GECOM approves work plan recommending May 22 to conduct LGE
– APNU Commissioners abstain from voting
– over 4000 persons recorded during Continuous Registration
In a major move towards holding Local Government Elections (LGE), the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has voted to accept a work plan which recommends May 22, 2023, as the earliest possible date to host the elections based on the secretariat’s capacity.
In a virtual press conference with the media, GECOM Commissioner Sase Gunraj updated the media on the outcome of Tuesday’s statutory meeting. Importantly, the meeting saw the acceptance of the work plan from the Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Vishnu Persaud.
According to Gunraj, the work plan sets out the timelines for different activities that must be completed to hold LGE. This publication has meanwhile been able to confirm that the recommended date in the work plan for holding LGE is May 22, 2023.
“The work plan, of course, has been finalised and we will start to implement it. But as you know with every good plan, it is subject to change… what GECOM will say is that we are ready to hold elections and that readiness will be signified by the middle of March,” Gunraj further said.
When it comes to the Continuous Registration exercise, Gunraj revealed that 4711 persons have applied as of February 1, 2023. These persons applied in both category A (18 years and older) and category B (persons between 14 and 18).
“The total number of persons who sought transfers was 613 and the total number of persons who sought change and corrections, 736 persons,” Gunraj further informed the media. Additionally, he informed the media that May 22, 2023, has been set as the date for persons to come of age and qualify to vote.
While GECOM has adopted this work plan, not all were supportive of it. The Government-nominated Commissioners, including Gunraj, Clement Rohee, and Manoj Narayan, and Chairperson, Retired Justice Claudette Singh voted to adopt the work plan.
According to Gunraj, the Opposition-nominated Charles Corbin, Vincent Alexander and Desmond Trotman abstained from voting for or against the work plan.
Meanwhile, GECOM sent out a statement in which they confirmed the adoption of the report and also explained what the work plan entails. For instance, the GECOM Secretariat will immediately move to roll out a robust civic and voter education programme, appoint Electoral Registrars and Assistant Electoral Registrars, and extract the Preliminary List of Voters (PLV).
“These activities are directly linked to the preparation of Registers of Voters for each of the 80 Local Authority Areas. Preparation for the conduct of Local Government Elections commenced in 2022,” GECOM explained.
“In this regard, the GECOM Secretariat had already completed the training of management and polling day staff for all of the Local Authority Areas, and the receipt of applications for and approval of symbols submitted by political parties, voluntary groups, and individuals who intend to contest in the elections.”
Only last week, GECOM had decided to adopt a report from the CEO confirming changes to constituency boundaries and moving the commission closer to holding elections – though not without a fight from the Opposition-nominated members of the commission.
It was decided last year that fourteen areas in which boundaries were modified by the former APNU/AFC Government, will be reverted in the lead-up to the Local Government Elections when they are held, to allow for better representation.
Local Government and Regional Development Minister Nigel Dharamlall had announced at a press conference in November that changes were made after consultations with communities and residents in the interest of democracy building.
While the decision was made to revert boundaries to before they were changed in the year 2016, other communities which were previously not captured will be placed under townships and Neighbourhood Democratic Councils. In some areas, NDCs will also be merged or split.
GECOM was initially expected to hold LGE on March 13, 2023. More than $750 million was set aside in Budget 2022 for the preparations to be undertaken by GECOM for the hosting of LGE. This money was part of an overall $4.1 billion allocation to GECOM in Budget 2022.
In October 2022, Minister of Local Government and Regional Development Nigel Dharamlall had set Monday, March 13, 2023 as the date for hosting the long-overdue Local Government polls in Guyana. At the time, this was the earliest date that GECOM indicated the elections could be held.
But court action was subsequently filed by Opposition-aligned persons, challenging the process used to compile the List of Electors, or Voters’ List, for the upcoming LGE. As a consequence, the March 13 date had to be postponed.