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Guyana Opposition Leader Critical Of GECOM Chairman; Insists Elections Must Be Held Before November

Guyana Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, at recent news conference. Photo credit: CMC.

Guyana Opposition Leader Critical Of GECOM Chairman; Insists Elections Must Be Held Before November

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, March 21, 2019 (CMC) – Leader of the official Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo, yesterday, criticised the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) over its position that fresh regional and general elections could not be held, here, until “late November”, this year.

Speaking at his weekly news conference, here, yesterday, Jagdeo said that the letter, written by GECOM chairman, retired Justice James Patterson, to President David Granger, on Tuesday, informing him about the possible time-table for the polls, was meant to give the executive an excuse for further delaying the elections.

Jagdeo, who is also the General Secretary of the Peoples’ Progressive Party-Civic (PPP-C), has been calling for the polls to be held, no later than March 21, following the December 21, 2018 motion of no confidence that he successfully tabled in the National Assembly.

Under the Guyana Constitution, the elections had to be held 90 days, after the motion was carried, but GECOM, which had initially said it would not have been able to meet the deadline, had then suggested a date in July.

Jagdeo told reporters he was confident that the polls could still have been held by March 21, and that the letter from Patterson provided Granger with an excuse to further delay the exercise.

“This letter was a carefully contrived letter, just before the expiration of the constitutional life of the government, to give President Granger an excuse and out, to say it is not me, it is GECOM, which he has been saying, all along, and look, now we have them saying they can’t hold elections until November; so the opposition is being unreasonable. It is not us, it is GECOM that is delaying the polls,” Jagdeo told reporters.

In the letter, dated March 19, to President Granger, the GECOM chairman wrote that “I would proffer that the Commission would be in a position to conduct General and Regional Elections, no earlier than late November, with an Official List of Electors having a qualifying date of 31st October 2019.”

Patterson also indicated that funds were needed for GECOM to hold credible elections, saying that he has been advised, by the “Chief Elections Officer, that given all our current considerations, an amount of three and a half billion Guyana dollars is required”.

Patterson also made reference to the electoral list, noting that he has been informed by the Chief Elections Officer and the Commissioner of Registration that “given the current time and operational status, it would be a logistically impossibility for the Commission’s Secretariat to produce a list, with a qualifying date of 30th April 2019, which could be available for 1st May, 2019”.

“Accordingly, the Secretariat’s submission to the Commission, all viable options for the availability of an electoral list, are anchored in a qualifying date of 31st October 2019, which lists cannot be used before 1st November 2019”.

But Jagdeo said that the plans for house-to-house registration was just another ruse to delay the polls.

“Elections can be held. The house-to-house registration now, is just an excuse to delay the elections. It will not enhance transparency or voters’ rights, but it is just being used to delay the elections,” he said, adding that the inclusion of house-to-house registration in the latest GECOM timeline, is something that will not receive the support of the main opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP).

“Without house-to-house registration, elections could be held in a short period…all you have to do is extend the validity of this list and then have the elections, within two months or so”, he said.

“We are in a crisis, we are approaching a constitutional crisis, it cannot be business as usual. The PPP wants the government to respect the constitution and call elections, early.

“We are not going to have them push the elections to the end of the year or next year,” Jagdeo added.

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