…says weaknesses, challenges, threats must be fixed
While Local Government Elections (LGE) are expected to be due next year, President Dr Irfaan Ali has cited the need for confidence to be restored to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), after the events that followed the March 2 General and Regional Elections.
President Ali was at the time being questioned on the sidelines of the swearing-in of Chairmen and Vice Chairmen for the Regional Democratic Councils on Monday. Acknowledging the independence of GECOM, Ali noted that confidence in the electoral machinery must be restored.
“What we have to do is to fix what is there first. We have to ensure we have a system that is working, a system that we can trust. A system that is professional and operates in an unbiased manner, so that the people of our country can have confidence,” Ali said.
He said that based on his engagements with the public, there is an overriding concern that there could be a repeat of the events after the March 2 elections.
“I’ve received letters from many stakeholders in our country. And they all told me that they do not want to go back to the process they went through in those five months. And that is of uttermost importance in the minds of our people. And that is what we have to address,” the Head of State said.
“GECOM itself, that is an independent commission and they have to address this also. The CoI (Commission of Inquiry) and so on would help to highlight weaknesses, challenges, opportunities, threats in ensuring that the system is fixed,” he added.
Local Government Elections were last held in 2018, which resulted in the PPP securing 52 of the 80 Local Authority Areas (LAA). It followed the holding of LGE in 2016, during which the PPP also claimed the majority of the LAA’s.
After the 2018 LGE, GECOM spent over a year trying to get ready for snap elections that should have been held within three months of the then A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government falling to a No-Confidence Motion in December 2018.
GECOM finally held General and Regional Elections on March 2, 2020. But as if the previous delay was not enough, Guyanese were forced to wait another five months before the results could finally be declared by GECOM on August 2, 2020, after local and international pressure.
In the aftermath of the controversial five-month-long elections, a number of high ranking GECOM officials have been investigated by the police and charged for misconduct in public office and forgery.
They include Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield, who was on October 12 slapped with six charges by the police, relating to forgery and misconduct in public office, as it pertains to his alleged role in the attempts to rig the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections.
The CEO is being accused of attempting to undermine the will of the people by repeatedly refusing to submit the verified results from the National Recount to Chair of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Retired Justice Claudette Singh, for a final declaration.
The National Recount exercise showed that the PPP/C won the elections with 233,336 votes. But Lowenfield had repeatedly refused to submit his final elections report with those figures despite being so directed by the GECOM Chair on several occasions. He eventually complied, paving the way for the declaration and subsequent swearing-in of the new Government on August 2, 2020 – five months after elections were held.
Lowenfield’s embattled Deputy, Roxanne Myers, was also slapped with two counts of misconduct in public office in relation to her role in the sordid affair. She was eventually released on $300,000 bail when she made her appearance in the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts. (G3)