More Links in News & Events

Postelection Statement on Guyana Elections, March 20, 2001

GEORGETOWN, GUYANA... The Carter Center would like to commend the Guyanese people for their conduct and participation in yesterday's elections and present this preliminary statement on the electoral process.

The delegation is co-led by former president Jimmy Carter, Rosalynn Carter, and former Prime Minister Sir Lloyd Erskine Sandiford of Barbados. The observation mission was invited by the government of Guyana and the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM). The delegation included 44 observers from 10 countries.

The Carter Center has been active in Guyana for more than a decade, and our activities for the 2001 election began in October of 2000. An advance team visited Guyana in October to assess the status of electoral preparations and to learn the views of political parties, GECOM, and other groups.

The Center opened an election observation field office in February to support a team of six medium-term observers (MTOs). The MTOs monitored pre-election technical preparations for the vote, including the preparation of the voters list, production and distribution of National ID cards, training of elections officials, and voter education. In addition, they observed the campaign activities of the political parties and monitored the media for its impact on the political environment in which these elections would take place.

The election observation mission arrived on March 15 and joined the Carter Center MTOs to form 25 teams that deployed to all 10 regions of Guyana. On election day, these teams visited 401 polling sites of the 1,892 total polling stations. Although the voting is now over, the Center will continue to observe the counting and tabulation process throughout the country. The delegation will issue its final report in the coming weeks, but we can present the following preliminary findings. These remarks are confined to our observations on the electoral process leading up to opening of polls, casting of ballots, and poll closings. Since the process of vote tabulation is ongoing, it is too early to evaluate the election as a whole. Ultimately, the Guyanese people will judge the electoral process and its outcome.

The electoral process was generally peaceful and orderly throughout the country and delegations reported a high turnout in all regions. The delegation found citizens eagerly but patiently waiting in many areas, sometimes in long lines, to exercise their right to vote.

Opening of polls
The delegation visited 20 sites for opening and found either no irregularities or minor irregularities at each of these polling stations, which by and large opened on time. In the cases where minor irregularities were reported, observers found a shortage of materials or the late arrival of polling officials.

Polling officials were professional, well organized, and impartial. Delegates reported that the vast majority of polling sites had polling agents from the two major political parties. Also, domestic and other international observers were encountered throughout the country. Of the 378 polling stations observed, teams found no or minor irregularities in 98 percent of the sites.

The most common area of concern was the voters list. GECOM has stated the list is 95 percent accurate, leaving a five percent margin of error. All political parties have expressed concerns about the accuracy of the final voters list. The limited Carter Center observation data has to date not shown major systematic irregularities in the list. The observers reported some voters claimed to have registered but could not find their names on either the Official List of Electors or the Addendum. It is difficult to ascertain the magnitude of this issue at this point, given that there are no uniform mechanisms for tracking these complaints.

The closing of polls and ballot count. Nearly all of the Carter Center observation teams reported confusion at the closing of polling stations. Many polling officials received instructions through GECOM personnel, the media, or others to allow voting after the scheduled closing time of 6:00 p.m. Some polls that had been closed were reopened. Delegations deployed in Georgetown reported a rush of individuals during this period at some polling stations, while delegates in other regions reported few or no voters during this period. Without clear instructions from GECOM, polling officials were uncertain whether to allow further voting or to proceed with closing and the tabulation of results.

Carter Center teams observed the counting and tabulation of ballots at 21 sites throughout the country. Delegates reported significant error only at one polling station. The teams found that the administrative process during closing made the vote count extremely slow at most of the sites observed.

While these elections are an important and necessary element of Guyana's democratic process, they are not sufficient alone to solve the problems nor heal the wounds in Guyana's divided society. It is clear that Guyana's biggest challenge is to develop the kind of constitutional and electoral institutions and arrangements which will further political and ethnic reconciliation.

The Carter Center believes that regardless of who wins these elections, it would help the cause of national unity if all Guyanese would recommit themselves to working and living together in peace and mutual respect, develop inclusive institutions of governance, and build a civil society that supports constructive political relations. This delegation has heard from Guyanese from across the length and breadth of the country. They have a clear desire to complete the constitutional reform process, pursue national reconciliation, strengthen an independent civil society, institutionalize permanent electoral reforms, deepen the rule of law, reform the media, especially the state media, and ensure that development is equitable and includes all ethnic groups.

Donate Now

Sign Up For Email

Please sign up below for important news about the work of The Carter Center and special event invitations.

Please leave this field empty
Now, we invite you to Get Involved
Back To Top