of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) two weeks ago submitted its review of the 2023 Local Government Elections to the seven-member commission for consideration.

He said after the Commission comes out of recess, that report would be reviewed, and he would take the opportunity to press the commission to go ahead with capturing fingerprints digitally as taking fingerprints is already provided for. Mr Alexander said he would also ask the commission again to approve the use of biometric verification systems at polling stations for the 2025 general and regional elections.

Ms Lynch noted that Guyana was exploring biometrics, a mechanism that other countries were also considering. “I think many nations now are exploring biometric that one additional tool that they can use to ensure that elections are free and fair,’ she said.

Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo in May, 2023 stated that biometrics could help “enormously at the polling places” after which a manual check could be conducted in the presence of party polling agents.

The American envoy noted that the June 12, 2023 Local Government Elections “were free and fair.” Those elections for the 70 neighbourhood councils and 10 town councils were held based on a revised voters list which now has more than 680,000 registered voters. APNU+AFC has repeatedly claimed that the electoral roll facilitates voter impersonation and multiple voting.

The US Ambassador, who ends her almost five-year long tour of duty here in the coming days, stated that the “electoral process is critical to a strong democracy.” In that regard, she advised Guyanese, government and all parties to examine the recommendations that were made after the 2020 general and regional elections and implement those that could be worked on.” You don’t want to wait to the last minute until it’s a month before the election. I think some of these recommendations may take some time, so you need to start working on them now,” she said.

As someone who had observed the 2020 general and regional elections, Ms Lynch said there should be improved access at polling stations for persons with disabilities.

The Representation of the People Act has been amended to avoid a repeat of alleged attempted electoral fraud especially for Region Four. A recount of all the votes cast eventually led to the declaration of the People’s Progressive Party Civic as the winner.

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August 2023