Head of CARICOM recount team says reform must start at problematic GECOM
More than a year after she led a high-level three-member regional team to Guyana to supervise a recount of the March 2020 elections, Cynthia Barrow-Giles is criticising the composition and appointment of Commissioners to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).
The senior lecturer in the Department of Government at the University of the West Indies (UWI) said on Thursday evening that the present constitution of the electoral body needs to be changed.
“GECOM does not serve Guyana well at all,” she said while participating in a virtual discussion on a research paper titled: “The Judiciary and the 2020 Guyana elections.”
According to Professor Barrow-Giles, as she mentioned in her report following the recount, GECOM is a politically partisan organisation.
“In the context of the problems, it doesn’t serve the purpose,” the professor said in response to a question hinged on reforming the country’s electoral architecture.
GECOM has a total of six commissioners – three nominated by the governing party and three by the leading political opposition. The Chairperson is selected following consultation between the President and the Leader of the Opposition.
Professor Barrow-Giles says she views GECOM as independent and powerful, one of the world’s most empowered electoral organisations but the method of selecting Commissioners left much to be desired.
“GECOM is led to serve the purpose of the two dominant political parties… to serve as gatekeepers,” she said.
“It always leads to a situation where whoever becomes Chair will find his/herself in a difficult situation.
“The first thing that needs to be done in terms of constitutional reform is the way in which GECOM is structured and composed,” she said.
The professor also noted that although the Constitution of Guyana vests tremendous power in GECOM, the electoral body had been sidelined in resolving the issues that arose during the protracted 2020 election.
“Powerful yes, yet GECOM was unable to use its power to assert itself.”
This saw a resort to the courts to settle matters that Professor Barrow-Giles believes were political and didn’t need judicial arbitration.