The Alliance For Change has proposed a series of changes to GECOM’s code of conduct for political parties including the enshrining of respect for the role of the media and ensuring political equity by limiting the role of government as the general elections approach.
The Guyana Elections Commission says its code is in draft and when finalized it will be open for signing.
Already, the PPP/C has said it supports the code but both the AFC and the APNU have said they have reservations over it particularly in relation to access to the state media.
In a letter to GECOM dated October 21, the AFC advised that it would not be signing the code in its present form and proposed key additions. One of the main changes relates to what the AFC described as respect for the role of the media.
It said “A transparent process for the conduct of Regional and General Elections in 2011 requires that Government authorities, officials of the Guyana Elections Commission, political parties and candidates share responsibility for creating a level playing field for all contesting political parties where electors are able to freely exercise the right to vote without fear or intimidation on Election Day.
“International covenants and domestic practice define these responsibilities as including the removal of obstacles standing in the way of the citizen’s right to express, seek, receive and impart information.
“In recognising that the National Communications Network Inc. belongs to the people of Guyana, be it resolved that the State media, both print and electronic, must not be relegated as a propaganda tool for any one political contender but must rather be availed to all political parties equitably.
There must be the commitment to respecting the integral partnership role the media has to play in the conducting of these elections. Restraint from discriminatory practices includes but must not be limited to:
1. Banning any media house or any individual media representative from any press conference, rally, or political meeting open to the general public or the media.
2. Subjecting any representative/member of the media to individual ridicule or censure in the execution of their duties which involves refraining from directly or indirectly threatening, coercing, or otherwise subjecting to duress any media owner, publisher, manager or editor.
3. The covert use of new media – blogs, online forums, social networks, e-mail – to circumvent or otherwise subvert our commitment to any aspect of this Code of Conduct.”
The AFC also highlighted the issue of political equity.
It said “It is universally accepted that only political parties take part in the election contest. Governments do not. Governments however shoulder particular administrative, security and other responsibilities that must assure a safe environment during the electoral process. As such, practical application of the principles of fairness, transparency and accountability demands the existence of agreed common-sense restrictions on the functions of Government during the electoral process.
“In the interest of ensuring equity and fairness in the impending period of campaign, all political parties shall resolve to uphold the following:
1. To guarantee equal access by representatives of contesting political parties (including scrutineers and polling day staff) to polling Stations without the fear of intimidation and malice.
2. To ensure that no party shall employ the use of official/ state machinery or personnel in any activity demonstrable as campaigning, including references to Party’s programmes or use of any political promotional material during official work.
3. To ensure that Government transport including official aircraft and helicopters, vehicles, machinery and personnel shall not be used for the furtherance of the interest of the Party in Power.
4. To ensure that no contesting Political Party shall bribe or offer any compensatory conditions of support for eligible voters.”
It also suggested a number of other changes.