Despite CCJ Ruling, Guyana President Says Elections Will Have to Wait for New Voters List

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Wednesday June 19, 2019 – President David Granger says he is awaiting word from the country’s elections commission before he announces a date for the polls, after a Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ruling that the no-confidence vote passed against the Guyana government six months ago was valid and the country should proceed to the polls.

But he has already served notice that it will not be for another five months.

Yesterday, the CCJ ruled that the 33 votes for the Opposition-filed motion in the 65-member National Assembly constituted a majority for it to pass on December 21, 2018, as it dismissed the government’s argument that 34 votes (half plus one) was required. The Trinidad-based court, which is Guyana’s final court of appeal, said that in the coming days it would hear further arguments from the parties on the consequences that should flow from its ruling.

In an address to the nation shortly after the judgment was handed down, President Granger said that while the coalition government did not believe the no-confidence motion was valid or reflected the will of Parliament or the Guyanese people, it would accept and abide by the CCJ’s decision. And he outlined the way forward, as he pointed out that a house to house registration process to compile a new voter’s list must be completed.

“It is essential that we hold fair, free and credible elections. We cannot proceed on the current list of voters. It is outdated and corrupted. It may hold as many as 200,000 incorrect entries. What’s more, those who have reached the age of 18 years since the last election are not on it. The Constitution entitles all citizens over the age of 18 the right to vote. It is a democratic imperative that house-to-house registration be completed swiftly so we can have an election at the earliest opportunity,” he said.

“The Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission…has previously informed me that the Commission will be ready to hold elections in November 2019. This will be after the completion of house-to-house registration. I now await a recommendation for a specific date from GECOM and I will then issue a proclamation.”

But Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, who had successfully filed the no-confidence motion, was adamant that there was no need for a house to house registration, and that a claims and objections exercise could be used to clean up the list.

He stressed that the Constitution requires an election be held within three months after the passage of a no-confidence motion, unless an extension is granted through a two-thirds vote in the National Assembly. And he accused Granger of acting outside the Constitution, as he did in the appointment of GECOM chairman, retired Justice James Patterson.

“This is Granger saying ‘ignore the Constitution, what I say matters. I am going to tell you what you need to do – you have to go and do the house to house and then I will hold elections’,” Jagdeo said. “He has no such powers in our Constitution, but this is another issue of Granger acting above the Constitution.”

Jagdeo added that the main opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) will go into full election mode from today, as it prepares to mount a stiff international lobby to pressure the government into calling the polls.

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