Hand running of general elections to international body – Jagdeo

-urges campaign finance reform

Bharrat Jagdeo

Leader of the Opposition Bharrat Jagdeo is suggesting that this country’s elections should be contracted to an international body which all parties would agree to, such as the United Nations, to allay the qualms of Guyanese who may fear rigged elections.

The cost for running the elections would also be cheaper, he said.

This is a model, Jagdeo told the media yesterday at his Queenstown office during a press conference that he hopes to put to President David Granger when they meet for talks later this month under the subject of the conduct of elections. The conduct of elections is one of three items, he proposes to put on the agenda. The other two being the revamping of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and the campaign finance reform.

On the conduct of the elections, Jagdeo said, “maybe we should just contract it out, get the United Nations because I think we could do it for cheaper with the sums of money that they spend at GECOM now, and some of it going for all sorts of things.”

The issue, he said, is to hold credible elections because people fear that under the APNU coalition the elections results would be rigged. The model, with international presence, he said, was being used all around the world. He said, there could be oversight from Guyanese.

The conduct of          elections being free and fair has always been a worry of Guyanese, he said, “and we have to give them the assurances that the government and opposition, do not in their fight, overshadow the needs of the people to a free and fair, and well-organised elections.”

There could be other models including a more technical type of commission, he said, but right now there is no other model but what is in the Constitution.

Even the model under the constitution, Jagdeo charged, Granger has changed while acting illegally. He said that while there is joint representation on the commission in appointing three commissioners each from the government and opposition, the appointment of the chairman should have been mutually agreed on. This was not the case.

Asked why campaign finance reform was now an issue and it was not during his tenure as President, Jagdeo said, “The urgency for campaign legislation is because of oil and gas.”

With the big find of oil and gas, he said, there is fear that “A single company can finance an entire party. That is why there is a greater urgency not only for campaign finance legislation but also for information on receipts from oil companies.”

Once legislation is in place, he said, he hopes that any cent collected from any oil company would be advertised in the Official Gazette and reported to the Parliament.

If monies from oil are not reported, he said, “We would have stiff jail penalties for the people who receive money and don’t make it known. How the government spends it is another matter but the people would have a right to know. Those are the two things that are urgent in light of the major finds.”

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