The following is a press statement from the Cater Center in relation to the Guyana Government’s refusal to grant the Center permission to return to Guyana to observe the national recount of the votes cast in the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections.
ATLANTA (May 21, 2020) — The Carter Center is deeply disappointed by the government of Guyana’s decision not to approve its recent requests to allow two accredited international observers to return to Guyana to observe the ongoing recount and the remainder of Guyana’s electoral process. The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has consistently confirmed that the accreditation of The Carter Center and other international observation groups remains valid, that the electoral process is not complete, and that international observers are welcome.
The Center acknowledges the important role being played during the recount by the three-person CARICOM team, as well as that of Guyanese national observers, political party scrutineers, the Organization of American States, and the Commonwealth’s technical advisor, all of whom also are accredited by GECOM. While noting the positive contribution that each of these actors is making to foster transparency, the Center is disappointed that the government of Guyana chose not to demonstrate a genuine commitment to transparency by ensuring that all duly accredited organizations, including The Carter Center, be allowed to conduct their work.
The Center fully respects Guyana’s national sovereignty and its efforts to strictly implement its COVID-19 emergency measures as a matter of utmost urgency. Indeed, the Center has indicated in its formal requests that it would abide by all of the government’s COVID-19 protocols, including those applied to the CARICOM team, such as that any observers who return must test negative for COVID-19 on a WHO-certified polymer chain reaction test in advance of travel to Guyana.
The Carter Center was honored to be invited by the government to provide a neutral and independent assessment of Guyana’s electoral process. The Center assesses elections based on national laws and international standards for democratic elections. To date, it has issued public statements with preliminary findings providing assessments of the electoral process through election day and the first few days post-election. While the Center and other international observers indicated in public statements that preparations for elections were conducted satisfactorily and that voting procedures on election day met international standards, it found that the tabulation process lacked transparency in Region 4 and therefore the tabulation process was not credible and did not meet international standards. The Center found that tabulation in March was conducted well in Guyana’s nine other regions.
The Center’s overall assessment of Guyana’s electoral process cannot be complete until the votes cast on March 2 have been counted, tabulated, and announced – and any subsequent dispute-resolution process completed. An accurate and honest counting of votes is essential to ensuring that the election reflects the will of the people. Even if preelection and election day processes go well, a flawed vote count or vote tabulation can fatally undermine the integrity and credibility of the electoral process and decrease public confidence and public acceptance of the results. The electoral dispute-resolution process and the extent to which citizens, voters, candidates, and other stakeholders have the right to an effective remedy is also a critical element of any electoral process.
The Center is hopeful that the recount and tabulation process currently underway will be completed with full transparency so that it yields a result that can be recognized as credible and reflecting the will of the people as expressed on March 2.
The Carter Center remains committed to its mandate to observe Guyana’s electoral process and extends its hope that Guyanese can work together in the days ahead to build a future that benefits all citizens. Regardless of the outcome of the election, the Center reiterates view that Guyana’s winner-takes-all system needs to be reformed and encourages all parties to commit to national reconciliation and to completing key constitutional reforms in the near future.