Guyana Elections: Accepting the Election Results – by Ralph Ramkarran

ACCEPTING THE ELECTION RESULTS

Ralph Ramkarran

Ralph Ramkarran

Posted on April 4, 2015  – by

Since the restoration of free and fair elections in Guyana, the only election results that have been accepted were those of 1992, even though they, and most other elections since then, were accompanied by violence, particularly after the elections. The Opposition castigated the 2011 elections alleging ‘discrepancies,’ although admitting that the results would not have been affected. The PPP went further and alleged that the 2011 elections were rigged against it.

The consequences of the failure to accept election results have been devastating to Guyana. It results, after most elections, in serious post-election violence, which causes damage to property, injury and loss to innocent people and harm to Guyana. It further exacerbates ethnic tension, which the elections campaign would already have whipped up, drives fear in the population and generates a feeling of uncertainty in the minds of investors.  

In the recent elections in Nigeria, Opposition candidate Muhamadu Buhari, 72, a former military dictator, scored an upset victory by defeating the incumbent, Jonathan Goodluck, who conceded defeat and congratulated Buhari even before the counting of the votes had concluded when it became clear that he had lost. This had never been done.

Writing in his April 3 column ‘A changing tide in Nigeria’s fortunes,’ Sir Ronald Sanders said: ‘The ritual of conceding defeat with a telephone call is fairly normal in most countries, but it is so unique an event in Nigeria that several respected Nigerian figures…lauded President Goodluck for doing the right thing…it was the first time in the country’s history that a loser called his opponent to admit defeat in a presidential poll. By conceding defeat in the manner that he did, Jonathan spared Nigeria widespread violence and unrest that many observers feared might be a consequence of the elections. Had that unrest occurred it would have further set back Nigeria’s economy, which has been reeling from the falling prices of oil, the main money earner for its economy.’

Even though Guyana’s return to democracy was five years earlier in time than Nigeria’s, no such telephone call has ever been made despite the fact all elections since 1992 have been declared to be free and fair by credible local and international observers.

With the history of free and fair elections in Guyana, it is surprising that there appears to be a consensus that Guyana needs foreign observers. It may well be that there is an sub-conscious feeling that Guyana ethnic politics needs an mediatory nurse maid to guide it over the elections so as to at least assist in dampening the violent prone responses to the results.

Already for months GECOM has been under sustained, weekly, assault by the PPP, which must have had negative consequences on its credibility, even though GECOM is doing a highly credible job. Friendly diplomatic missions in Guyana which assist in funding our elections have pointedly and rightly so, expressed confidence in GECOM.

Now, to pour Opposition gasoline on the PPP fire, broadly speaking, the Opposition is alleging that the voters’ list is ‘dirty.’ This accusation is deeply emotive. It is of long memory and ignoble history since 1968. I said ‘broadly speaking’ because, believe it or not, the PPP which has been accusing and demanding of GECOM over issues relating to the whole gamut of the elections process, has surprisingly rejected the Opposition’s accusation of a ‘dirty’ list.

Dr. Steve Surujballi, the Chairman of GECOM, has explained why the list of 570,708 is approximately 76 percent of the estimated population of 750,000. It is because there is no legal mechanism to delete from the list the names of persons who have migrated. These persons do not report to anyone when they are leaving and there is no way to discover who the emigrants are.

The elaborate legal and administrative mechanism, including stakeholder participation, to ensure the validity and accuracy of registrants ensures that every person on the list is lawfully entitled to be there. If some of these lawful registrants have migrated, they cannot be deemed to be ‘dirty.’ They have to remain on the list until they are removed in the process of a new house-to-house registration.

In any event, the voters’ list is only one feature of free and fair elections. The staining of fingers after voting, counting at the place of poll, the placement of polling agents by both major political parties at most polling stations, the requirement for the signature of polling agents on the statements of poll, the public display of the statements of poll immediately after the count and more, all add up to ensuring free and fair elections.

Foreign observers have pronounced on elections on five occasions from 1992. Since Guyana still appears to need observers and the latter seem willing to assist, they should take their game to a higher level on this and future occasions. They cannot properly insist that the losers accept the results as this would be seen as interference. But they can negotiate that as a condition of accepting the invitation to observe, they would ask that the results be accepted by the political parties if they are deemed to be free and fair. Observer missions with clout such as the Carter Centre and the Commonwealth should take the lead in this persuasive effort.

Posted in the Conversation Tree Blog by Ralph Ramkarran – permalink.
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Comments

  • Cliff  On April 6, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    This is a well written article and to the point. It is time that the political parties grow up and accept the results without having any violence after, which would show political immaturity in Guyana. Why should shops have to put up shutters on their windows and doors during and after election day? This is the question.
    It is time that the people and politicians grow up and do the right thing. The loser MUST ACCEPT DEFEAT in a nice way instead of showing off their violence bringing misery to the majority of Guyanese people.
    My congrats to Mr Ralph Ramkarran for this timely piece to the Guyanese Nation and this writer hopes that all concern will accept immediately.

  • Trevor Best  On May 13, 2015 at 2:18 pm

    The Distinguished Gentleman, Has indeed written a stellar piece. However, I would like to add my two cents to this conversation. While I wholly agree that the politicians in Guyana are of a different breed, I believe the people of Guyana must also share blame equally if not more. We as a people have long been Uber suspicious of each other. This attitude has been created and is promoted by the politicians and is upheld and sustained by the people. It is ironic or perhaps moronic, that we live peacefully and in somewhat harmony in between elections, in spite of the underlying suspicions, only to have those fears preyed upon and exploited by the powers that be and want to be, every four years or so.

    The sub-surface fears that plague us, are vigorously agitated as elections approach, and amplified on election day and is worsened post election by the delay of notification by the Gecom. These delays, though perhaps legitimate at times, serves only to exacerbate the anxieties and suspicions already in existence in our fractured political psyche. A possible solution to the anxieties brought on by delays, is to create a sort of leader board and continuously release result as they come in with a clear indicator as to who is in the lead with every update to the results. this will lend the to the belief if not illusion of fairness..

    I believe that no political party in Guyana should be allowed to remain in office in excess of two consecutive terms, except in the rear circumstance that the country is being vigorously propelled forward by the party in power at that particular time, and then that party is removed from office after that third term regardless of their progress. this sort of rotation if you will, would remove the feeling of ownership of the country which must certainly be felt by the parties that remain in office for 20 years or more. It also gives the people a sense of fair play and justness, and diminishes the demagogic behavior of the sitting president as was the case of at least three of our past leaders from both political parties.

    I present no illusions that fixing the political problems in Guyana is a simple issue, or that there is some magical elixir that will remedy our seemingly complex political problems, as ours is a people problem; and fixing people is perhaps the most complex and daunting task one can embark upon.Our government should also seek to remove or to allow for dual citizenship for Guyanese living abroad, which will allow for much needed influx of qualified Guyanese everywhere to return home with fresh brilliant ideas and new vigour to our country.

    I believe that we as a people, should shrug off these vestiges of race, and pseudo political ideologies, and gird ourselves with a steely armour of National Patriotism, pushing aside anyone and anything that stands athwart the progress that we so badly need as a nation.

    Just my humble opinion.

  • Raymond Toolsie  On May 14, 2015 at 2:06 pm

    The People of Guyana have spoken.

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