Letter: A CoI is the 1st step towards electoral reform

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Dear Editor,

In order to reform any proposed system, you must first inquire as to what are the defects of the existing system. It is within this context that a Commission of Inquiry (COI) should be established to review all aspects of the March 2nd 2020 elections.

The European Union Observer Mission’s recent calls to urgently address electoral reforms bring into focus the promise made by H.E. President Irfan Ali at his inauguration speech, when he so eloquently and ardently proclaimed the following: “All of us are painfully aware of the trauma and anguish that our people endured over the past five months, as vigorous attempts were made to destroy our democratic credentials and deny the will of the electorate. All of us have an obligation to the nation and to ourselves to ensure that never again should any generation of our people be subjected to such unlawful behaviour.

Therefore, a review of events related to the electoral process over the last five months will begin shortly, in order to determine forensically exactly what transpired, and to hold accountable any persons who sought to pervert and corrupt the system. More importantly, we will pursue the necessary reforms to make our democracy stronger and our electoral process more transparent.”

A COI into the events of the March 02nd 2020 elections should be commissioned by the President as promised, and should comprise of at least three distinguished officers from the Commonwealth who have extensive experience with various electoral processes.

The scope and ambit of the COI should encompass events prior to election day, on election day, and happenings after the fateful election day. Diligent enquiry should be made, but it should not be limited to the following areas:

• Appointment of the Chairman of the Elections Commission and overall hiring of GECOM Secretariat staff and election day personnel.
• Review of all manuals and Standard Operating Procedures as they relate to registration, voting, statements of poll, ballot boxes etc.
•Selection process for Returning Officers, polling staff, district and regional officials.
• Distribution of ballots and voting on election day. Counting of the votes after close of poll, and transmission of results to GECOM headquarters
• tabulating and declaration of results with special emphasis on Region Four.
• Conduct or misconduct of GECOM Secretariat in the declaration of the final results of the election.
• Review of the performance, or lack thereof, of the Chairman of GECOM.
• Whether the attempts at subverting the elections were systemic in nature, or were they the premeditated manipulation by select individuals.
• Recommendations on electoral reforms.

As was stressed by the European Mission, we should begin the process now in order to have sufficient time to reach a consensus on the reforms for the 2025 elections, and to hold those who tried to pervert the system accountable.

Yours sincerely,
Reggie Bhagwandin