Carter Center Encourages Patience and Peace as Guyana Awaits Election Results

Read the preliminary statement (PDF)

GEORGETOWN (March 4, 2020) — In a preliminary statement released today, The Carter Center commended the people of Guyana for their participation in the March 2 election and encouraged all Guyanese to remain patient and peaceful as GECOM finalizes the results.  

Because the election process is still ongoing, this statement reflects only preliminary findings of observations through March 3. It does not provide an overall assessment, which can only happen after the process is completed. Carter Center observers continue to observe the tabulation process, with teams at the Georgetown tabulation center around the clock. The Center may issue additional reports in the days ahead. A comprehensive final report will be released in the coming months.

At this juncture, it is especially important that political parties and observers witness the Guyana Election Commission’s processes of tabulation and finalization of results to ensure transparency. GECOM has made progress in tabulating results, but the process may still take some time to complete. Only GECOM has the authority to declare results. In the days to come, the Center urges the key political leaders to act responsibly and in the interest of all Guyana’s people, consistent with the spirit of the code of conduct signed by all parties. It is important that any disputes be addressed through appropriate legal channels.  

The statement’s key findings include:

Voting and Counting:

The Center’s 41 observers conducted 220 observations in polling stations across all 10 regions, in addition to observing the advance voting for disciplined forces that took place on Feb. 21. Carter Center observers reported that voting and counting processes were largely well-organized and peaceful, and assessed the implementation of voting procedures as positive, with only occasional inadequacies. GECOM’s polling staff seemed well-trained on polling procedures and exhibited professionalism throughout the day. Carter Center observers noted that polling staff were less confident in the application of counting procedures. 

Observers encountered political party scrutineers in all of the stations they observed, which provided an important level of transparency. In 95 percent of the stations observed, The Carter Center assessed the performance of political party scrutineers as positive.

In some areas, particularly Region 4, The Carter Center observed the presence of campaigning and campaign materials within 200 yards of polling stations, which violates the law. In addition, observers noted the presence of information desks operated by the two major political parties in regions 4, 7, 9, and 10, particularly in Georgetown. The Carter Center heard some complaints in Georgetown about the presence of these tents within 200 yards of polling stations.

Electoral Administration:

GECOM utilized its strong base of electoral expertise to conduct well-managed voting-day operations. The voting and counting processes were generally well-prepared and logistically sound.

The method of appointment of GECOM commissioners was based on a recommendation former U.S. President Jimmy Carter made for the 1992 election that has come to be known as the “Carter Formula” and was later integrated into the constitution. The formula gives GECOM a partisan structure that has resulted in a highly polarized and sometimes ineffective board of commissioners. It also advantages the major parties and excludes newer parties. The Carter Center reiterates a recommendation made in multiple prior reports that Guyana consider adjusting GECOM’s structure to increase its independence, effectiveness, and professionalism.

GECOM also would benefit from taking steps to provide greater transparency. Its decision-making processes were carried out in closed-door meetings, and few decisions were publicly explained. This consistently inhibited the commission’s credibility, unnecessarily reducing confidence in the process. In the future, GECOM should adopt a public relations plan to increase the transparency of the commission’s work.

Voter Registration:

The voter register has been a source of controversy throughout the election period. The Carter Center closely followed the development of the final voter register and steps by the secretariat to try to produce a voter register that was comprehensive, reliable, and accurate. Carter Center observations on election day indicate that GECOM’s efforts to compile the list appear to have been successful.

A total of 660,988 registered voters were on the final roll, an increase of 15.5 percent from the 2015 election. The increase in registered voters from 2011 to 2015 was similar in absolute terms – approximately 90,000 voters. The number of registered voters seems disproportionate to Guyana’s estimated population. The Carter Center recommends that before the next election the government reassess and overhaul both the process and the technology used to create and manage the voter registration database.

Preparations for Election Day:

Generally, preparations for polling day went smoothly and were carried out on schedule. In advance of the election, The Carter Center observed the training of poll workers in several locations across the country, and in all cases assessed the training positively.

In the preelection period, some questioned the reduction of polling places in private residences, which the opposition felt was implemented in a discriminatory manner. The issue was resolved, but only a few days before the election. Some stakeholders linked this issue to Carter Center reporting and recommendations from 2015. The Carter Center noted in its 2015 report that 166 polling stations were located in private buildings and residences and suggested that GECOM ensure that citizens can cast their ballots in a neutral environment. While The Carter Center stands by this recommendation, we note that the use of private buildings may be necessary in some areas and does not necessarily undermine public confidence in the process. Regardless, the debate about this issue contributed to delays in the finalization of the list of polling stations. In the future, any changes to polling locations should be completed well in advance of election day. 


The Carter Center urges Guyana’s political leaders to commit to reform the “winner-takes-all” election system currently in use. They should make critical issues of constitutional reform an urgent priority  and commit to completing key reforms well before the next general election.

About the Mission:

Following a letter of invitation from the government of Guyana, the Center formally launched its international electoral observation mission in early January by deploying a core team of four international experts and six long-term observers. They were joined in late February by a delegation of Center staff from Atlanta and short-term observers co-led by Aminata Touré, former prime minister of Senegal, and Jason Carter, chairperson of The Carter Center Board of Trustees. The Center will remain in Guyana to observe tabulation and the resolution of any legal disputes.

Guyana General Election Preliminary Statement, March 4, 2020 (PDF)


Contact: In Atlanta, Soyia Ellison,

The Carter Center
Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope.
A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in over 80 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; and improving mental health care. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide.