GECOM reform by 2020 hinges on Opposition support

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Changes to the process of appointing persons to serve on the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) by the next national election is dependent on the reaction of the Parliamentary Opposition, says President David Granger.

Mr Granger wants to abandon the current Carter Formula which governs the appointments of GECOM Commissioners and its Chairman and give the Parliament a greater role in the process.

He believes the current configuration of the Elections Body, which comprises equal numbers Opposition and Government aligned commissioners, along with a chairperson, has “exhausted its usefulness”.

“It’s a recipe for conflict. The PPP nominees will support the PPP side and the APNU/AFC nominees will vote for the APNU/AFC side,” the Head-of-State told reporters on the sidelines of an event Wednesday morning.

He believes the Parliament should recommend persons to be appointed on GECOM, similar to method employed for the Police Service and Public Service Commissions.

When asked if any changes will come on-board in time for the 2020 national elections, the Head-of-State explained that it would be dependent on the “push-backs” from the Opposition.

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has already indicated that he is not in favour of having the Parliament takeover the process of appointments but he is opened to having general discussions on electoral reform.

The Constitution of Guyana currently provides for the Opposition to nominate three commissioners to be appointed to the Commission, while the President will appoint three of his choice.

The GECOM Chairperson, who is expected to have an impartial role to end potential deadlocks during decision-making processes, is supposed to be appointed by the President from a list of nominees submitted by the Opposition Leader.

Jagdeo believes the current configuration, which was devised by former US President Jimmy Carter, provides for an impartial Elections Commission. But he contended that the process was violated when President Granger unilaterally appointed Justice James Patterson to serve as GECOM Chairman, breaking 25 years of practice.

However, both regional and international elections observer groups have recommended that GECOM be reformed to eliminate or reduce its current political composition and include more members of civil society.

Former Speaker of the National Assembly, Ralph Ramkarran supports the proposal for changes to the appointment of GECOM Commissioners to reduce political disputes at the entity.

In his online blog, the Conversation Tree, he said the Opposition Leader’s rejection of the idea can be reconsidered.

 

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