EAB'S commendable ideas Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
February 17, 2002

THE unambiguous confirmation by the Electoral Assistance Bureau (EAB) that the March 19, 2001 general election was generally free and fair and a reflection of the will of the people who voted, has come amid the heightened preparations for the national celebration of Guyana's 28th anniversary as a constitutional republic within the Commonwealth.

But very encouraging as the improvements continue to be in the planning of Mashramani as our premier annual major cultural festival, the mood cannot be that intoxicating for us not to take note of the significance of the EAB's report and its more important recommendations.

This national election monitoring watchdog has acquired a stout reputation of its own with its active involvement back in 1992 when electoral democracy was finally restored in this country after the practice of rigged elections became an institutionalised feature from 1968 to 1985.

And both the Guyana Elections Commission of 1997 and that responsible for the conduct of the March 2001 poll can find added comfort for their own work in the main conclusions of the EAB's reports on those two elections.

The GECOM of 2001 already had its own overall performance record reinforced by the report of the international Audit Team that found that "the issues and concerns raised by the political parties and other stakeholders in relation to the 2001 electoral process, prejudiced or advantaged any particular political party or parties.

"Consequently, the Audit Team is able to declare that the issues and concerns detailed in this report would not have affected the result of the election", declared the Sweden-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA).

Those familiar with the personnel of the EAB, its policies and methodologies in monitoring elections and compilation and reporting systems would know how jealously the Bureau guards its integrity. It is an integrity that regional and international monitors have come to respect.

The thoroughness with which it had monitored the 1997 general election and reflected in its comprehensive report remains one of the most relevant and important documents on that election on December 15 which it recorded as not only "free and fair" but "the best witnessed by Guyana in the past three decades".

Now, in 2002, some 11 months after the March 19, 200l poll, the EAB has reported, with apologies for lateness, that last year's regional and national elections "were generally conducted in a free, fair and transparent manner" and, consequently, "the will of the people who voted was reflected in the official results".

The Bureau, however, noted that the confidence and trust in the entire voting system was, to some extent, undermined by errors of omission and commission in the Voters' List.

Fr. Malcolm Rodrigues, Chairman of the EAB, states in a covering note that "the report is concise and reflects accurately our observations of the processes, events and the general conditions under which the elections were conducted..."

We find of particular interest the observation by the EAB that a great amount of experience in running elections should by now have been accumulated in Guyana.

This experience, the Bureau feels, should be carefully analysed and a manual produced which would not only serve as a "management tool for future elections, but would also provide the basis for a series of continuous training courses".

If this were done, said the EAB, Guyana would be providing itself with the electoral institutional memory which it now seems to lack.

The government, opposition parties, and the bi-partisan Elections Commission should all take note of the suggestions from the EAB for establishing a permanent GECOM and preparation of a manual as a management tool in the context of providing that institutional electoral memory which it considers necessary.