GECOM Chairman, Dr Steve Surujbally and Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma on Sunday agreed that there were too many steps in the system for the release of election results and that these could be reduced in the future.
The slow and inconsistent flow of election results in past general elections has prompted severe criticism of the Guy- ana Elections Commission (GECOM) which had nevertheless maintained that it would not sacrifice accuracy of results for speed. Transmission of this year’s results was again rife with problems and generated concerns among many stakeholders in society.
The matter was also addressed by several observer groups including the Commonwealth and Sharma, who arrived here on Saturday for a multi-purpose visit, also pressed the issue with Surujbally on Sunday.
A release from GECOM yesterday said that “One key area of discussion centred on the multi-step system currently employed by GECOM for the transmission of election results. Both gentlemen agreed that this system is loaded with all sorts of delays which can likely result in a number of unintended consequences inimical to the maintenance of peace and preservation of the good order of society. Moving forward GECOM could try to reduce the many steps currently used to transmit elections results while still maintaining unmitigated transparency”.
GECOM has frequently said that legislative requirements bind it to the multi-tier process and the necessity of awaiting the physical statements of poll from all polling stations before results can be declared.
The release added that Sharma reiterated during his meeting with Surujbally the preliminary statement by the Commonwealth observer team that the May 11th elections “were conducted in a credible manner”.
Other issues contained in the final report of the Commonwealth on the elections were also addressed, the release said.
This included the need to utilize more buildings as polling stations that are properly equipped to facilitate persons with physical disabilities. There were many complaints about this deficiency on polling day. Further, the release said that there was the issue of allowing election candidates and cabinet members to enter Polling Stations as Political Party Agents.
“This practice the Commonwealth Secretariat recommended should be revised and further clarified, so as to avoid unnecessary confusion among electors on Polling Day”, the statement added.
On the performance of the local media during the elections period, it was recommended that the signed Media Code of Conduct be accompanied “by severe punitive measures for offenders, so as to dissuade other potential violators”. It also added that the state-owned media must provide equitable coverage of all political parties and “move away from the temptation to provide unfettered access to one party only”. The state media was accused of giving wholesale coverage to the now opposition PPP/C and very little to the now governing APNU+AFC.
“GECOM remains cognizant of the important role of the Commonwealth Secretariat during Guyana’s electoral period, and looks forward to more of the same professional and objective engagements with the Secretariat in the future”, the release added.
Following the election, Surujbally and GECOM have come in for severe attacks from the PPP/C. The party has called on Surujbally to resign and charged that the elections were rigged. It has also staged several demonstrations outside of GECOM.