December 1 ,2020
Even though the People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C) administration has committed to increasing the penalties for the masterminds and accomplices involved in election rigging schemes, former House Speaker and politician, Ralph Ramkarran posits that this is not enough.
In his most recent writings, Ramkarran argued that actions must be taken now to ensure the possibility of this act being committed in the future is slim to none while adding that the administration has the power to make the voting system rigging proof. He said that it does not even require the Opposition to get this done.
Expounding further, Ramkarran said the government should move to implement a mixed system of elections which allows voting by first past the post with a number of top-up seats to award to political parties in order to address the issue of disproportionality. The Chairman of A New and United Guyana said that the Constitution Reform Commission made this very proposal in 1999-2001. He said that the PPP and PNC/R discussed its implementation for the 2001 elections but because of the lack of time, there was no opportunity to agree to the demarcation of constituencies and other necessary measures. He said, “They, therefore, agreed that there should be 10 constituencies based on the regional boundaries and after the elections, efforts would be made to have discussions. None ever took place.”
Ramkarran went on to note that the electoral list is 500,000 in round figures while adding that the Constitution as it stands allows for half the seats to be contested in constituencies. Assuming half to be 33, the politician said that each constituency would have approximately 15,000 votes. He said that reducing the number of constituencies from the 10 regions to 33, eliminating the centralized counting systems and reporting duties by returning officers, and other minor reforms, will reduce, if not eliminate the possibility of the type of rigging efforts that took place earlier this year.
Ramkarran contended that while there has already been political agreement on this matter since 2001, there is no certainty that in the current heated atmosphere which is likely to continue for some time, that any civil discourse, much less agreement, is likely.
Be that as it may, he said that the Government does not need to rely on the Opposition for these changes. Ramkarran said that the Constitution already provides the framework. “All that is needed is to amend the Representation of the People Act for which the Government has the votes…,” the seasoned lawyer stated.