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Guyana - 1992 - Presidential Election

Guyana President-Elect Cheddi Jagan with Jeff Fischer
Guyana President-Elect Cheddi Jagan with Jeff Fischer

Before 1992, the Guyanese elections were jointly administered by two agencies, the Guyana Elections Commission and the National Registration Commission. The former had the responsibility of setting electoral policy and governing the electoral process, and the latter had the responsibility of providing voter registration services, issuing identification cards, and maintaining the voters' list. The Elections Commission was a seven-member body composed of four ruling and three opposition party representatives. However, the head of the NRC held both the title of Commissioner of Registration and Chief Electoral Officer. Under a 1992 election reform, both agencies were consolidated into a single unit, with the Chairman of the Elections Commission in charge of the merged operation. The election operation involved nearly 500,000 voters and 1,200 polling stations. Before the 1992 elections, election assistance had never been provided to either Commission.

Despite the ten-month postponement and the assistance programs, the election was placed in serious jeopardy on election day by a violent attack on the headquarters of the Election Commission in Georgetown. Around midday, several hundred people gathered outside the Election Commission building. They chanted anti-Commission slogans and began hurling stones and bricks at the facility. Nonessential staff were evacuated from the building, as the headquarters were protected by only a handful of unarmed constables.

After several hours of rioting around the Election Commission and other parts of Georgetown, the Guyanese military was called at the behest of former President Jimmy Carter and order was restored. Despite this eruption, the international observers deemed the election free and fair, and Dr. Cheddi Jagan was elected president of Guyana. 

Jeff Fischer was an advisor to the Elections Commission through a consultancy with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES). Listen to the recording above for his story.

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