The Working People’s Alliance (WPA) has added its voice to the opposition against the recently announced International Republican Institute (IRI)-led electoral reform project in Guyana, calling it “an affront” to the sovereignty of the country and the dignity of the people.
“Six decades after independence, Guyanese should not outsource important projects such as electoral reform to external forces. Because the electoral architecture is one of the core areas of contention in our fractured society, it is imperative that any reform be driven by consensus among the contending partisan forces,” the WPA said in a statement on Saturday.
The United States Embassy, which said that the U.S Department of State is supporting the project, announced that it is intended to strengthen the capacity of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and the Attorney General’s Chambers regarding electoral processes, and to encourage civil society organizations (CSOs) to advocate for electoral reform in accordance with regional and international standards.
However, the WPA said the decision about how electoral reform should proceed and consultation with an external organization should not be determined solely by the government. “WPA is of the firm view that such an important decision should involve consensus between the government and the opposition either in the Parliamentary Constitutional Reform Committee or between the two leaders. In this regard WPA condemns the manner in which the IRI has sought to impose itself on GECOM, a constitutional body,” it said, while supporting the stance taken by the opposition GECOM commissioners that they would not entertain any discussion of the matter unless there is consensus between the government and opposition.
“It is well known that in several States in the USA there is a systematic campaign to reduce the right to vote to the point that the Department of Justice is forced to intervene, and the US Congress is considering legislation to stop the onslaught,” it pointed out, while saying that against that backdrop it cannot in good conscience welcome the IRI to any level of participation in advancing electoral reform in Guyana.
It also noted its solidarity with the African American and progressive communities in the USA, whom it says are both victims of the attack on the right to vote and are fighters to turn back that process. Guyanese cannot shirk their responsibility to offer solidarity on this issue while at the same time preserving our independence, it added.
The WPA also noted that IRI has been accused of partisan activities in some of the countries in which it has operated, such as Haiti and Venezuela, and of carrying out the foreign policy agenda of the Republican party in the USA.
Whether these charges are well founded or not, the WPA said it feels that they are enough reasons for Guyana to be skeptical of the IRI.
It also noted that the IRI took a partisan position during the impasse that arose from the 2020 elections and it said it believes any organization that took a partisan position on those elections is disqualified from participating in a sensitive exercise like electoral reform.