The Constitution is clear on the dissolution of Parliament and elections. There are three scenarios. First, Parliament stands dissolved on the last day of a full five-year term and elections must be held within three months. Second, Parliament stands dissolved on a date named by the President before the full five-year and elections are required within three months. Third, Parliament stands dissolved upon a successful No-Confidence Motion (NCM) and elections are due within three months. There is nothing ambiguous in any of these circumstances. Guyana’s Constitution also provides for a full-time elections commission; the purpose of which is continuous elections-readiness to cater for the above circumstances.
No amount of double-speak by Guyana’s Attorney General (AG) can change any of these scenarios provided for by the Constitution. Unfortunately, Guyana’s present AG proudly proclaims himself the poster-child for the notion that “law is an ass”. On his advice and his strategising, the Government has rendered the Constitution nothing more than a piece of paper, held up the Judiciary as a toothless poodle, and shamelessly used GECOM as a party instrument.
On Monday, August 5, 2019, the AG told an audience— including prominent professionals, business people and diplomats from the ABCE countries— the David Granger-led APNU/AFC will abide by the decision of GECOM if GECOM says elections before September 18. Outside of the political sycophants, not a soul believed the AG. APNU/AFC has already set the condition, defying the September 18 timeframe, by demanding an illegal House-to-House Registration. The AG did not say they will give up this demand. Whenever in a situation demanding reasonableness, they setup a mine field to blow up all reasonableness.
The AG’s minefield insists GECOM must set the time for elections. The Constitution says the President chooses a specific election date. But the Constitution does not permit either the President or GECOM, nor does the Constitution allow anyone else to determine the timeline for an election. The dates for an election are always determined by a timeline established by the Constitution. It is always within three months of the dissolution of Parliament— which happens automatically on the last day of a full five-year term, or on a date chosen by the President any time before the last day of a full-five-year term, or automatically upon a successful NCM.
On a successful NCM, Parliament stands dissolved on the date of the NCM and elections MUST be held within three months. For those who have not read or refuse to understand the Constitution, the CCJ affirmed this fact. On December 21, 2018, this is exactly what happened in Guyana and, therefore, elections were due on or before March 21, 2019. The date had to be chosen by the President, but not any date at his whims and fancies, it had to be a date on or before March 21. While he could have sought advice from GECOM, GECOM was bound to be prepared for elections and advice on a date within that timeframe. It is now water under the bridge, elections were not held and because of the involvement of the Judiciary, a pause was enforced. The CCJ made it clear, however, the three-month timeline is the law and, in effect, restarted a new countdown, beginning June 18th and ending September 18. The President had to choose a date within that timeframe, not any date he wants. Seeking GECOM’s advice is legitimate, but whatever date GECOM proffered to the President, it had to be within that timeframe.
Recklessly, in promising APNU/AFC will accept GECOM’s advice, the AG also insists GECOM is not constrained by the three-month deadline. In fact, the Constitution is not ambiguous, it does not subscribe to the double-speak of the AG, it is clear as crystal. The Constitution demands the President chooses a date within the strict timeline. Which date within that strict deadline he chooses could be informed by GECOM’s advice, but GECOM does not have any role or any power to change the timeframe, nor does anyone else.
GECOM, in fact, stated categorically on December 27, it was prepared to conduct elections within the three-month timeframe that ended on March 21. GECOM has also stated it can refresh the electoral list available under the mandatory Claims and Objections process for elections to be held by September 18. Nothing can change that date, unless the President, with assurances, obtains the agreement of the Leader of the Opposition to extend the date. While we await the ruling of the Chief Justice next Wednesday, the new Chair of GECOM should proceed with an election preparation that adheres to the constitutional timeline, that is, on or before September 18. The clock is ticking and there is no room for dilly-dallying.