GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Friday, January 10, 2020 (CMC) – At least 19 political parties are expected to nominate candidates for the March 2 regional and general elections, today, with at least one presidential hopeful calling for a Presidential debate.
The four-hour process for nominating candidates is due to begin at 1.00 pm (local time), and each of the political parties will submit the individual lists of candidates, for the election of a President, members of the National Assembly and members of the Regional Democratic Councils, to the Chief Elections Officer.
Political observers say the elections will be a straight fight between the ruling coalition, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance For Change (AFC) and the main opposition People’s Progressive Party-Civic (PPP-C).
President Granger, the coalition’s nominee for the presidential contest, will be challenged by the PPP-C’s Irfaan Ali, a former housing minister in the last PPP-C administration.
But Robert Badal, who is leading the newly-formed Change Guyana (CG) into the elections, is calling for a presidential debate, saying that voters need to know the positions of the candidates, given that Guyana has come into significant wealth as a result of the recent oil discoveries.
“It is now for the people of Guyana to see, look into the profile of each presidential candidate and their team, and evaluate who is the best person to lead this country,” Badal told reporters.
“They should look at the policies of each party, the ability of its leader to lead the country, to bring about changes in the ethnic composition and to accelerate the development of Guyana, around oil, by improving all sectors of our economy.
“I, Robert Badal, am prepared to debate any or all of the presidential candidates at any time convenient, and I am calling on President Granger and the PPP-C candidate…to accept this invitation. I would want it to be monitored by independent persons in the region, so that we could have a very good debate,” he said.
Badal said the importance of the debate is to allow the Guyanese voter “to move away from the ethnic pattern of voting, and look at the person and policies who are best able to take our country forward”.
Meanwhile, on the eve of the nomination day exercise, Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, told a news conference that the PPP-C was not satisfied with some of the decisions, undertaken by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) in the lead-up to the polls.
He told reporters that the party was concerned, at the move by GECOM, to begin a process to correct the information contained on the Revised Voters List to include information, gathered during the house-to-house registration.
Jagdeo said he was disappointed with some of the decisions being made by the GECOM Chair, retired jurist, Claudette Singh.
“I nominated the Chair, but this is unbelievable with how the decision is made, outside of the statute, this is a statute-based election, you can’t change things,” Jagdeo said, referring to the decision to include information, gathered from the house-to-house process, on the revised list.
But GECOM said that while it stopped the house-to-house registration exercise to prepare for the elections, the Chief Justice had ruled that the exercise was not illegal.
Jagdeo, who is calling on the observer delegations to visit Guyana earlier than they had planned to, said that he remains concerned that there could now be serious flaws that would question the fairness of the elections.
“First of all, the house-to-house registration was truncated, that meant that it had to stop for a reason, it was not serving its purpose, they strangely insisted that they will be a merger of the data… now if something is stopped for a purpose illegally, why should the data gathered from those people, who had a chance to register.
“Finally, we get to the PLE (Preliminary List of Electors). The PLE was extracted, we had a claim and objections period for 42 days towards the end of the claims and on objection, they just dump the data on the population without an order,” Jagdeo said, accusing the GECOM Chair of pleasing the government, by siding with its nominated commissioners.