Op-ed: As Guyana's constitution reform commission begins work, electoral reform must be a priority

By Desmond Thomas, 11 June
Parliament of Guyana (photo credit: David Stanley via flickr)
Parliament of Guyana (photo credit: David Stanley via flickr)
A longstanding, deeply-rooted demand from Guyana’s civil society got a boost recently when President Irfaan Ali swore in the Constitution Reform Commission. This 21-member group will now review the country’s charter and legal foundation, including a crucial assessment of the electoral system. It’s a daunting task for any society—and one made more pressing and sensitive by Guyana’s ethnic-based political polarization. [ . . . ] The agenda for constitutional reform is extensive, but the Electoral Reform Group (ERG), a civil society organization advocating for constitutional reform, which I co-founded in 2020, urges that electoral reform should come first. Guyana must change how it elects its leaders to establish governance structures that foster constructive political engagement consistent with a multi-ethnic, multicultural society. In December 2022, the National Assembly passed government-proposed amendments to the Representation of the People Act, focusing on tightening the functioning of the existing election regulations and raising the penalties for violations. Electoral reform must address the governance architecture to establish a stabler, more constructive system that better uses the country’s considerable human and natural resources. It must strengthen inclusivity and the accountability of members of parliament to constituents, install adequate checks and balances among the executive, judicial, and legislative arms, and moderate the powers and immunities of the president in line with democratic norms. Such changes require amendments to the Constitution that can only be approved by a two-thirds parliamentary majority vote in favor or, failing that, a national referendum.
Read the full article here: Americas Quarterly

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