GECOM refuses to make preparations for General and Regional Elections
Mandatory Art 106 90-day due elections
A meeting between the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and Chief Whips Gail Teixeira and Amna Ally ended abruptly on Friday when Chairman of entity, Retired Justice James Patterson refused to entertain further questions about the commission’s preparations for the constitutionally mandated elections due by March 21, 2019.
In an interview after the meeting, Teixeira was less than satisfied with the answers she got from the Commission on its readiness for elections. According to Teixeira, she asked if the Commission could make simultaneous preparations to accommodate what remained of the timeframe for elections.
“We asked a number of technical questions, to do with the Commission doing a range of things to make the 50 days, because we have about 54 days left. And wasn’t it possible for the Commission to run on simultaneous tracks (for) procurement, ballot paper, training, the list in terms of extracting and adding those eligible (names).
“The Commission did not answer, except that (Chief Elections Officer Keith) Lowenfield had concerns about training. The Commission trained approximately 10,000 people for LGE [Local Government Elections], used 7500. So we don’t believe it’s impossible that we could achieve the number of people to work as temporary polling staff.”
Teixeira was of the view that Lowenfield was reluctant to give approximate dates for election preparations. In fact, Teixeira noted that the CEO constantly deferred to the Commission when it came to giving timelines and she expressed suspicions that he may be under pressure to do so.
According to the Chief Whip, the Government Commissioners mostly provided reasons for not being prepared for elections by March 21, 2019.
Asked if there would be a compromise to avoid outright house-to-house registration, Teixeira said that the other side seemed to have no interest in compromising. Teixeira also revealed that the meeting came to an abrupt end when she questioned GECOM’s awareness of its responsibility to the nation.
“I put questions to the Commission as to its recognition that they have to comply with the 90 days requirement of the Constitution and how they’ll recognise that. I then asked, would the commission recognise that they would be responsible for putting Guyana in a constitutional crisis, if they (did) house-to-house registration, which could take eight months to a year.
“It would be unthinkable to expect the Opposition to give a two-thirds majority to such an extension when there is a no-confidence motion passed in the National Assembly. That’s when the meeting broke up … the Chairman got up and decided that was the end of the Commission (meeting) – no decision.”
Teixeira juxtaposed this attitude with the fact that the no-confidence motion was passed since December 21, 2018 and after more than a month, GECOM still could not come up with a position on the matter of election.
Meanwhile, Government Chief Whip Ally in an interview with the media said that , “ Our purpose of being here is to be apprised by GECOM about its readiness for elections.
You had arguments for and against…I don’t have to tell the President anything about timeframe. I have to tell the President what transpired,” Ally said, also acknowledging that the President will have to make his decision.
Meanwhile, People’s Progressive Party-nominated Commissioner Bibi Shadick noted that Lowenfield ought to be in possession of a work plan proposal that detailed GECOM’s ability to hold elections. But she related that this information is yet to be divulged.
On December 21, 2018, the no-confidence motion brought by the parliamentary Opposition against the Government succeeded when former Alliance For Change (AFC) parliamentarian Charrandas Persaud broke ranks and made a conscience vote in favour of the motion.
With the Government’s defeat, the next steps are spelt out in the Constitution of Guyana. Article 106 (6) of the Constitution states: “The Cabinet including the President shall resign if the Government is defeated by the vote of a majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly on a vote of confidence.”
Meanwhile, clause 7 goes on to state that “Notwithstanding its defeat, the Government shall remain in office and shall hold an election within three months, or such longer period as the National Assembly shall by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the votes of all the elected members of the National Assembly determine, and shall resign after the President takes the oath of office following the election.”
The Chief Whips were mandated in the first place to query GECOM’s readiness after a meeting between the parliamentary Opposition and Government following the vote. Both Teixeira and Ally will now have to report back to Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo and President David Granger respectively.
GECOM, which successfully ran the Local Government Elections in November 2018, less than three months ago, is being blamed by Government for not being ready, but it is the President of Guyana, who has to give a date for elections and not GECOM as being touted. The President of Guyana, according to the Constitution, has to dissolve Parliament and issue a date for elections.