Guyanese worried about free and fair elections – Jagdeo
…says Party is constantly fighting attempts to rig
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo says that during interactions with Guyanese, both here and abroad, many have expressed concerns about next year’s March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections being free and fair.
Speaking at his weekly press conference on Thursday, Jagdeo pointed out that while persons are confident that the PPP will “sweep” the upcoming polls, they are nevertheless worried about the electoral process.
“The biggest concern is would the elections be free and fair and so I’m confronted with this question everywhere… I want to say to people that it’s not unreasonable, as I said before, to think that the PNC (People’s Nations Congress – the largest party in the APNU fraction of the governing coalition) will attempt, this APNU cabal, will attempt to tamper with the elections but the opportunities to do so are limited in the new environment,” he stated.
According to Jagdeo, already the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Opposition has been constantly fighting off such efforts to rig the upcoming polls.
“All long, their plans have been stymied because of a vigilant public, a free press and our struggles – of PPP – to expose attempts to prepare for such an eventuality.”
This, the Opposition Leader noted, started with the unilateral appointment of Justice James Patterson at the helm of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM). Jagdeo reminded that they had to move to the courts to have the hand-picked Chairman removed, which was done in June after the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) had ruled that the appointment was flawed.
“So an attempt to tamper with the elections, because with him there highly unlikely we would’ve had free and fair elections. But that attempt was thwarted. Secondly, they attempted to do a House-to-House (H2H) activity that was to replace the NRR (National Register of Registrants) that shouldn’t have been done because it was started even after the former Chairman was removed on a basis of an order he signed. Again, we had to go to the court and the court stopped that activity and declared that it was unconstitutional to remove the names of people from the NRR simply because you did not find them,” he pointed out.
More recently, Jagdeo continued, the Government-nominated Commissioners at GECOM also attempted to disenfranchise thousands of Guyanese who failed to uplift their national identification (ID) cards as well as contaminating the voters’ list by merging the unverified data obtained during the H2H exercise with the NRR. He noted that while the PPP managed to thwart these efforts, they were also faced with a similar attempt only last week when they wanted to use a flawed sampling system to verify the approximate 20,000 new registrants.
But with the persistent efforts of the PPP Opposition, Jagdeo said GECOM recently decided to conduct a field exercise to verify these new names before they are added to the list. This exercise is expected to last between four to five days, but according to the Opposition Leader, this could have been done weeks ago when PPP-nominated Commissioners at GECOM first named the suggestion.
He went on to outline that his Party has also stepped in to foil efforts aimed at preventing external oversight at GECOM leading up to the elections.
Nevertheless, he assured that they will continue to fight off any such attempts by the coalition.
“I want to say to all of those people with fears that APNU will continue to try to tamper with the process given their history but every attempt will be carefully examined and they will not succeed. We have a different environment. We have a free press and people within [GECOM] who have some integrity and there shall be oversights,” Jagdeo asserted.
Going forward, the Opposition Leader pointed out that the Party will now have to look at polling day activities, the training of staff, transparency of information and voters’ education, the placement of staff and so on. He noted that they want these to be professionally done and will be pressing for this.
However, Jagdeo explained that these efforts to thwart their attempts at rigging the elections are making the coalition “desperate”. This, he said, is evidence in the fact that the PNC called the PPP riggers when, in fact, there are documented evidence with the international community of rigging under that party.