Commonwealth urges free and fair elections in Guyana

By Guyana Times,

…as Head of observer team arrives ahead of E-Day
A high-level delegation from the Commonwealth Secretariat, led by former Barbados Prime Minister Owen Arthur, has arrived in Guyana and is urging all participants in the upcoming General and Regional Elections to be true to their commitments for free and fair elections.

This is according to a statement released by Arthur on Monday, announcing his arrival as the Head of an Observer group team of 11 persons from across the Commonwealth. This includes Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe and the Pacific.
“They bring a wealth of experience from across the social and political spectrum
with expertise in the fields of politics, election management, law, the media, gender, civil society and human rights,” Arthur said in his statement, going on to urge stakeholders to demonstrate their commitment to free and fair elections.
“We are aware of the significance of these elections to the people of Guyana and we call on all stakeholders to demonstrate commitment to a peaceful, transparent,
credible and inclusive election. On behalf of the group, I wish the people of Guyana well as they go out to exercise their right to vote on Monday.”
According to Arthur, they arrived on Sunday and began briefings on Monday. He further explained that over the next few days they will meet with key stakeholders including the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), political parties and civil society.
A previous Commonwealth team of staff had arrived in advance on February 19 with the objective of observing the Disciplined Services voting on Friday. It was explained that from Friday, February 28, observers will be deployed across the country in small teams to observe polling day preparations and meet stakeholders.
“Our mandate is to observe and evaluate the electoral process independently and impartially. We will assess the pre-election environment, polling day activities and the post-election period and consider the various factors impinging on the credibility of the electoral process as a whole.”
Arthur, who is Chairing the group, further explained that after elections, they will report on whether the elections were conducted in accordance with the law and Guyana’s regional and international commitments to democracy.
“On Election Day, we will observe the opening, voting, closing, counting and the results management processes. We will issue an interim statement on our preliminary findings on 4 March 2020.”
“A final report will then be prepared and submitted to the Commonwealth Secretary General, and subsequently shared with relevant stakeholders and the public. The group will depart Guyana on 9 March 2020,” the statement said.
Arthur also explained that the observer group was constituted following an invitation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in November 2019. Arthur was Prime Minister of Barbados from 1994 to 2008, making him the longest ever serving Barbadian Prime Minister.
This year’s elections, which are due on March 2, 2020, has been called the “Mother of all elections”, for the importance in which it is regarded. For one, whoever wins the elections will be put in charge of administering Guyana’s newfound oil wealth.
The elections are expected to be watched intently, with a number of international observers and technical advisors in the country to oversee the process. For instance, it is the first time that the European Union will be deploying a fully-fledged team of observers on the ground for Guyana’s elections.
The Carter Center is also involved, with it being announced that former Prime Minister of Senegal, Aminata Touré and Chairperson of The Carter Center Board of Trustees, Jason J Carter (the grandson of former US President Jimmy Carter) will co-lead the Carter Center’s international election observation mission in Guyana.
Other overseas-based observers expected to participate in overseeing the election include teams from the Organisation of American States (OAS), as well as the Caribbean Community (Caricom).
GECOM is also getting assistance from a number of technical advisors who were provided by other countries and international organisations. Canada, for instance, is providing GECOM with Jean-Pierre Kingsley, a Canadian elections expert.
The Commonwealth is also providing the services of its senior technical advisor, Dr Afari Gyan, who arrived in Guyana last month. In addition, Dr Syed Nasim Zaidi, an elections advisor from India, has also joined the team.