Guyana Elections Commission Says No Polls Before November; Opposition Not Pleased

GECOM chairman, retired Justice James Patterson said the Commission would not be in a position to conduct general and regional elections before late November.

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Wednesday March 20, 2019 – The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) says it cannot be ready to hold the polls before November – eight months later than required by the Constitution following the no-confidence motion passed against government.

And Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo – whose People’s Progressive Party (PPP) had insisted elections should have been held by yesterday, March 19, in keeping with the 90-day deadline set out by the Constitution following the successful no-confidence motion on December 21, last year – says that’s not good enough.

In a letter to President David Granger yesterday, the GECOM chairman, retired Justice James Patterson said the Commission would not be in a position to conduct general and regional elections before late November.

Granger, whose coalition government is appealing a High Court ruling that the no-confidence motion was valid and elections should therefore be held, had previously written to Patterson asking him to indicate when GECOM would be ready to hold the polls and what it would need.

In his correspondence yesterday, the GECOM chairman said GUY$3.5 billion (US$16.7 million) was required to hold credible elections.

“Significant critical path activities associated with elections cannot commence prior to the availability of these funds to the Commission. In the circumstances, no election date should be contemplated less than five months after these funds are placed at the disposal of and the control of GECOM,” he wrote.

Patterson also addressed the issue of the voters’ list, saying that a new one would be required and it was proposed that house to house registration be conducted in order to generate such a list.

He noted that the registration exercise would finish in February 2020, but could be fast-tracked and be completed at least two months earlier, with “a significant increase in the allocated resources for that exercise and an adjustment in the management arrangements for some procurement activities”.

“Should this be achieved, most of the Commission’s concern for credibility and timeliness would be addressed. I would therefore urge you to support this by providing the required additional resources and appropriate guidance to those agencies and authorities whose co-operation is required if our objectives are to be achieved,” the GECOM chairman wrote to President Granger.

But Patterson’s letter has not gone down well with either the Opposition Leader or the Opposition-nominated GECOM commissioners, Bibi Shadick, Sase Gunraj and Robeson Benn.

The three commissioners say they were not consulted and the Opposition would protest the decision.

And in a statement on his Facebook page, Jagdeo said the PPP “will never accept” a November date for the polls.

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