There is a grave threat to the legacy of universal suffrage in Guyana. Indeed, recent events have exposed the dark side of Guyana’s electoral process and shows how elections as a matter of free speech may no longer exist.
When I grew up as a teen under the illegal rule of Mr. Forbes Burnham and the PNC during the eighties, elections seemed a waste of tax and time. We had illusions instead of free and fair election.
Today, the illusions and worse shall return if all of the rights assured to voters by the Constitution, as opposed to some, are not fully enjoyed. Most voters may not have been involved in the electoral fraud witnessed, but all will be consumed by its aftermath—or the death of free and fair elections as an exercise in representational government.
People truly have a right to organize into political parties and contest in an electoral process. But there is no right to participate in and a right to undermine such a process simultaneously. Manipulation is not participation.
Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of any democracy. Electors must be allowed to vote and organize a government of their choice freely. The electors cannot have one right but not the other.
Everyone especially the international community must ensure that voters are afforded a complete opportunity to enjoy all and not just some of their voting rights. A right to vote, a right to a transparent count, and a right to form a government of their choice.
These rights when fully enjoyed create a basis upon which a parliament is to exist and self-rule is to occur in Guyana’s fragile democracy. Said another way, there is no substitute for this democracy. It may appear to be harsh but its alternative is worse.
Therefore, the public must not compromise on any of their voting rights, and be vigilant against any negotiation that will result in their erosion. Any reduction of voting rights will send a loud message that elections are now useless and fraud is acceptable.
Further, once voting rights start to erode there will likely be a rapid decline of all other rights, including a right to own property. If voting rights go, it will be a green light to anarchy.
In other words, as a famous Irish poet stated in his Second Coming, “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”
Once anarchy comes, there may not be a “second coming” or spiritual revival for Guyana.