• First of all, I wish to reaffirm the support of the Organization of American States (OAS) and its member states for the upcoming elections on August 28. As Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza has stated, “these elections represent a critical step in the country’s political and democratic development.”
• The OAS commends all the stakeholders in this process:
o the government and people of Guyana for facilitating the activities leading up to elections and making responsible compromises to allow the electoral process to move forward;
o the electoral authorities for achieving significant milestones in order to realize these elections;
o political parties for maintaining a responsible civil discourse and refraining from inflammatory language;
o civil society for accepting the responsibility to assist with voter education and to accompany the political process as observers; and
o the media for responsible reporting.
• The OAS has been accompanying the electoral process since November 2005 when the government of Guyana issued an invitation for the OAS to observe elections. The OAS has had long-term electoral observers in Guyana since early May 2006. This was complemented by four visits from the political leadership of the OAS. During this time, the OAS has directly engaged with electoral authorities, government, political parties, civil society, the media, and security forces.
• The OAS electoral observer team is now fully present in Guyana. The team is comprised of 123 observers from 24 countries. 60 observers arrived over the last couple of days from abroad and will work jointly with 60 volunteers from locally based diplomatic missions. The OAS will also be collaborating closely with other international and domestic observer teams.
• Later today, the OAS will be conducting a training session for international election observers and will conduct a similar session on Saturday for the locally based volunteers. The training session will reinforce standard operating procedures for OAS electoral observer missions, and review voting procedures and communication logistics, among other issues. The Chairman and the Chief Electoral Officer of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) will also address the observers at the start of the training session.
• Observers will be deployed in all 10 regions and will be present at the opening and closing of the polls, during the counting of ballots, as well as during the tabulation at the offices of the Deputy Returning Officers.
• In addition to observation headquarters in Georgetown, the OAS has established two regional offices in Regions III and VI with staffing of 22 and 12 observers respectively. The Region III regional office will cover Regions II, III and VII.
o Two teams will operate in Regions I and VIII respectively.
o 24 teams will operate from Georgetown, covering Regions IV and X. All polling stations in this region will be visited.
o Six teams will operate in Region V and VI respectively.
o Two teams will operate in Region IX.
o In total, observers expect to visit over 50% of polling stations on election day.
• The OAS is encouraged by the current political climate; the calls by political parties and civil society to focus on national issues, unity and responsible campaigning; the conducting of peaceful political rallies. We note that the security environment still requires alertness and consistent action to guarantee an environment that is conducive to the holding of free and fair elections. In this regard, we have been informed by law enforcement authorities that procedures are in place to contribute to support a peaceful climate on Monday, 28 August.
• The climate on the day of elections and in the period immediately following will be influenced by a number of key factors including:
o Effective, efficient and non-partisan performance of their duties by the 12,000+ GECOM officials;
o A demonstration of responsible leadership and statesmanship by political leaders;
o The diligence, visibility and quick response capability of police and the disciplined forces;
o The political maturity of the electorate in exercising their vote in a calm and orderly manner;
o The prompt reporting of election results; and
o The willingness to accept and respect the outcome of the elections by political parties and society at large.
• Elections are an important element in strengthening democracy, and promoting governance and governability. The right to vote is a fundamental right of citizens in a democratic society. I urge the people of Guyana to exercise their democratic right on election day by going out to vote on Monday, August 28 and urge all actors and all segments of society to respect this right and to support the peaceful holding of elections.