Carter Center report reiterates need for Constitutional reform in Guyana

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…says winner-take-all system recipe for conflicts as oil revenue looms 

The Carter Center has repeated its longstanding support for fundamental Constitutional reform in Guyana that attenuates the problems with the current winner-take-all system.

The electoral observer mission noted that the urgency of this challenge was made greater with the anticipated influx of oil revenue, which has the potential to exacerbate ethnic and political conflicts.

These positions were detailed in the final report released on Wednesday by the Carter Center on its observation activities in relation to the 2015 General and Regional Elections in Guyana.

The report summarises the observations and makes recommendations to the Guyanese authorities to improve future elections to help bring the system in line with international standards for democratic elections.

The A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition had campaigned heavily on the need for constitutional reform, but this desire seemingly has been placed on the back burner of the Administration.

Former Speaker of the National Assembly, Ralph Ramkarran had noted that the Administration seemed to have lost its interest for these constitutional changes.

Government appointed a committee headed by Attorney and former AFC Chairman Nigel Hughes to examine the process for constitutional reform. While the committee presented its report to Government almost a year ago, no movement has been seen.

According to reports, that document is still before the Cabinet and the process appears to have been stalled.

Aside from constitutional reform, the report also includes a compendium of reform recommendations from previous Carter Center election observation missions and makes new recommendations, including the need to re-evaluate the electoral system to increase the accountability of politicians to the electors and to equalise representation of women in Parliament.

The report also recommended that individuals stand for election to the presidency and consider adopting a ranked-choice voting system to give greater incentive for candidates to appeal to more than their base voters.

It also suggested that authorities ensure geographic seats are more equitably distributed among electors, clarify the law and procedures for recounts and consolidate electoral laws to make the rules of the game more easily accessible.

Other recommendations are to strengthen the professionalism and independence of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) by closely evaluating the structure, recruitment, and training of GECOM staff and Commissioners.

The Carter Center May 15 election observation mission in Guyana launched on April 8, 2015, following an invitation from the Office of the President.

It was led by former US President Jimmy Carter, Dame Audrey Glover of the United Kingdom, and Dame Billie Miller of Barbados. Six medium-term observers from six countries were deployed throughout the country in advance of Election Day to assess election preparations.

On Election Day, 53 observers from 26 countries visited 297 polling stations in all 10 Regions to observe voting, counting, tabulation, and the declaration of results. The Carter Center remained in Guyana to observe the post-election environment.

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