In last week’s Future Notes I quoted President David Granger as saying, ‘Now my brothers and sisters, we are in government again.
At a pre-election campaign rally in Linden last Saturday, President David Granger is reported to have said: ‘Now my brothers and sisters, we are in government again.
I have been informed that this is the first time in Guyana’s post-independence electoral history – certainly the first time since the electoral reforms in the early 1990s – that elections have been called without the major parties having agreed upon the list of voters that is to be used on elections day or (even more concerning) agreed upon the process for arriving at such a list!
Since the no-confidence motion (NCM) last December, the quarrel about what is and is not legal has been building in the public mind a healthy scepticism about the law.
Anyone closely associated with an ethnically divided society such as Guyana understands that because the saliency of ethnicity usually makes compromise difficult, much of the time is spent in or on the brink of political turmoil.
In 1992, the celebrated year of the return of democracy after much sought after electoral reforms, including house-to-house (HtH) registration, the population of Guyana was about 748,600 and there were 348,195 registered voters.
As is again demonstrated by the current debacle over the timing of the next elections, like those of the same ilk in the international system – Fiji, Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka – who have so far been unable to settle upon an appropriate constitutional management arrangement that is in tandem with their ethnic nature, Guyana’s political system is highly dysfunctional.
No interpretation of the constitution or any law should support the holding of general elections in a democratic society until the major participants are satisfied that the quality of the electoral list will allow for free and fair elections.
After some of 60 years of ethnic jostling, 45 years of de facto division into separate states, and 30 years of efforts at finding a solution, the United Nations representative to the 30th anniversary bicommunal meeting of the parties on the 21st June 2019 stated that hope still remains alive for the establishment of a bi-communal federation for it still is viewed as the ‘most acceptable solution’ across the two communities of Cyprus (https://in-cyprus.com/hope-still-remains-alive-un-diplomat-tells-conference-on-bicommunal-party-meetings/)!
A democratic polity, in which the law rules supreme, is only possible where there is broad consensus around the conceptual, structural and main processes of the state.
‘Due observance of constitutional democracy and the rule of law in Guyana rests, in large measure, with the conduct of the various branches of government, that is, the President and the Cabinet, the Parliament and the Judiciary.
My interest in election manipulation was motivated by an intention to prevent it, but I soon came to realise that defending elections against a determined autocrat is not easy.
Two weeks ago, in dealing with the global increase in elections manipulation, I noted that in ‘How to Rig an Election,’ Nicholas Cheesman and Brian Klass identified six distinct but complementary strategies that are usually used to rig elections: (1) gerrymandering, (2) vote buying, (3) repression (4) digital hacking (5) stuffing the ballot boxes and (6) duping the international community into legitimizing poor-quality polls.
Maybe before, but certainly after my article last week, it must have become obvious to all who read it why the struggle for control of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is so heated.
The human condition is such that in almost every walk of life, by various means – usually trickery and force – individuals will perennially seek and try to institutionalise advantage over each other, and the most that can be hoped for is mitigation of this phenomenon.
‘Take Azerbaijan’s 2013 elections, when the highly repressive government of President Ilham Aliyev sought to boost its democratic credentials by launching an iPhone app that enabled citizens to keep up to speed with the vote tallies as ballot counting took place.
The decision of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to strike down all the APNU+AFC positions in the cases relating to the no-confidence vote (NCV) and the appointment of the chairperson of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) was predictable, and its decision to give the parties space to do their political work is commendable but predictably doomed.
My first memory of the kind of substantial blackouts that have recently returned with a vengeance was in 1976, on my return from Cuba after attending the first Guyana/Cuba Joint Commission meeting that was headed on the Guyana side by Senior Minister Desmond Hoyte.
About two years ago the Minister of Education Nicolette Henry was reported to have said, ‘The Ministry of Education will be moving to review a 20-year-old school curriculum, in an effort to re-energise the education sector here.
“Guyana will be one of the few countries to have a Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) in place before ‘First Oil’”.