Commonwealth Election Reports

2310-1512 (online)
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Commonwealth Election Reports, the reports of Commonwealth Observer Groups, Missions or Expert Teams, are independently prepared by the team members as a contribution to the democracy and consensus-building in Commonwealth countries.

The General and Regional Elections in Guyana, 5 October, 1992

The General and Regional Elections in Guyana, 5 October, 1992 You do not have access to this content

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Commonwealth Observer Group
01 Jan 1992
9781848595828 (PDF)

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These Election Reports are the observations, conclusions and recommendations of Commonwealth Observer Groups. The SecretaryGeneral constitutes these observer missions at the request of governments and with the agreement of all significant political parties. At the end of a mission, a report is submitted to the SecretaryGeneral, who makes it available to the government of the country in question, the political parties concerned and to all Commonwealth governments. The report eventually becomes a public document.

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  • Introduction

    The renewed commitment by Commonwealth Heads of Government at their 1989 Meeting in Kuala Lumpur to strengthen the democratisation processes in member states continues to be an important catalyst for political change in Commonwealth countries. Since then, a number of governments have formally requested the Commonwealth Secretary-General to provide assistance in a variety of ways, including the mounting of Commonwealth Observer Groups for their elections. Since 1989, the Commonwealth has sent such Observer missions to Malaysia, Bangladesh, Zambia and Seychelles, and preparations are in hand to observe national elections in Ghana, Kenya and Lesotho.

  • Electoral Reform

    We were impressed with the extent of the legal and other reform measures undertaken in Guyana between 1990 and 1992. Over a long period before that, the confidence of opposition parties, the Guyanese public and indeed the international community in the electoral process had suffered considerable erosion. Serious criticisms had been persistently made, specifically alleging lack of transparency and fraud in the organisation and conduct of overseas, proxy and postal voting.

  • Administrative Framework

    The foregoing reform programme did not alter the substratum of the electoral process of Guyana which rests on a simple system of proportional representation, under which the whole country forms a single constituency. Parliamentary seats are allocated in proportion to the votes cast for each party. Votes are cast in favour of lists of candidates submitted by each party and every election is conducted by secret ballot.

  • Political Parties and their Manifestos

    During the two weeks before the elections, we met and had wide-ranging discussions with, among others, most of the political parties who were contesting the elections. Two of the parties, however, could not be contacted and there was no response to written invitations to meet us. We gained the impression from our discussions with party leaders that in Guyana, no less than elsewhere in the Commonwealth generally, politics was conducted in a lively and competitive atmosphere even though the ruling political party had held the reins of government for more than two decades.

  • Registration and the Voters' List

    The concept of free and fair elections implies not only that every eligible voter who wishes to vote is registered and has the opportunity to exercise the right to vote but also that the voters' list is as accurate as possible and does not contain the names of persons ineligible to vote. In the case of Guyana, this was the subject of considerable controversy leading to a delay of over one year in holding the elections which, constitutionally, were due to have been held in early 1991. A preliminary voters' list (PVL) published, as required by law, in October 1990 was rejected by all the political parties as being so grossly inaccurate that they were not prepared to accept it as a valid basis on which to proceed to an election.

  • Preparations for Polling

    In preparing for the election, a number of practical steps had to be taken to give effect to the new regulatory and procedural system introduced by the reforms. The election date was set by the President soon after he was advised by the Chairman of the Elections Commission that the final voters' list was ready. With this basic phase of the process having been completed, the Elections Commission turned its attention to the acquisition of election materials and supplies.

  • The Campaign

    When we arrived in Georgetown, we were struck by what appeared to be an apathetic approach to the elections. We were told that Guyanese were' election weary', having come through two years of wrangling over electoral reforms, voters' lists and having the elections postponed from a year previously. Accustomed as we were to passionate and colourful campaigning in other Commonwealth countries, we were surprised at the lack of party posters and bunting.

  • Was the Poll Properly Conducted?

    In discussing the composition and organisational structure of the Elections Commission, we noted that the Government nominated three persons as members and the opposition parties another three members. The Chairman was appointed by the President, but the current holder of that post had actually been appointed from a list of names proposed by the opposition parties. The question of the independence of the Commission therefore has to be seen against the background of its composition, and its independence assessed not only with respect to the Government but also to the ruling and the opposition parties.

  • Conclusion
  • Acknowledgements and Annexes
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