Several other loopholes outside of EU recommendations plugged

– Jagdeo says this was pointed out to visiting EU Observer Mission

The government has implemented a slew of measures in the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, which was not initially part of the final report of the European Union Observer Mission.

Speaking on Thursday at Freedom House, General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), Dr Bharrat Jagdeo informed media operatives that approximately 50 gaps were identified in the ROPA legislation which the government moved to address in the amended act.

In 2020, the EU deployed an observation team to Guyana to witness the March 2, 2020 elections. The mission made 26 recommendations, which are intended to strengthen the electoral process in Guyana and prevent the recurrence of the March 2, 2020 events.

“They [EU Mission] only recommended that we deal mainly with the declaration and how we treated statements of poll, but there are several other things that we thought, that Lowenfield [Former Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield] used to create uncertainties in the electoral process and we were determined to fix those
,” Dr. Jagdeo highlighted.

These included removing discrete powers from the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) to establish polling stations in various locations.

With the new law, several factors should be examined before polling stations are established; these include the number of electors on the list for that polling place, the size of the polling place, and the availability of internal and external space in the polling place to accommodate electors lining up at reasonable distance apart.

“If you have more than 400 persons, then you can’t have a single polling place. We have removed that. You would recall on the East Coast, in a major area like Foulis, thousands of voters, there was no polling place in the recommendation, they had to go all the way into the next village, Paradise to vote,” he explained. Additionally, the new law mandates a manual to be developed to be published in various newspapers to highlight the roles of the Returning Officers and Presiding Officers.

“You would recall that the presiding officers were told what document should go in the box and what should be returned to GECOM … In the manual, it will identify all of the documents that have to be in the box, this will be published three months before elections, so there will be no doubt as to what has to be in the box.” the GS further explained. These and other measures have been inserted in the new ROPA law.

On the issue of campaign financing, Dr. Jagdeo reminded that it was the PPP/C that vowed to pass campaign financing laws in its 2020 Manifesto, way before the EU’s recommendations. After extensive consultations with relevant stakeholders, the National Assembly last year passed the ROPA (Amendment) Bill which seeks to enhance, modernise and reform the democratic quality and architecture of Guyana’s electoral process.

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