The Electoral Assistance Bureau (EAB) yesterday received a US$217,285 grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to implement a nationwide domestic observation programme for the upcoming polls.
At the signing of the grant, held at the Cara Lodge Hotel, in Georgetown, Mission Director of USAID Carol Horning stated that USAID recognises that “the cornerstone of a vibrant democratic electoral process is the ability of its citizens to observe and comment on the process, both credibly and knowledgeably.“ As a consequence, the grant was given to the EAB, which will address the need to recruit, train, deploy, and support over 2,000 elections observers. These individuals will observe the Election Day procedures; establish a real-time regional communication system within the EAB; monitor activities throughout Guyana on Election Day, as well as post-election; maintain dialogue with election officials, political parties, and other stakeholders, on issues as they arise during the said period; and provide an analysis of the electoral process, and post-election behaviours.
Father Malcolm Rodrigues, Chairman of the EAB Council of Management, stated that the organisation was very grateful for the sponsorship, as it will facilitate its attempts to achieve 100% occupancy of the polling stations. He further stated that some interior locations continue to pose much difficulty, since persons in those areas are required to travel on foot for three days to get to the training point. The agency has, therefore, decided to place more emphasis on those geographical locations, in its attempts to give attention to all areas. Training, gathering of information, transportation and compilation of reports will be the main focus.
Dickson Bailey, Chief of Party, USAID, added that worldwide emphasis is placed on political parties and the individuals who work in the background, like EAB workers, do not receive the recognition they deserve.
Abbas Mancey, EAB Project Director, noted that the Bureau has been active in elections monitoring since 1991 and has successfully monitored every local, national, and regional election held since its formation. Its mandate is the establishment, maintenance, and preservation of democracy, particularly with regard to elections processes. He added that the EAB is a permanent organization, but it sets up operations around elections events, typically for the duration of approximately one year spanning the pre- and post-elections period. The organisation has in the last 20 years collaborated closely with key civil society organisations, which are its sponsors, with the donor community, and with large numbers of citizen volunteers in every administrative region of Guyana.
In addition, Mancey said that the goal of the 2011 National and Regional Elections Monitoring and Democracy Review Pro-gramme is to conduct a reliable and nationally accepted citizen’s based independent monitoring of the polling process, in the hope that there would be national trust. Should there be disputes, citizens will be able to refer to the agency in an attempt resolve this non-violently. In addition, testing of the voters’ list; providing assistance to voters with locating their names and polling stations on the List of Electors; and implementing a public education programme to assist first-time voters, indigenous peoples, and the voting population in general with discussing and understanding the electoral system will be performed by the Bureau.
There will also be a nation-wide 20-year review of elections and progress with democracy, in order to develop a Democracy Blueprint to guide the EAB’s continuous work in strengthening democracy, he said.