CHF's Paula Richardson (far left) with fellow election monitors.

 


CHF Staff Monitors Guyana Election

On August 28, the day of Guyana’s elections, CHF’s Paula Richardson got up at 4:00 a.m. and met with her fellow monitors – one from Brazil, the other from Suriname. Eating breakfast en route, she and her colleagues drove to a central polling station on the mainland. After making sure the polls opened on time there, the team of three drove quickly to the coast.

By 7 a.m., they were hopping into an 80 horsepower motorboat to travel to their next poll. Thirty minutes later, they arrived at Leguan Island, a small island on the Essiquibo River where about 2,000 people lived.

Leguan Island was just one of the 22 polling stations scattered among small islands along the Essiquibo River, which Paula and the team monitored during election day. As part of a larger Electoral Observation Mission run by the Organization for American States, Paula was one of 123 voluntary observers from 24 countries monitoring an election that was potentially volatile.

“We spoke with voters, election officials and police officers to take specific notes on procedures and problems,” Paula explains. “We provided a systematized method of reporting observations from the field that covered each stage of the election, from the opening of the polls to the closing, from the counting of the votes to the transmission of results."

Because of Paula’s extensive experience working in Guyana, especially with CHF’s project supporting sugar co-operatives, she was suitably familiar with both the cultural and geographic landscape of the country. When the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) approached CHF to find out if we had anyone available to help with the elections, Paula was an obvious choice.

"Igreatly appreciate the opportunity to have taken part in Guyana’s strive towards peaceful democracy,” explains Paula. “The unprecedented orderly conduct of the polls, and commitment and professionalism displayed by all involved, signifies an important step towards the country’s vibrant future.”