The final report on the 2015 General and Regional Elections from the Carter Centre has been released and the findings have praised the significant milestones for Guyana, including the country’s second democratic transfer of power from one party to another.
However, despite these distinctions, the report said that the 2015 elections repeated many familiar patterns of the past.
“Election results, both preliminary and final, took longer to be released than anticipated, fueling acute anxiety and suspicion within the populace,” the Centre stated.
According to the report, ethnic mobilization played a major role in the campaign, although moderated somewhat by the then opposition coalition’s built-in need to reach across traditional ethnic lines. It noted that the PPP/C had filed an election petition challenging the validity of the results and the hearing is still pending. The report also noted the PPP/C’s refusal to participate in the first sitting of the National Assembly.
“Overall, while these elections represent a step forward in Guyana’s democratic development, there is much work to be done to ensure governance is inclusive and elections become more routine and less traumatic to the nation,” the report stated.
The Centre noted that all Guyanese should be proud of what transpired 2015’s Election Day because “their efforts took place in an atmosphere of tension and anxiety that,” which the report said was generated by key political leaders who played on fears during the electoral process.
“Rumors and allegations of provocative confrontations between ruling party and opposition supporters swirled throughout election day.”
The Carter Center reiterated its recommendation since 2004, contending that Guyana’s current “winner-take-all system” does not serve the country’s interests, given its demographic patterns and history of entrenched ethnic voting.
“In this system, the party (and ethnic group) that wins a plurality of the votes claims all executive and legislative power except in the rare cases of opposition majorities in the National Assembly. This exclusionary governance system fuels ethnic insecurity and is a factor in Guyana’s long-running ethnic conflict,” the report noted.
Special recommendation was given to government to “Re-evaluate the electoral system”, noting that consideration should be put in systems that would promote support across ethnic lines and better reflect international standards.
“For example, the present list system allows political parties to allocate seats to members of their choice after the election, meaning that the voter casts his/her ballot for the party, not candidates. In addition, there is no requirement that political parties must allocate seats in the National Assembly to any of the female candidates from within their lists. Guyana should consider adjustments to its legal framework and electoral system to equalize representation of women in Parliament.”
Other recommendations included: allowing Individual Candidates to Stand for President, Overhauling and modernize Campaign Finance Laws, creating Legislation on Political Parties and clarifying the Laws pertaining to Recounts.