OAS, Commonwealth elections observers arrive
The Electoral Observation Mission of the Organization of American States (OAS/EOM) for the General and Regional Elections in Guyana on May 11 yesterday began its final deployment in Georgetown.
The delegation, headed by the former Foreign Minister of Belize Lisa Shoman, who was designated by Secretary General José Miguel Insulza, comprises 23 observers from 13 countries (Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Paraguay, Saint Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United States).
The first members of the Mission arrived in Guyana on May 2, following a preliminary visit in mid-April to learn about the preparations for the elections, an OAS statement said.
“The Mission will focus its observation on electoral organization, electoral-political financing and the equal participation of men and women in the electoral process. It will also gather information about the status of the recommendations made in the last OAS/EOM in 2011.”
The OAS/EOM will be meeting with electoral authorities, representatives of political parties, government officials, and members of the media and civil society organizations, amongst other stakeholders, to discuss perspectives on the electoral process.
“On Election Day, observers will visit polling stations across the country at every stage from the opening of the polls to the counting of votes and the publication of results.”
This is the fifth time the OAS has observed elections in Guyana, following Missions in 1997, 2001, 2006 and 2011.
“The day after the election, the OAS/EOM will present its preliminary findings in a press conference and will subsequently present a report to the Permanent Council of the Organization in Washington, DC.”
Meanwhile, the Commonwealth yesterday said that Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma, has constituted an Observer Group for the elections following an invitation from the Government of Guyana.
“The Observer Group will be led by Hon Kate Wilkinson, former Member of Parliament and Cabinet Minister in New Zealand.”
Sharma said: “The Commonwealth is committed to preserving its long tradition of support for elections in Guyana. Since 1992 we have been observing its national polls and we are pleased to be given the opportunity to contribute to the further consolidation of its democracy.”
The elections, the official said, are crucially important for the people of Guyana, as they choose their representatives.
“It is therefore imperative that the electoral process is transparent, fair, credible, and free of violence.”
The Commonwealth Observer Group will consider the pre-electoral environment and preparations. On election-day and thereafter, members will observe the voting process, counting and tabulation procedures and the announcement of results.
“The Group will assess all factors affecting the credibility of the electoral process as a whole. It will determine whether the elections have been conducted according to the standards for democratic elections to which Guyana has committed itself, with reference to its own election-related legislation as well as relevant regional, Commonwealth and international commitments.”
The Commonwealth Observer Group will act impartially and make an independent assessment of the electoral process. “It will conduct itself according to the standards expressed in the International Declaration of Principles for Election Observation, to which the Commonwealth is a signatory,” the statement from Commonwealth said.
“Upon completion of its assignment, the Group will submit its report to the Commonwealth Secretary-General, who will in turn send it to the Government of Guyana, the Guyana Elections Commission and the principal political parties, before making it available to all Commonwealth Governments. It will then be made public.”
The group will be in Guyana from 3 to 19 May 2015. A four-member staff team from the Commonwealth Secretariat, led by Albert Mariner, Head, Caribbean/Pacific Section, Political Division, will provide technical support to the international observers.
Carter Centre warns against fear mongering
With just six days left before the staging of one of Guyana’s most anticipated General and Regional Elections, the Carter Centre is warning against moves to sow ethnic fears among the Guyanese populace.
On Tuesday, the centre, which has an observer mission here in Guyana, said it is “deeply concerned about the provocative rhetoric in the campaign,” even as it condemned attempts “to sow fear and distrust among Guyana’s ethnic groups.” The centre also warned against attempts to undermine confidence in the country’s electoral process and institutions. The PPP has made several complaints of APNU/AFC provocative acts including incidents of bottle pelting and in one particular incendiary incident an APNU supporter, allegedly the daughter of an APNU MP, urinating on a PPP Flag, waving it aloft and leading youths in a chant of “We gon bun dem out!!”
According to the centre, “it is imperative that political parties remain conscious of their obligations under the Political Party Code of Conduct for these elections and urge their supporters to behave accordingly.” As Election Day approaches, the Carter Centre is encouraging all Guyanese to make their strongest efforts to promote a peaceful and transparent electoral process. “These elections are an important opportunity for Guyanese to strengthen their commitment to one another and further consolidate their democracy.”
Nevertheless, based on assessments conducted thus far, the centre said Guyana’s electoral preparations appear to be on track. “In most parts of the country, electoral preparations appear to be on course, and in some areas, preparations are ahead of schedule. In some more remote areas, there are concerns about the status of logistical preparations.”
Since April, the centre deployed a team of five experts and six medium-term observers throughout the country. They have conducted observation in all 10 of Guyana’s electoral districts, and held meetings with a wide range of actors, including political parties, the election commission, civil society organisations, and the judiciary. Observers heard many allegations of electoral offenses being committed by supporters of both of the main political parties. These were principally about the destruction of flags, banners, and billboards. However, the team encountered very few formal complaints submitted to Police and to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).
Although their observation is ongoing, medium-term observers have reported that the majority of stakeholders in the regions have expressed confidence in GECOM and the electoral process. The medium-term observation team will be joined this week by more than 50 short-term observers from 24 countries. The delegation will be co-led by former US President Jimmy Carter, Ambassador Audrey Glover of the United Kingdom, and former Barbados Minister of Foreign Affairs Billie Miller. They will witness the electoral process, including voting, counting, polling, and tabulation, and release a preliminary statement of key findings on May 13, which will be available at http://www.cartercenter.org.
The Carter Centre’s assessment of the electoral process will be based on Guyana’s Constitution, national legal framework, and its various obligations for democratic elections under public international law, including relevant regional and international agreements. The centre’s mission will be conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation, which provides guidelines for professional and impartial election observation.