The Carter Center observer team this afternoon announced it was leaving Guyana.
A statement follows:
Carter Center Mission Departs Guyana but Remains Committed to Observing the Electoral Process and to Supporting Constitutional Reform
ATLANTA (March 20, 2020) — After careful consideration, The Carter Center has withdrawn its electoral experts and international observers from Guyana. The Center remains committed to promoting democracy and constitutional reform in Guyana and is willing to return when the electoral process resumes, assuming international travel is feasible.
The Carter Center made the difficult decision to have the team leave Guyana earlier today after weighing a combination of factors, including the absence of an ongoing electoral process, increasing restrictions on international travel because of COVID-19, and the decline in the security environment in Guyana.
In light of the current injunction and subsequent legal process, there is not currently electoral activity for The Carter Center to observe. The security environment in Georgetown has declined in the wake of the impasse created by the non-transparent tabulation process in Region 4. International observers have been harassed, and protestors supportive of the APNU+AFC coalition have at times blocked international observers from doing their work. Specific threats have also been made against the international community that are unacceptable and further undermine the credibility of the electoral process.
The Center hopes that conditions will be in place for CARICOM to return to Guyana to supervise a national recount. The Carter Center noted the Guyana Election Commission’s (GECOM’s) willingness to support the recount under CARICOM’s supervision and appreciated the measures taken to make that happen. Both the president and the leader of the opposition agreed to the recount process, and GECOM was satisfied with its legality. The Center hopes that that any remaining legal issues hindering the recount can be addressed quickly to avoid further delaying a satisfactory resolution to the electoral process.
Guyana’s electoral process began well. The Carter Center noted that the polling it observed on March 2 was well-administered and reflected international standards for democratic elections. The process was sound and capable of delivering results that credibly reflect the will of the people. Tabulation was well-conducted in nine of 10 regions. In Region 4 – by far the largest region – the credibility of the tabulation process deteriorated when, after some delay, results were announced before the region’s full results were transparently tabulated in the presence of party scrutineers and observers. As a result, The Carter Center and other international election observation groups denounced these results as not credible.
The environment at the GECOM office where the tabulation was being conducted for Region 4 was at times chaotic because of the large number of persons present and the efforts by PPP/C representatives and others to disrupt the declaration of results. Unfortunately, when that process was resumed following litigation and a court order, it still did not comply with expectations set by Guyana’s chief justice and failed to meet international standards. As such, the tabulation process in Region 4 continued to lack credibility.
The Center hopes that the electoral process can still be concluded with credible results and that the will of the Guyanese people – as expressed at the polls on March 2 – will be carried out.
Beyond the election, The Carter Center continues to believe that Guyana’s winner-takes-all system is in need of reform and encourages all parties to commit to national reconciliation and to completing key constitutional reforms in the near future.
The Carter Center has conducted its nonpartisan international election observation work at the invitation of the government of Guyana and in accordance with the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observers. The Carter Center is thankful to the government for extending an invitation to international election observation organizations and would like to thank GECOM Chairperson Claudette Singh for her welcome and openness. She has, thus far, shown great personal commitment to achieving a credible election process.
The Carter Center remains committed to its mandate to observe the entirety of the electoral process and remains on standby to return to Guyana.