OAS observers did not capture malpractices during election, Granger says

Leader of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) David Granger said the OAS Electoral Observer Mission (EOM) failed to effectively capture the gravity of the malpractices that took place on November 28, 2011.

He was speaking to the Stabroek News in the wake of the OAS verbally presenting its final EOM report to the Permanent Council of the OAS on Wednesday.

In the report, the OAS confirmed its original finding of a mostly smooth process and has recommended a series of reforms to the country’s electoral framework and for more equitable access to the media. It also addressed the issue of campaign financing.

In terms of electoral reform, the OAS mission also proposed changes to allow voters direct access to their representatives. It has been proposed by some political parties that a list of candidates in order of priority be presented to the voters so they would have an idea as to who they would be voting into Parliament. The OAS also mooted reforms to the Guyana Elections Commission which is also something that opposition parties have been pressing for.

In an invited comment to Stabroek News, Granger said, “We are concerned that what took place on November 28, 2011 was not captured by the OAS.”

Granger, also the Leader of the Opposition, told this newspaper that the OAS observers placed a lot of emphasis on procedural issues which did not affect the country one way or the other. “The OAS did not draw logical conclusions from their own findings. If they had delved a little deeper they would have seen [instances of electoral] malpractice,” he said, referring to the changing of polling places and lists which resulted in persons not being able to find their polling places or names on the list. “It is a very disappointing report,” said Granger.

“The OAS seemed not too concerned about the length of time it took to count the votes. Not only did it take a long time to count, but Gecom’s IT Department could not complete the tabulation [in a timely manner],” said Granger.

He noted that many of the polling stations were installed in people’s private residences. He said that in those polling stations, the PPP/C scored unusually high. He called this deliberate and strategic on the part of the PPP/C where the homes of persons were used and then manipulated to ensure the PPP/C scored higher. “The fact [is] that many voters could not find their names or polling stations. This was a problem mainly in Region 4. Some people could not vote. The OAS was only able to look at 13 per cent of the polling stations. Some of the places where the mischief occurred were not visited by the OAS,” Granger said.

The use of aircraft to transport the PPP/C presidential candidate was cited by Granger as one case of abuse of state resources for electioneering. He also cited the distribution of flood relief in Region 9 and the distribution of laptops across the country on the eve of the elections and noted that the OAS did not find these issues a concern. “The report did not come to grips with the massive scale of abuse of state resources,” Granger said.

Key among the OAS recommendations were mechanisms to ensure more even access to media and political financing. The report recommended:
* “The further institutionalization of Gecom’s Media Monitoring Unit, including the incorporation of mechanisms that ensure its impartial composition and legal mechanisms that include oversight and enforcement capabilities.

* “The development of mechanisms to ensure the independence of members of the forthcoming Board of Authority contemplated in the recently passed Broadcasting Act. The OAS electoral observation mission recommends that regulations made pursuant to the Act should limit the discretion of the Board and should set out in detail both the conditions governing licenses and clarifications of the general terms used in the Act.” This issue has been raised by opposition parties which are concerned that the government will seek to exercise full control over the broadcast authority and use it for political purposes.

* “A legal review of the campaign financing framework.  Consideration should be given to the inclusion of a requirement for disclosure of campaign expenditures prior to the elections, to the establishment of criteria for private and foreign contributions, and to instituting public campaign financing.
* “A review of options for proportional party access to paid and free advertising time without the existing requirement by state channels for a 48 hour prior submission for review”.

The Alliance for Change (AFC) was also approached for a comment on the release of the final OAS report and representatives said that they would be giving their views at a later time.

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