Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.

Guyana Holds National and Regional Elections, Local Partner Fields Observers

“This is the first time I have received a recognition certificate of anything in my whole life. Thank you.”

Powerful words echoed by a 63-year-old Guyanese election observer as he received a certificate of appreciation from IRI and its local election monitoring partner, the Electoral Assistance Bureau (EAB) for his participation in the domestic observation mission of the May 11, 2015 national and regional vote. His comment reflects the fact that domestic observation is overshadowed by international missions that arrive in countries with multi-national delegations; trademarked hats or vests; and post-election reports that hit international press.

While such efforts are important, domestic monitoring groups are both developing and strengthening their observation presence, having a vested interest in the democratic processes of their country and the ability to field hundreds more observers than most international election observer missions. In fact, on Election Day, EAB fielded 750 local observers in polling stations across nine of Guyana’s ten administrative regions. EAB’s success was prefaced with an intense, pre-electoral effort to hire coordinators for each region, recruit observers, and hold trainings across the country. Responsibilities fell largely on the Regional Coordinators, who, prior to Election Day, reached out to volunteers, designed and organized trainings that covered what to expect and how to collect data.

During the vote, these observers provided thorough and accurate accounts, while spending over 12 hours at polling stations and witnessing the voting process from the opening of the station, assessment of the voting at midday, the closing of the poll, and the ballot count. Familiar with the political culture and territory, these local observers were able to see many things that might pass unnoticed by outsiders and are able to adapt to unforeseen circumstances. In most cases, the EAB observers were warmly welcomed by voters and election officials and were thus able to gather more detailed information through their interactions.

Perhaps most important is the vested interest domestic monitors displayed in their own electoral system, which led them to creatively and quickly resolve  problems that arose. For example, when delivery of accreditation badges occurred late the night before the election, EAB’s coordinators traveled throughout the region to get them to observers. When it turned out that there were not enough badges for all of them, letters of accreditation were emailed to coordinators and hand-delivered to some of the observers. 

The citizen who expressed his appreciation for the opportunity to serve as a domestic election observer symbolized the spirit of many of who were on their feet for more than 24 hours straight on Election Day, arriving at polls at 4:30 am—many not even having gone to bed the night before and then watching ballot counts late the next night. Their dedication deserves recognition and is emblematic of their strong belief in their country’s voting process and seeing the most basic building block of any democracy laid freely and fairly.  

Posted by

Stacie Brown

Assistant Program Officer, Latin America and Caribbean Division