GECOM will be ready for elections in February 2020
…Opposition expresses disappointment with timeline
…Jagdeo reiterates confidence in GECOM Chair
After weeks of deliberation, Chair of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), retired Justice Claudette Singh, has finally advised President David Granger that the Commission will be ready to host General and Regional Elections in February 2020.
This was indicated via a letter sent to the Head of State on Thursday.
“Given all the objective factors, in addition to the deliberations of the Commission and my most recent consultations with our Secretariat, I have concluded, and take this opportunity to officially inform you that the Guyana Elections Commission will be able to deliver credible elections by the end of February 2020,” the GECOM Chair detailed in the three paragraph letter.
While President Granger indicated to reporters that he will first have to discuss the letter with his ‘Cabinet’ before commenting on the advice he received from the GECOM Chair, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has expressed his surprise and disappointment with the date.
This, he noted, is especially so since only last week, Justice Singh gave assurances to both Opposition and Government delegations that they are working toward an elections timeline before the end of the year.
“We’re extremely disappointed with the date, but happy that the excuse has been taken away from the caretaker President. So, he no longer can blame GECOM for his unconstitutional acts of staying in office illegally,” he stated.
Nevertheless, the Opposition Leader contended that while the party does not agree with her timeline, it still has faith and confidence in the GECOM Chair’s ability to deliver credible elections.
“I have great faith in the fairness and in the impartiality of the Chair of GECOM and I don’t think she will do anything to rig the elections,” the Opposition Leader said.
Distrusts Secretariat’s staff
At the same time, however, he expressed reservations about other actors within the elections body, whom, he said, have been working to sabotage the hosting of early elections.
“I sympathise with the Chair of GECOM, who has to deal with three Government Commissioners whose efforts at every single meeting are to raise extraneous issues – ID preparations, merging of [House-to-House Registration] data – and then the Secretariat issuing press releases that seem to be written at Congress Place, and some of the key officials absenting themselves from meetings, falling sick conveniently. All in an effort to delay preparations for elections,” Jagdeo noted.
According to the Opposition Leader, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP)-nominated Commissioners at GECOM had a proposal with a timeline for elections to be held on December 16, 2019, but this was not submitted to the Commission.
He explained that had they gone ahead and submitted the proposal, the Government Commissioners would have asked for time to review it and further delay the process of GECOM finally advising the President on its readiness for the hosting of polls.
“There are individuals in that [Elections] Secretariat that we don’t trust. We’ve already spoken to the international community because having seen their performance in the last several months about how their timelines have all been extended and how they match APNU and how they disappear, we don’t believe they will fully support the Chairperson or give her proper advice. In fact, that is a big concern of ours,” he posited.
Nevertheless, Jagdeo noted that while they are disappointed in the advice given by the GECOM Chair, the PPP is going to work hard to ensure that elections are held by the end of February 2020 and not anytime later.
On this note, the Opposition Leader stated that one good thing coming out of this extended timeline is the additional time that observers, both oversees and local, will have to scrutinise the preparation process for the hosting of elections.
“More international observers will come and they will get here early to look at the quality of the voters’ list, polling day logistics, as well as elections day activities. So you not gonna have people only coming in on Elections day. So that’s a good thing coming out of this [situation]… And local observers may have enough time to prepare for elections”.
Furthermore, Jagdeo noted that while the coalition will have another two months more to squat and enjoy the perks of the office, the PPP will use this time to ensure Guyanese on the ground across the country are educated about their transgressions and their lack of respect for the Constitution.
“So we’re a bit disappointed [about the timeline] but we’re patient too,” he asserted.
The February 2020 timeline submitted by GECOM will take elections to more than one year after the December 2018 passage of the No-Confidence Motion (NCM) against the APNU/AFC coalition government. It will also be one month shy of one year when early elections were constitutionally due, that is, March 21, 2019.
According to Article 106 (6) and (7) of the Constitution of Guyana, upon the passage of a motion of no confidence, the Cabinet, including the President, shall resign and call elections within three months. However, with the legal challenges which ensued, that timeline was on pause but was subsequently reinstated after the July 18, 2019 Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ruling, which validated the passage of the motion.
Noting that Article 106 is clear, the Trinidad-based regional court also stated that both the Government and GECOM have the responsibility to abide by the constitutional provisions regarding the hosting of early elections.