Recent concerns about the US Government’s planned electoral reform project, to be implemented by the International Republican Institute (IRI), were met with a positive response from the PPP/C, which has variously confirmed that civil society and political parties will have an input on electoral reforms, and that the draft amended Representation of the People Act (RPA) would be circulated at the end of June 2021. These are encouraging responses. The ERG had previously stated it has no problem with the US Government or any other international partner supporting reforms to both GECOM and the electoral system, so long as those reforms:
i. Are developed through a process of dialogue and negotiation among Guyanese people, and
ii. Genuine citizen representation plays a central role in the process.
There is no shortcut around such a dialogue on the road to needed electoral reforms. ERG respectfully recommends that a broad-based national mechanism, characterised by inclusion and transparency, be created to support all electoral reform activities, including the amending of the RPA. The international community could be invited to observe the process. A broad-based mechanism would improve public confidence and participation in the reform process, and better ensure that all stakeholders support the eventual reforms. If ever there was an opportunity to operationalise Article 13 of our constitution, which mandates the participation of the PEOPLE in decision-making processes that affect their well-being, electoral reform is that opportunity.
There are many different examples we can draw on to design such a mechanism, including Guyana’s earlier constitutional reform and national development planning processes. ERG has confidence that such a mechanism, designed and implemented wisely, will overcome the unproductive rancour that tends to accompany political debate. To this end, we further suggest that Government convene key civil society and political party stakeholders to design the electoral reform mechanism and to agree on the management, funding, and other aspects of the mechanism. We are reminded, Editor, to observe that Guyana needs a national consensus on electoral reforms. An inclusive electoral reform mechanism will help ensure consensus. ERG is committed to supporting the participation of citizens in that consensus.