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Guyana Election Basics

Elections for members of the National Assembly and the Regional Democratic Councils normally take place every five years, unless called earlier.  Guyana is one single constituency for the conduct of election for the President and the election of members of the National Assembly from the National To-up mechanism.  The country is divided into ten constituencies; know as ten geographical constituencies where elections are held members of the National Assembly directly from each geographical constituency.

LAWS GOVERNING ELECTIONS

The Constitution of Guyana provides for elections to be held and subject to the Constitution, Parliament may make additional provision for the general conduct of the elections.  The Representation of the People Act, Cap. 1:03 (with amendments to 13 August 2006) is the Principal Act that makes provision for the election of members of the National Assembly under a system of proportional representation and for purposes connected therewith.

ELECTION ADMINISTRATION

The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is responsible for the administration and conduct of elections in Guyana. The present Elections Commission was established by virtue of Constitutional Amendment Act No. 2 of 2000 and includes a full-time Chairman and Six (6) Commissioners; three (3) representing the ruling party and three (3) the combined opposition parties in Parliament.

ELECTORAL SYSTEM

Elections are conducted according to the Constitutional provisions, supplemented by the laws made by Parliament.  The major laws among those are the Representation of the People Act (1964) which deals with all aspects of the conduct of elections and the National Registration Act (1967) which deals mainly with the preparation and revision of electoral rolls. 

The current electoral system is the product of cross party agreement on constitutional reform, as catered for by the Herdmanston Accord.  This witnessed the relevant parties agreeing to a reformed system which includes an element of geographic and gender representation.  Previously, only 53 of the 65 members of the National Assembly were elected directly while the remaining twelve were indirectly twelve were indirectly elected. 

Under the current system, which was adopted after the amending of the Constitution and the representation of the People Act Constitution (Amendment) Act No.  3 of 2000 and Election Laws (Amendment) Act No 15 2000, in November 2000, all members of the National Assembly are to be directly elected.  Twenty-five to be elected from the ten geographic constituencies and the remaining forty elected from a national “top-up” list to guarantee a very high degree of proportionality.  Any party contesting seats for the National Assembly must validly nominate candidates in six of the geographic constituencies or for thirteen of the twenty five constituency seats.  Furthermore, a third of the candidates validly nominated must be women. 

On 13 February 2001 the National Assembly further amended the Representation of the People Act, Constitution (Amendment) Act No.  1 of 2000, and the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act 2001 to allow the National Assembly to have at least sixty-five members and allow the Guyana elections Commission (GECOM) to allocate “overhand seats”, if required.  Overhand seats would be required if a Party wins a disproportionate number of constituency seats thereby giving it an advantage over other parties.  Under these circumstances, GECOM would award overhang seats to the national to-up to ensure that the advantage is removed.

ELECTORAL DISTRICTS

For administrative purposes Guyana is divided into ten regions, each headed by a Chairman who presides over a regional Democratic Council.  Local communities are administered by village or city councils.  For the purpose of elections the districts are converted into constituencies.  These are:

  • District One - Barima/Waini
  • District Two - Pomeroon/Supenaam
  • District Three - West Demerara/Essequibo Islands
  • District Four - Demerara/Mahaica
  • District Five - Mahaica/Berbice
  • District Six - East Berbice/Corenytne
  • District Seven - Cuyuni-Mazaruni
  • District Eight - Potaro/Siparuni
  • District Nine - Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo
  • District Ten - Upper Demerara/Berbice
SEATS IN NATIONAL ASSEMBLY

The total number of elected members in the National Assembly is 65.  Of these, 25 members are elected directly form the geographic constituencies (which are the same as the current administrative regions and electoral districts) and 40 members are drawn from the national “top-up” lists.  The distribution of seats at the General and Regional Elections in each geographic constituency was as following:

Region

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

Total

Seats

2

2

3

7

2

3

2

1

1

2

25

CANDIDATE LISTS

Contesting parties can submit three (3) separate lists on nomination Day. These Lists of Candidates are respect of:

  • Geographical Constituencies Lists
  • National Top-up Lists
  • Regional Democratic Council Lists

In accordance with the Electoral System, contesting parties must contest a minimum of six of the Geographical Constituencies adding together at least thirteen seats for eligibility to contest and submit Geographical Constituencies list and National Top-up List. This arrangement will provide for that qualified contesting party to submit on Nomination day, two separate Lists of Candidates.

Guyana’s gender quota states that one-third of the candidates validly nominated must be women. Furthermore, no more than 20% of the geographic constituency lists of any party can be all-male.

Any contesting political party can contest the election of members of any of the ten Regional Democratic Councils. For this purpose, a List of Candidates must be submitted on Nomination Day.

The Elections Commission shall by notice published in the Official Gazette, appoint the day being a day not later than the 32nd day before Election day on which Lists of Candidates may be submitted to the Chief Election Officer. The Chief Election Officer will attend to receive the list and no list may be received at any other time or place.

WHO CAN VOTE

Subject to the provisions of article 159 of the Constitution, every person may vote at election if he/she is of the age of eighteen years or upwards and is either a citizen of Guyana or a Commonwealth citizen domiciled and resident in Guyana.

VOTING PROCEDURE

In addition to the other Polling Day Officials assigned to each polling station on Election Day, one Polling Agent representing each list of contesting parties, one Counting Agent representing each List of Candidates of the contesting parties in the district, and Duly Appointed Candidates are entitled to be present. A police officer is also assigned to each polling station. Accredited election agents and assistant agents may attend the poll at any polling station in any Polling District.
     
Voting begins at 6 a.m. and ends at 6 p.m. All Polling Officials are required to arrive at 5 a.m. to ensure that proper arrangements are in place for the prompt opening of the poll. Prior to the opening of the polling station, the Presiding Officer writes the numbers 0 to 9 on separate slips of paper, places these in a paper bag, and requests any six persons present to alternately take a slip each from the bag. This produces a random six-digit number, which is used to stamp all the ballots cast at that polling station on Election Day. The Presiding Officer also displays the empty ballot box for all present to witness.

When voters enter the polling station, they present their National Identification Card to Poll Clerk 1, who checks the List of Electors to ensure that the elector’s name appears there. Poll Clerk 2 checks the Registration Record and makes comparison of the photo ID. The Assistant Presiding Officer, double-checking the National Identification Card against the Registration Folio and inspecting the voter’s finger for electoral ink, if satisfied, stamps the six-digit official mark on the back of the ballot and writes the voter’s serial number on its counterfoil. S/he then instructs the voter in an impartial manner on voting procedure before delivering the ballot paper to the voter and directing him/ her to the voting compartment. The Assistant Presiding Officer places a tick next to the voter’s serial number to indicate that a ballot paper was issued.

Meanwhile the elector marks the ballot paper in the voting compartment and proceeds to the Ballot Clerk. Having seen the official mark on both sides of the ballot, the Ballot Clerk directs the voter to immerse his or her right index finger in the electoral ink and the voter drops the ballot into the ballot box.

If the voter’s name does not appear on the List of Electors then s/he will not be allowed to vote at that polling station unless s/he presents a Certificate of Employment. (Certificates of Employment are issued to Election Officers and others whose work necessitates their presence on Election Day at a distance from their own polling station.)

COUNTING THE BALLOTS

Polling stations close at 6 p.m. Voters in line at this time must still be permitted to vote. When the Presiding Officer has announced the close of the poll, the ballot box is sealed, the room is shut and arranged for the count. All those entitled to remain present during polling are also entitled to witness the count.

The Presiding Officer counts the number of spoiled ballot papers, used tendered ballot papers and unused ballot papers, placing them in separate, labeled, sealed envelopes. S/he checks the number of electors who voted at the polling station using the total number of counterfoils of ballot papers and accounts for all ballot papers supplied by the Returning Officer. S/he then opens the ballot box and places its contents on a table. Tally sheets are distributed to those present. The number of ballot papers in the ballot box is counted and recorded. The Presiding Officer checks each ballot for the official mark, unfolds the ballot and calls out the name of the party for which the vote was cast. S/he displays the front and back of each ballot paper to Polling Agents and Polling Officials. Votes are recorded on tally sheets and ballots are placed in separate piles for each party.

The Presiding Officer rejects any ballot paper which has no official mark (six-digit number); which has not been marked for any candidate; if it cannot be established for whom the elector has voted; which has been marked for more than one List of Candidates; or which has been marked in such a way that the elector can be identified. Questioned ballots are marked ‘Q’ on the back to indicate that a Duly Appointed Candidate or Polling Agent has questioned the Presiding Officer’s decision. The decision of the Presiding Officer is subjected to review by the Returning Officer only if a Counting Agent for the district requests a general or limited recount by noon of the next day.

When all the ballots have been examined, each Election Officer counts and verifies votes recorded for each List of Candidates and these are placed in separate envelopes. Rejected ballots, if any, are placed in another envelope. All the envelopes are sealed. After the count, the Presiding Officer completes the Statement of Poll, countersigned by witnesses to the count, which are distributed to all authorised persons present. Copies must also be made for the Deputy Returning Officer, Returning Officer, and the Chief Elections Officer. A copy of the Statement of Poll is then displayed outside the polling station.

Each of the respective envelopes containing spoiled, unused, rejected, and valid votes for each separate List of Candidates must then be sealed with molten sealing wax to which the Presiding Officer’s seal is publicly applied. Separate envelopes are provided for the Statement of Poll, Poll Book, and Ballot Paper account and for the various election materials – such as the six-digit stamp, used plastic seals, and electoral ink – and these are likewise sealed. The Presiding Officer must transport the ballot box and sealed packages to the office of the Deputy Returning Officer or the office of the Returning Officer. These should also be accompanied by a police officer and by the Polling Agents.

Each Deputy Returning Officer collates all the results using the Statements of Poll for his/her Sub-district and submits them to the Returning Officer. This must be done at the Returning Officer’s Office. The Returning Officer ascertains the total votes cast in favour of each List of Candidates in his/her district, then reports the results immediately in person to the Chief Elections Officer. Such results are final provided that the assigned Counting Agent for the District does not request the Returning Officer to conduct a recount of the votes counted by the Presiding Officers. Such a request must be presented before noon on the day after the poll.

OBSERVING THE ELECTION

International Observers: After consultation with the Chairman of the Elections Commission in conformity with Section 3 (1) of the General Elections (Observers) Act No. 17 of 1990, the President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana may invite number of international organizations and institutions to officially observe all aspects of the democratic process involved in the General and regional Elections to be held in Guyana in 2006. Observers may be in Guyana for a long term and short term periods.

Local Observers: In pursuance of the powers conferred by section 20 of the Election Laws (Amendment) Act No. 15 of 2000, the organization or body of civic-minded citizens which wishes to observe all aspect of the democratic process involved in the General and Regional Elections to be held in 2006 may apply for approval and identification as local observers.

General: Observers shall be free to observe the course of the campaigning for elections and all the process of the elections.  It is necessary that all co-operate with observers and, where possible assist them in their work. Observers will be issued with identification cards by the Chairman of the Elections Commission.
Key
A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance for Change (APNU/AFC); People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C); Healing the Nation Theocracy Party (HTNTP); Independent Party (IP); National Independent Party (NIP); Organisation for the Victory of the People Party (OVPP); The United Force (TUF); United Republican Party (URP); Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM)
Sources

http://www.gecom.org.gy/

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