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APNU/AFC intends to ask President to undertake national consultations on electoral reform

L-R: President Dr Irfaan Ali and Opposition Leader, Aubrey Norton

The People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) – the largest party in the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) camp, said they intend to formally ask President Dr Irfaan Ali to undertake a national consultation on electoral reform.

This is according to the PNCR’s General Secretary, Geeta Chandan-Edmond, during the party’s weekly press conference held on Tuesday.

Chandan-Edmond said that the future elections must have three objectives: only eligible persons must be registered, results must accurately reflect the will of those who voted, and every step of the election process must win the trust and confidence of the public, participating parties, and other relevant stakeholders.

“Meeting these three objectives requires that Guyana must embark on urgent and comprehensive electoral reform. Tinkering will not work. Disjointed changes will not work. Bad faith will not work,” Chandan-Edmond said.

In 2021, the Government published the draft electoral reforms with proposed changes to the Representation of the People’s Act (RoPA) for public consultation before the document is finalised and taken to the National Assembly.

In fact, there was no submission by the APNU/AFC. However, then Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon said that he didn’t believe the draft electoral reform laws adequately dealt with his party’s concerns on issues such as voter fraud.

However, Harmon’s successor Aubrey Norton now claims that the APNU/AFC wanted to listen to civil society and not politicise the consultations.

“We understand politics in Guyana. If we had ran out and be in the forefront opposing what the PPP was doing, it would have been seen as political. What we have allowed is for civil society and others to comment,” Norton, who replaced Harmon, said.

Over the years, there have been calls for reforms to Guyana’s electoral laws, with these calls intensifying after the five-month election impasse, which saw the APNU+AFC attempting to rig the March 2, 2020, elections.

The draft updated electoral laws can see the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) facing as much as life imprisonment for committing fraud, while others could face hefty fines and jail time for any related offence.

It also lays out a straightforward process for requesting a recount, including empowering the Chairman of GECOM to grant that request.

Under the proposed laws, the CEO must immediately post the District Tabulation Forms on the Commission’s website when he receives them from the Returning Officers.

Other persons involved in the electoral process can face fines as high as $10 million and can equally be jailed if they breach any of the provisions outlined in the proposed updated Act.

Only last week, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall, SC, held the first installment of public consultations on the draft electoral laws.

The AG said that many stakeholder organisations and individuals made recommendations and expressed their opinions in writing on the proposed law.

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