Guyana’s current campaign financing laws outdated, not acceptable – Head of EU Observation Mission

Head of EU EOM Urmas Paet

Having presented a string of recommendations aimed at improving the electoral process in Guyana, Head of the European Union’s Election Observation Mission (EU EOM), Urmas Paet has joined mounting calls for the country to update its campaign financing laws.

The Observation Mission has returned to Guyana one year after being forced to leave the country at the height of what turned out to be a five-month-long political crisis, due to the COVID-19 pandemic last March.

During a press conference on Friday, Paet stated that the EOM’s return is not just to present their final report which includes some 26 recommendations but also to “kickstart” the process for electoral reforms, which they believe are essential to improving future elections.

Chief among those recommendations is for Guyana to “develop effective legislation to regulate political finance.”

According to the EU Mission Head, political financing is a controversial but important issue that will benefit the country in the future, if implemented.

“I don’t think it is acceptable that if you look at your present law [that] concerns political financing then it’s really outdated, it’s really old. The figures which are there are completely not adequate anymore, anyway. So, that refresh for this sphere is needed. And, of course, the more open, the clearer the rules for political financing will be, I guess it is clearly in longer run very beneficial for your society and clarity in your political system,” he noted.

Laws about campaign finance in Guyana are outlined in the Representation of the People Act. The provision sets a limit on expenses at US$250 per candidate.

EU Chief Observer Urmas Paet and his Deputy Alexander Matus in conversation with US Ambassador Sarah-Ann Lynch and Indian High Commissioner Dr KJ Srinivasa following Friday’s press conference

Paet, who is a Member of the European Parliament, raised questions about the financing of political campaigns in Guyana.

“Do you know from where came the money for elections campaign from your main political parties? How big were the budgets for political campaign; how much money they spent for political campaign? Do you know it? At the same time, look at your legislation which are their limits for political campaign and then compare it to the reality… Is it clear for you, where the limit goes between the Government resources spent for elections campaigns and then pure political party money? As long as these questions are not adequately answered, there is space to develop [the campaign financing laws],” he asserted.

He further highlighted the importance of such legislation, noting that it outlines who are the supporters of political parties and thus prevents “non-political and hidden forces” from influencing Governments.

Paet believes that both legislative change and implementation are integral since “good laws without implementation is pointless.”

Updating Guyana’s campaign financing legislation is one of the many promises the People’s Progressive Party Civic made in its Manifesto. Only earlier this year, Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall reassured of his government’s commitment towards updating the laws.