Elections schedule must adhere to Constitution – US Govt
With concerns continuing to be raised about the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and its capacity to carry out credible elections, the US State Department has reminded the country of the need for free and fair elections.
This was communicated in a missive from Deputy Spokesperson for the US Department of State, Robert Palladino, in which an offer of assistance was also made. It comes at a time when GECOM failed to hold elections within 90 days of a no-confidence vote, as specified by the Constitution.
“The United States reiterates the importance of scheduling genuinely free and fair national elections in the Co-operative Republic of Guyana in adherence with the Guyanese Constitution and Guyanese law,” the missive stated.
Palladino also went on to add that the United States Government “values Guyana as a friend and partner and stands ready to assist as needed.”
The missive comes at a time when neighbouring Venezuela is in economic and political turmoil, with the US backing the Opposition to oust President Nicholás Maduro after elections widely criticised as fraudulent were held to give the Venezuelan leader a second term.
Since the December 21, 2018, passage of the motion of no-confidence against the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change coalition, calls have been made by various stakeholders including foreign diplomats here for the Guyana Government to abide by the Constitution and set a date for elections.
British High Commissioner to Guyana, Greg Quinn in an exclusive interview with Guyana Times had reminded that the clock is ticking on the constitutional three-month deadline for holding elections.
Additionally, representatives from the United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU) had also echoed similar calls in February for the Guyana Government to adhere to the Constitution.
With less than six days remaining before the 90-day deadline expires, the Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) had written several international bodies asking that they do not recognised the coalition Government after March 21.
March 21, 2019, came and went with no elections being called and President David Granger laying blame for his delay in calling an election date at the feet of the GECOM. In an address to the nation, Granger claimed he was “constrained” from naming a date for elections because GECOM had not provided adequate information about its readiness for holding elections.
Referring to recent meetings with GECOM Commissioners, President Granger had said that he has not received the guidance he needs to proclaim a date for elections. According to the President, it would be “reckless” for him to announce a date for elections without being satisfied that the Commission can guarantee credible elections.
The day after March 21, Government faced protests in the streets from People’s Progressive Party (PPP) supporters calling on the State to facilitate elections and stop using GECOM as an excuse for not naming an elections date.
However, the Government was handed a reprieve that same day when the Court of Appeal ruled in a 2:1 split decision that a majority of 34 votes would have been needed to validly pass the No-confidence motion brought against the Government last year. While Justice Rishi Persaud had dismissed the appeal and conferred with the ruling of the High Court, his colleague appellate judges allowed the state’s appeal.
Both Justices Yonette Cummings-Edwards and Dawn Gregory opined that while 33 is the majority of the 65-member National Assembly, the successful passage of a no-confidence motion requires an “absolute majority” of 34, and not the “simple” majority of 33 that has been used to pass ordinary business in the House.
The cases were referred to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) and on Friday the court set May 10 as the date for hearing the no-confidence cases. The CCJ had the three cases, Christopher Ram v the Attorney General of Guyana, the Leader of the Opposition and Joseph Harmon; Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo v the Attorney General of Guyana, Dr Barton Scotland and Joseph Harmon; and Charrandas Persaud v Compton Herbert Reid, Dr Barton Scotland, Bharrat Jagdeo and Joseph Harmon; all abridged to save time.