Volume 45 No. 2 – Special Issue
The historical configurations of socio-economic, cultural, constitutional and other institutional choices of nation-states have been a source of, and outcome of, power struggles. While every post-independence election in the country posed distinct possibilities for electoral violence given the failings of national integration, the March 2, 2020 elections proved to be one of the most contentious, and was not resolved until August 2, 2020, some five months later. It is important to chronicle events in the history of the region and the 2020 election because its contested nature represents one of those events worthy of recording and analysing. This special issue of the Journal of Eastern Caribbean Studies (JECS) assesses from a political, legal and sociological perspective the 2020 Guyanese elections.
In this issue
The 2020 Guyana Elections: Guest Editors’ Note
Pages: 1-4Author(s): Cynthia Barrow-Giles and Ronnie R. F. Yearwood
The Judicialisation of Elections in Guyana: A Case Study of the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections
Pages: 5-32Author(s): Cynthia Barrow-Giles, Ronnie R.F. Yearwood (The University of the West Indies, BARBADOS)
This article examines the extent to which it can be argued that the March 2020 election in Guyana signals the saliency of the judiciary into the elections. Based on an analysis of the factors surrounding the March 2, 2020 general and regional elections in Guyana, we argue that resort to the courts by political parties to address political conflicts is an example of the use by political parties of the decision-making power of the courts over matters which traditionally have been resolved by political actors. While a significant body of work exists on the judicialisation of politics, no study has yet to systematically interrogate the judicialisation of politics broadly speaking and specifically electoral politics in the Commonwealth Caribbean and the use of the courts by political actors for politics. The article will focus on eight high profile cases in Guyana beginning in 2018 to July 2020. This article therefore contributes to the body of knowledge by questioning the increasing significance of courts in elections in Guyana as seen through the developments preceding and following the March 2, 2020 elections.
Keywords: judicialisation of politics, Guyana, Caribbean, elections, courts, GECOM, elections commission
Social Structure and Institutional Incongruity: The Background of Guyana’s 2020 Elections Impasse
Pages: 33-59Author(s): Duane Edwards (University of Guyana, GUYANA )
The March 2, 2020 election in Guyana pushed the country to the brink of social conflict. The elections have confirmed the fears of many expressed in the public sphere and in academia that the country’s transition to a petroleum economy could spell disaster rather than development if the main fault lines in the country are not sufficiently bridged. This paper provides a descriptive outline of Guyana’s social structure using information provided by various data sources. It demonstrates that the nature of Guyana’s social substructure, that is, the specific way in which various bases of division coincide with each other, predisposes the country to conflicts along ethnic lines by providing heavily stacked, readily available communities amenable to political manipulation. It also discusses the way the two main institutional domains, namely economy and polity exacerbate rather than mitigate the social rifts engendered by a conflict generating social substructure. Finally, it proposes the kinds of intervention necessary if Guyana is to transition from a conflict-generating social system to one that favours solidarity among the various ethnic groups.
Keywords: ethnic conflict, Guyana, institutions, social structure, sociology of race and ethnicity
GECOM and the 2020 General and Regional Elections in Guyana: Constitutional Powerhouse or Political Powerlessness?
Pages: 60-81Author(s): Ronnie R. F. Yearwood and Cynthia Barrow-Giles (The University of the West Indies, BARBADOS)
The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is a remarkably young institution in a nation which has held reasonably democratic elections prior to independence but with increasing difficulties over the years. Given evidence of manifest electoral manipulations, and with the assistance of the regional community and international assistance, the modern Election Management Body, that is, the GECOM was established as the only regulatory body responsible for the conduct of elections. While the GECOM has confronted an agglomeration of issues since its establishment, the March 2, 2020 general and regional elections in Guyana cast grave doubt on the efficacy of the GECOM, which is legally and politically an extremely powerful body, provided with constitutional a plethora of other powers. The weaknesses displayed by the GECOM during the entire election period (extending to the recount period until a final victor was proclaimed on August 2, 2020) suggest that despite the apparent powers of the Commission, it has been rendered ineffectual. This article starts by briefly discussing the factors leading to the establishment of GECOM as a non-partisan election Commission. Next, this article examines the power of GECOM by providing an overview of GECOM’s constitutional status as well as related election law, followed by a brief discussion of GECOM's inadequacy given its power at law. The article then assesses the controversy of the 2020 general and regional elections and the machinations of the various political forces with GECOM’s complicity or inability to manage the outcome of the process in what can only be viewed as political powerlessness. The article concludes by emphasising the importance of having clear procedures for dealing with disputes over electors to ensure the legitimacy of the outcome, and reducing the level of political partisanship at the level of the organisation which may instill confidence in the electoral process.
Keywords: elections commission, GECOM, Guyana, constitution, elections
Political Victimisation in 21st Century Jamaica: Experience and Implication for Democracy
Pages: 82-110Author(s): Lloyd Waller, Gavin Daley, Damion Gordon, Shinique Walters (University of the West Indies, JAMAICA); Stephen Johnson (University of Sussex, UK); Nicola Satchell (State University of New York (SUNY), USA); Donavon Johnson (Florida International University, USA)
This mixed-methods study explored the challenges of political victimisation in Jamaica. More specifically, the study examined the perceptions of Jamaican youth on the topic with specific focus on assessing their knowledge of, experiences with, and fear of political victimisation. The findings of the study indicate that while a vast majority of Jamaican youth believe that political victimisation still exists in Jamaica only a small proportion have themselves been victims of political victimisation, most notably at the community level. An overwhelming majority of Jamaican youth are fearful of expressing their political affiliation publicly due to the fear of being politically victimised.
Keywords: political victimisation, politics, Jamaica, clientelism, youth
Observing Guyana’s March 2020 General and Regional Elections (Commentary)
Pages: 111-131Author(s): Francisco Guerrero and Melene Glynn (Officials of the Organisation of American States (OAS), U.S.A.)
The 2020 General and Regional Elections in Guyana challenged democratic norms and expectations within the Caribbean Community, long regarded as a zone of democracy. Despite an Election Day that was, by all accounts, well-executed on March 2, 2020, questions about the initial verification process in Region Four, along with irregular actions by some electoral officials, cast doubt on the legitimacy of the overall process. The Organisation of American States (OAS), which has observed elections in Guyana since 1997, was engaged with Guyana’s 2020 electoral process from the beginning of the pre-electoral phase until the final results were declared on August 2, 2020. This commentary reviews the issues and developments that occurred in Guyana during the three election phases typically observed by the OAS – the pre-election, Election Day and post-electoral phases.
The 2020 Guyana Election and The Caribbean Court of Justice (Commentary)
Pages: 132-148Author(s): Hamid Ghany (The University of the West Indies, TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO)
The 2020 general election in Guyana was conducted against the backdrop of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) having to determine whether or not the motion of no confidence that brought down the administration of President David Granger on December 21, 2018 was a valid one. After the CCJ ruled that the motion was valid, there was a delay in the implementation of their order on the ground that a complete house-to-house registration be undertaken by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) before a general election could be held. After the election was held on March 2, 2020, there was further litigation that, once again, involved the CCJ, which cleared the way for the declaration of the final results. Without the CCJ, the political transition in Guyana would not have been accomplished because of the positions adopted by the Court of Appeal of Guyana that were overturned by the CCJ. This article will demonstrate how the appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ impacted the political outcome in Guyana.
Democracy in Distress: Documenting Guyana’s Political Crisis: 2018-2020 by Stephen Kissoon (Book Review)
Pages: 149-151Author(s): Duane Edwards
Stephen Kissoon’s book, Democracy in Distress, is no doubt a commendable contribution to Guyana’s political history. The work will serve as a useful one stop for anyone having a general interest in the occurrences around the 2020 General and Regional Elections in Guyana, and a first stop for anyone venturing beyond general interest. Kissoon’s contribution should be taken within the context of a society that is apparently indifferent to compiling any form of compendia. I could recall some years ago in an attempt to compare Guyana with its three CARICOM sisters, namely Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, with respect to the ratio of import to export of published goods, I found that Guyana was the least competitive both in terms of the difference of import and export and volume of imports and exports (Nurse 2007, 91). This signals a comparatively less active writing and literary community in Guyana than that which exists in the other three CARICOM sister countries. Kissoon recognises and refers to this apparent disinterest in the preface of the book.