Mandatory Art 106 90-day due elections
Following a decision taken during a meeting on Tuesday, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) will host a special meeting today to discuss the elections body’s readiness for General and Regional Elections, which are constitutionally due in March.
The December 21, 2018 passage of a motion of no confidence against the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition Government paved the way for Government to resign and call elections in 90 days, in accordance with Article 106 (6) and 106 (7) of the Constitution. This means that elections are to be held by March 19.
During a high-level meeting between President David Granger and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo two weeks ago, an agreement was made for a team headed by the Chief Whips from the two sides to meet with GECOM to determine its readiness to host elections as constitutionally mandated.
However, they were unable to have that meeting since the GECOM Chairman, Retired Justice James Patterson was on sick leave since November and only returned this week. But on his first day back on the job, Justice Patterson held a meeting with Commissioners.
People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Commissioner Robeson Benn revealed that not only was the special meeting set for today, but an update was given about the meeting that was supposed to take place between Patterson and the National Assembly’s two Chief Whips – the Opposition’s Gail Teixeira and the Government’s Amna Ally.
“On Thursday morning at 9 (09:00h), the Commission will reconvene to discuss the various timelines in terms of when elections could be held. And by then or thereafter, we will be in a better position in respect of meetings with the Chief Whips,” Benn explained.
“We didn’t have any documentation in terms of any situation which could advance the meeting… we only got a letter today to which the Chairman had replied to (Government Chief Whip) Amna Ally. She had written the Chairman on the 10th, pointing out the need for the meeting. He replied on the 14th. Unfortunately, we only saw that letter today,” Commissioner Benn related.
Nevertheless, it was noted that it was the Chairman who paved the way for electoral matters to be discussed. According to Commissioner Benn, a report is expected to be prepared and submitted by GECOM’s technical staff.
“What did happen is that the Chairman suspended the agenda and allowed for the questions relating to GECOM’s readiness for elections,” the Commissioner further explained.
It was noted that the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield was to present a report to the Commissioners, containing details regarding the time needed to complete various measures for preparing for elections.
However, when contacted on Wednesday, one of the Commissioners indicated that they only received, “…a bunch of documents, not a report per se”.
Now that election matters will finally be ventilated at GECOM, it is expected that the much-anticipated meeting between the Chief Whips and the Commission Chair will be set and the President will be given information with which an election date can be set.
On December 21, 2018 the no-confidence motion brought by the parliamentary Opposition –.PPP/C – against the Government succeeded when former AFC parliamentarian Charrandas Persaud broke ranks and made a conscience vote in favour of the motion.
Since the passage of the motion, however, persons aligned with the coalition have sought to question the motion’s validity even as the vote has already been certified. These arguments formed part of the opinions presented to Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Barton Scotland in the hopes that he would reverse the ruling. He refused to do so.
Amid calls to resign, Government has insisted it is going nowhere until elections are held. A court case was filed, in which an order was sought to, among other things, delay the elections until the court rules on the matter. However, acting Chief Justice Roxane George noted that such an order would be unnecessary and has committed to rule on the pending matters by next week.