`While we understand that we have to play a vital role in ensuring the integrity of the election process, it cannot be overemphasized that political parties have a similar role to play in ensuring fairness of the process and promoting confidence in the system by playing by the rules and, in particular, the acceptance of the rules’
The Official List of Electors is expected to be certified by early September and after that process, “there is no turning back” as the Guyana Elections Commission (Gecom) pushes ahead to its mid-October elections schedule, its Chairman Dr Steve Surujbally says.
The commission is currently considering a concern raised by one of the political parties, Surujbally said yesterday without naming the party or the issue. He said commissioners will speak very soon on the issue provided it does not, “die a natural death”; an indirect reference to the PPP’s request for registration to be re-opened.
“We have to consider it very deeply. We are not going to hand-twist ourselves but we are also not going to allow ourselves to be blamed for creating an uneven playing field,” Surujbally said, as he addressed the opening of a workshop for political parties’ preparations for Nomination Day.
Surujbally told party representatives their concerns and needs are taken into account when Gecom designs and implements its policies and activities, noting that parties should seek clarification from the commission on any issue before speaking publicly.
Political parties reserve the right to make public pronouncements pertaining to any aspect of Gecom’s preparations for and conduct of the upcoming elections, he said, but emphasized that parties should aspire to ensure this is done dispassionately, and not “in a manner that would be indicative of any intention to besmirch our reputation and undermine the integrity of Gecom and its secretariat”.
Gecom organised the workshop yesterday to highlight the features of the electoral system and to familiarize political parties, especially the new parties, with the requisite forms to be submitted on Nomination Day. The sessions are expected to provide information on the preparation and submission of the List of Candidates; identification of defects in the lists and the consequences of incorrect or untimely preparation/submission of the List of Candidates.
Surujbally said the commission has an open-door policy and that it treats all bona fide political parties equally, adding that Gecom recognizes the need to provide guidance to parties.
“While we understand that we have to play a vital role in ensuring the integrity of the election process, it cannot be overemphasized that political parties have a similar role to play in ensuring fairness of the process and promoting confidence in the system by playing by the rules and, in particular, the acceptance of the rules,” the chairman stated. Gecom will re-institute the Code of Conduct for the upcoming elections which will be signed by political parties, he said, and expressed hope it would not be broken as had happened in the past. However, he pointed out that the code was adhered to during the 2006 polls. “I beg of you not to breach the Code of Conduct which you would have signed. It is a crucial element that is integrally linked to the upcoming elections being conducted in an atmosphere of peace and tranquility,” he added. Surujbally said too that information about the process is important to political parties whether or not they contest the elections, and decried the practice of parties speaking on issues related to the elections when they lack the relevant information. He said the people in voter education and public relations at Gecom have been directed to react in such instances, adding they will not respond to “obvious nonsense”.
Further, Surujbally called on political parties not to resurrect or incite “ethnic cleavages” saying that such actions would only raise tensions and would carry the potential to taint the conduct of the elections and produce an atmosphere of doubt and intimidation. “Political parties, like their constituents have a civic responsibility to participate in and contribute to the successful conduct of the elections,” he added.