GHRA calls for an end to ‘tribal’ elections, urges revamp of electoral process

The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) is hopeful that after tomorrow’s elections the entire electoral process will be revamped putting an end to “tribal” elections characterised by race-baiting, anonymous voting and a lack of accountability to the populace.

“The more closely the electoral process in Guyana is examined, the more forcefully the conclusion can be drawn that all of the major defects are inter-locking and all reward ethnic behaviour,” the group said in a press release. “Party control of Gecom privileges the interests of political parties over the interests of citizens as a whole; casting ballots only for parties, not individual candidates reinforces MPs as representatives of parties rather than voters; the law to prevent crossing the floor privileges accountability of MPs to parties over accountability to voters, who are powerless to remove MPs with whom they are dissatisfied.”

Further, the GHRA said, “There exists no compact between voters and candidates in our electoral system: we vote for lists of largely anonymous people. Voters are more influenced by what they see rather than what they hear or read and, regrettably, what they tend to see is race. To this extent our electoral system encourages clannish or tribal behaviour.”

The GHRA posits that if opportunities for political inter-action between voters and elected representatives were routinely available, the pent-up enthusiasms released at elections time would inevitably be less frantic. Similarly, if local candidates were seeking votes in constituencies, the tendency towards sweeping promises would be tempered by local interests and needs. “Candidates in our system accept no personal responsibility to serve in the voters’ interest. The electoral system as a whole encourages anonymity and lack of accountability.” In the light of this inclination towards discord, politicians who encourage restraint are to be commended. “Fortunately, since the early shooting to death of Courtney Crum-Ewing with its strong political connotations, provocation to violence has been largely resisted for which the electorate is to be congratulated,” the group said.

Additionally, the GHRA urges the leadership and members of all contesting parties to respect the Rules governing conduct at polling stations and to accept results of the election in a lawful manner, neither indulging in nor being provoked to violence.

During briefings of visiting electoral monitoring missions, the group has pointed out that in addition to exhortations against ethnic manipulation and provocative language, international observers also take note of the serious weaknesses in our electoral process. The GHRA has made similar recommendations to religious and other domestic leaders that counsels of peace be accompanied by concerns about the provocative systemic factors that contribute to the need for such exhortations. “Such messages would then strengthen the growing number of civic voices calling for electoral reform,” the group said.