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Guyana - Election 2011

On October 9, 2011, the President of Guyana announced that the General and Regional Elections would be held on November 28, 2011. Preparations for the election, including the training of poll workers and the certification of the voters list, had begun several months earlier, and GECOM had indicated to the government that they were ready to administer the electoral process.

Nomination day took place on October 27th, with all political parties interested in contesting the elections submitting their lists of candidates to the Chief Elections Officer. Seven political parties submitted their respective National Top-Up, Geographic Constituency and Regional Candidate Lists: A Partnership for National Unity (APNU); Alliance For Change (AFC); Fundamental Structure Group (FSG); Horizon And Star (HAS); Peoples Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C); The United Force (TUF), and The East Berbice Development Association (EBDA). However, only four parties (APNU, AFC, PPP/C and TUF) met all the statutory requirements to be approved for competition at the national level.

At the time of the elections, incumbent President Bharrat Jagdeo, after two terms and 12 years in office, was constitutionally prohibited from contesting the election. The 2011 election represented the first time in history that the PPP/C did not have the face of a member of the family of Guyanese Founding Father Cheddi Jagan behind it. The 2011 electoral competition was also characterized by the formation of a new coalition in Guyanese politics and the increased participation of emerging parties. The APNU, a coalition jointly launched by several opposition political parties as described above, competed in the elections with an agreed electoral platform and a unified campaign organization. AFC leadership, on the other hand, repeatedly stated that the party would not align with either the governing party or the main opposition in the run up to the elections.

Governing party operatives made overtures to residents of hinterland communities to the effect that if they did not vote correctly, then state benefits and programs would not flow to their communities. Such acts, it was reported, had occurred in the weeks and months leading up to the elections.

The only existing radio station in Guyana and the only television station with national reach belong to the state. As reported both by the media and observed by the OAS/EOM, government media dominance is particularly acute in the hard-to-reach interior, while the coastal areas enjoy a greater degree of media plurality. Additionally, the private CNS Channel 6s broadcasting license was suspended for nine days within the final 60 days leading up to the election. The OAS/ EOM noted that these issues present a challenge to basic guarantees of substantively democratic elections: a level playing field for electoral competition and sufficient access to information so that voters are able to make an informed choice when casting their votes.

On 28 November 2011, voters elected PPP/C candidate Donald Ramotar to a five-year term as president, replacing outgoing PPP/C president Jagdeo. However, the PPP/C gained only 48.6 percent of the vote, and President Ramotar therefore presided over the first minority government in parliament since independence in 1966. International observers, including teams from the Organization of American States, Caribbean Community, Commonwealth, and Union of South American Nations, generally concluded that the elections were substantially free, transparent, and peaceful and that they were well administered.

Electoral observer criticisms centered on the need for greater timeliness in transmission of preliminary and final results and for increased womens participation in the electoral process. Observers also noted that Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) members are political appointees, saying this compromises the effectiveness and integrity of the commission, which needs to be independent and above politics at all levels.

The campaign period was marred by perceptions of limited differentiation between the state and governing party in terms of access to both media and campaign finance. Throughout the country, the OAS mission observed significant disparities between parties in terms of the resources available for campaign offices, events, and advertising. Although it contains provisions regarding spending limits and reporting requirements, Guyanas legal framework does not sufficiently regulate campaign contributions. These regulatory gaps open the door for the use of state resources as part of the campaign and engender unequal conditions for electoral competition.





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