In its final report on the March 2 General and Regional Elections, the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) said that the post-election crisis in Guyana exposed a dysfunctional Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) unable to control its administration.
In a 64-page report released yesterday, the EU EOM made several observations to support its claim.
It said the most “striking” example was GECOM’s inability to intervene and prevent the Returning Officer (RO) for Region 4, Clairmont Mingo, from unlawfully declaring on March 5, results that were tabulated based on the Statements of Poll (SOPs) in the presence of party agents and observers as required by law.
“Even more concerning was the fact that the RO was allowed during the restarted tabulation process to continue acting in blatant violation of the law despite explicit court orders. By failing to act decisively at crucial times, GECOM abdicated its constitutional duty to take all actions necessary to ensure compliance with the law by any election official, despite having unequivocal power to remove and exercise disciplinary control over them,” the report noted.
The mission noted, too, that while the ROs have legal authority to publicly declare the results of their region, they were seen on multiple occasions taking instructions from the secretariat whose discretion increased with the commission’s inability to take timely decisions. The EU EOM referred to one instance where it took GECOM and the Secretariat 29 days to agree and decide on operational modalities and timeframe for the national recount after the Court of Appeal on April 5 finally cleared the way to proceed with the process.
Still on the issue of the commission being dysfunctional, the group said that GECOM’s lack of official communication and engagement with the media resulted in its messaging being essentially left to individual commissioners providing their own, often conflicting accounts of internal deliberations and decisions. This resulted in key regulatory instruments not often being accessible, and instructions on some critical aspects of the electoral process only being issued verbally.
The mission recommends that a national consultation process be launched to overhaul the composition and functioning of GECOM, notably to ensure a more inclusive representation of the various components of the Guyanese society and political spectrum.
It also recommended that Guyana incorporates into law, the mandatory publication of all GECOM decisions, regulatory instruments and instructions, as well as all relevant data pertaining to the electoral process.
The EU EOM said that it was able to observe and report on all aspects of the election process until 20 March 2020 when, in light of the Covid19 pandemic, it was repatriated to Europe.