The constitution provides for free elections, a secret ballot,
and universal suffrage for citizens over the age of eighteen.
Voting for the National Assembly is indirect, with voters casting
ballots for lists of candidates rather than for individuals. Seats
are then apportioned by an Elections Commission on the basis of the
percentage each list receives. There is no minimum percentage
required for a party to win a seat in the assembly. National
elections must be held if the executive president dissolves the
National Assembly or no more than five years after a new assembly
has been elected. However, the constitution of 1980 allows the
executive president to postpone national elections in one-year
increments for up to five years.
Despite constitutional guarantees of fair elections, every
election since the early 1960s has been tainted by charges of
fraud. The most blatant alleged abuse has concerned the votes of
expatriate Guyanese. The electoral system allows overseas Guyanese
to vote. The number of overseas Guyanese has been said to be
inflated, however, and returns have always heavily favored the PNC.
Voting districts have been gerrymandered, and the army frequently
has been accused of tampering with ballot boxes and breaking up
(see Involvement in Political Affairs
, ch. 5).
Electoral fraud appeared to diminish during the Hoyte
administration. Opposition groups continued to pressure the
government to reform the electoral process. In 1991 the executive
president agreed to require the use of metal ballot boxes that are
less easily tampered with and to permit the Elections Commission to
operate more freely. The commission was given the task of producing
a new voter list, but by 1991 had failed to do so, prompting the
president to declare a state of emergency and postpone national
Data as of January 1992