Sandra Jones appointment to GECOM is merely to have the PPP and APNU to preserve the status quo
More than ever before, the selection of an elections commissioner to replace the late Mr Robert Williams has underlined the fact that the Carter-Price formula for the Commission that was used for the 1992 elections has no relevance to the present context and must be abandoned in its entirety before any new poll is held.
We congratulate Mrs Sandra Jones on her appointment and wish her well in this very challenging and demanding position. Unfortunately, her selection has accentuated the political divide in the country and in this instance within the ranks of the opposition.
There are two fundamental problems here. The first is that APNU is doing its utmost to preserve the status quo so that it and its nemesis, the PPP/C can continue their control of the space in this very important constitutional body. In the spirit of the new parliamentary configuration where all sides have sought recourse to the argument of proportionality surely the AFC’s seven seats and its holding of the balance in Parliament should have entitled it to have its nominee chosen for the commission.
The cinch is the fact that previously – and ironically in the case of the late Mr Williams – the smaller partner in the ranks of the parliamentary opposition was able to have its nominee considered and selected for the position. Thus, the United Force with one seat was able to nominate Mr Williams. APNU’s argument that it was looking beyond political considerations and seeking the best candidate isn’t credible.
As far as it is concerned, giving the AFC a seat at the GECOM table will burnish the AFC’s credentials and accord it a much higher profile which could be dangerous to APNU’s standing and prospects. APNU would be aware that in 2006, its main constituent, the PNCR lost significant ground to the AFC in Linden which it recaptured last year only to see the AFC expand its seats tally by two on the back of a robust showing on the Corentyne.
It is that type of petty, narrow-minded calculation that should be banished entirely from the realms of GECOM business but unfortunately Opposition Leader Mr David Granger has fallen for it and entrenched the view that APNU is unprepared to compromise with the AFC particularly where there is no compulsion to do so. Mr Granger has thereby rolled back precedent in a manner that will make it difficult for the AFC’s concerns to be properly taken account of at GECOM.
Second, in the aftermath of APNU’s now aborted private dealing with the government, it is evident that productive outcomes from political talks will come only if all three parties are represented. A lot of the dialogue will occur at GECOM as it relates to arrangements for local government and general elections and whether the conditions necessary for these have been attained. It will also address more mundane things like the method of payment for scrutineers, something that created deep divisions in the opposition ranks for the 2006 general election. It is important that APNU and the AFC be properly represented in this arena.
Now that Mr Granger has made his choice of someone who is not a nominee of the AFC he will have to go the extra mile to ensure that in the absence of direct representation on GECOM, the AFC’s concerns will still be taken on board. At the minimum there should be regular meetings between the commissioners and a joint team from the APNU and the AFC. While the commissioners deliberate at GECOM in their own right they draw their authority from the nominations that were made by the opposition and therefore must take the concerns of these stakeholders into account.
Last November, the two opposition nominees did not interface at all with a concerned public about important issues such as the delay in the release of the election results, incidents at polling places and the infamous meeting of commissioners which nearly led to the public announcement of a Parliamentary majority for the PPP/C. There is nothing about the work of GECOM that should remain shrouded because of the claimed sensitivity of discussions. The people have a right to know.
Particularly because of the numerous questions that are now being raised about a snap election, whether GECOM will be able to adequately discharge this task, fiscal autonomy and requirements for more electoral reforms, it is highly recommended that the Leader of the Opposition seek to arrange a regular interface between the opposition-nominated commissioners and the general public. One would hope that the commissioners nominated by the ruling party would feel similarly inclined.
It is left to be seen how committed APNU is to sweeping reform of GECOM and implementing recommendations for improving the electoral process. The PPP/C will clearly not be interested but can surely be engaged in negotiations over the more important changes. As we have argued for many years now, the political representation on the commission has to be substituted with people who will be able to discharge their functions without having to be concerned about undue pressure from the politicians. (SN Editorial)