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Carter Center to Observe Guyana Elections

ATLANTA, GA...The Carter Center announced today it will observe Guyana's Parliamentary elections scheduled for March 19, 2001. A field office for the project will be opened soon to organize pre-election observation activities and prepare for deployment of a 30-person team on election day.

After receiving an invitation from the Government of Guyana to observe the 2001 elections, the Center sent a three-person team to Guyana last October to assess the status of electoral preparations and to learn the views of parties, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), and other groups, all of which welcomed the Center's involvement in the elections.

"This election will be a critical step in the consolidation of Guyana's democracy, which has faced challenges since the transitional 1992 election," said former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who will head the delegation in March. "We hope the presence of international observers, including a team from The Carter Center, will build confidence in the process."

In 1991-92, The Carter Center monitored the electoral process in Guyana and mediated the historic October 1992 elections. From 1993-1994, the Center also assisted the Elections Commission in developing recommendations for electoral reforms.

Following disputes about the last elections held in December 1997, it was agreed that new elections would take place no later than Jan. 17, 2001, followingcomprehensive constitutional reforms. Last month, however, the parties agreed to postpone the elections until March 19, after GECOM announced that it would not be possible to hold elections by Jan. 17.

"Our goal as international observers is to demonstrate the support of the international community and to facilitate an electoral process that meets international standards and is accepted as legitimate by all the major parties," said Dr. David Carroll, associate director of the Center's Democracy Program.

The Carter Center plans to open an election observation field office and to have four pre-election observers in place by early February to report on technical preparations for the vote, including completion of registration lists, campaigning, and resolution of outstanding procedural disputes.

A nongovernmental organization that advances peace and health worldwide, The Carter Center has observed some 30 elections in 20 countries. Since 1992, the Center has undertaken a major effort to help Guyana consolidate its new democracy, including projects in electoral reform, human rights, environmental preservation, and planning for long-term economic development.

Funding for the Center's electoral observation project in Guyana is being provided by The Ashcroft Foundation, which was established by the British businessman and philanthropist Michael A. Ashcroft. A charitable foundation, it supports enterprise through promotion of education, development, and human knowledge. Said its founder and chairman of trustees, Lord Ashcroft, "I have a strong personal commitment to the Caribbean region and am delighted that The Ashcroft Foundation is able to support the work of The Carter Center through this important project."

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