With recommendations considered, elections law amendments could be tabled soon


Public recommendations are being used to redraft the amendments to Guyana’s main elections law and Vice President Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo says the government can possibly table these amendments at the next sitting of the National Assembly.

Jagdeo said that the government’s commitment to strengthening elections’ laws was among the numerous topics discussed with visiting United States Deputy Assistant Secretary for Caribbean Affairs and Haiti Barbara A. Feinstein.

In the aftermath of the March 2020 general and regional elections during which attempts were made at rigging the results, the PPP/C government has embarked on a process of amending the Representation of the People Act (RoPA), which is Guyana’s main electoral law.

The draft of the proposed amendments to this Act has been published online ahead of the government’s plan to table them in the National Assembly.

“We’ve received recommendations and we are in the process of looking through those recommendations (and) redrafting to be tabled hopefully in the next sitting of the Parliament,” the Vice President told reporters at a press conference on Friday.

And explaining the need for electoral reform, Jagdeo said, “That will help to determine transparency at the elections and the tabulation of the results and the announcement of the results.”

Among the proposed amendments are multi-million dollar fines and hefty jail times ranging from five to ten years for election offences. But the government has also been collecting recommendations on how these amendments can be improved.

Other considerations include identifying polling stations weeks in advance and publicising all statements of poll (SOPs) even before the tabulation of elections results.

But with numerous recommendations received, Jagdeo said that the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance Gail Teixeira has been tasked with compiling them all. Members of government are expected to examine these recommendations and determine which of them are useful.

“We‘re going through that process,” he said.

Previously, Jagdeo had said that the government would be happy if the country’s election laws could be amended before going to the polls for local government elections.

He said that will allow for a test run of the amendments ahead of national elections set for 2025.

But amending the RoPA is not the government’s sole focus. In fact, the Vice President said that the government was open to reviewing the governance structure of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).

Public concerns have been raised about the composition of the Commission. The Commission is made up of three members from the ruling party and three from the political opposition; it is headed by a Chairperson who is appointed after an agreement between the sitting Head of State and the Leader of the Opposition.

Jagdeo said he told the US Official that threats to Guyana’s 2020 elections came from technical staff of the Secretariat and not necessarily from faults in the Commission. In fact, he said that the Commission was crucial in guaranteeing that democracy prevailed.

After the March 2020 elections, GECOM took well over one year before a decision was made to terminate some of those ‘technical staff’.

Those staffers were: former Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield; Deputy Chief Elections Officer, Roxanne Myers and District Four Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo. And they are all before the courts facing charges related to electoral fraud.

“We will be very conscious of the 2020 period, about what happened at the technical level.

“So any amendment to that formula will have to be replaced by some solid safeguards that ensure that elections can’t be rigged by capricious actions or illegal actions,” Jagdeo emphasised.

The current Opposition nominated GECOM Commissioners have, however, been accused of stymying changes at GECOM.

Despite this, Government-nominated Commissioner Shadick recently said, “While I am not happy with the behaviour, it is what it is. It is what it always was and we have to live with it.”

Shadick, an attorney by profession, said she would advocate for a change in the political appointment process of Commissioners had she thought there were any neutral people in the country.

And on Friday, despite communicating the government’s openness to review the structure of GECOM, Jagdeo said, “We have to be very cautious about these matters.”

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