Hold democratic elections now


..says over two-thirds of Guyanese voters

An opinion survey conducted by the North American Caribbean Teachers Association (NACTA) over the past week has found that a large majority of voters and almost the entire business community are worried about the political uncertainty prevailing in Guyana following the passage of the No-Confidence Motion last December.

Voters in a queue waiting to cast their ballots at the previous elections

The poll began over a week ago and is being conducted by social scientist, Dr Vishnu Bisram, who has been conducting opinion polls internationally for almost 30 years. The poll has been interviewing potential voters (502 thus far) at random to represent the demographics (41 per cent Indians, 30 per cent Africans, 18 per cent Mixed, 10 per cent Amerindians, 1 per cent other) of the population.
This large majority of voters and the business community are of the view that the Government lost the No-Confidence Motion and that it should resign and hold elections as mandated by the Constitution.
According to the findings, people are disappointed that the Government is not adhering to the laws as specified in the Constitution and worldwide democratic conventions that a Government resigns and holds elections when it loses a No-Confidence Motion.
People, NACTA poll said, believe the No-Confidence Motion was successfully passed. As such, a majority of voters would like to see an early election within the constitutional March 19 deadline to settle the issue of the no-confidence vote and to avoid an impending constitutional crisis. The population also indicated their concerns over Government’s refusal to resign and hold elections which threaten democracy.
Based on the findings of the still ongoing poll (through Friday, February 22), 65 per cent of the population are concerned, as opposed to 28 per cent who are not and 7 per cent offering no opinion about the political situation in which the Government has refused to accept the outcome of the no-confidence vote. Many said it sets the stage for authoritarianism.
Asked if they feel the Government lost the no-confidence vote, 62 per cent said yes, 23 per cent said no and 15 per cent did not offer an opinion or are not sure. In short, the polls show that the majority feels that 33 constitutes a majority out of 65 members of Parliament.
The majority of voters said the Government should resign and immediately set a date to hold snap General and Regional Elections within the stipulated timeframe – within 90 days as stated in the Constitution – in order to settle the political uncertainty that has hit the nation over the last two months. Asked if the Government should resign, 61 per cent said yes with 30 per cent saying no and 9 per cent not expressing an opinion.
Further, asked if Government should call an election now, 67 per cent said yes, 25 per cent said no and 8 per cent was not sure (or offered no opinion). Many said the Government should not be afraid to call an election and that it is in its advantage to adhere to democratic principles.
The December 21 passage of the Motion activated Article 106 (6) and (7) of the Constitution which states, respectively: “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.” And “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”.
However, the Government is challenging the validity of the resolution owing to the fact that Persaud holds dual citizenship and further going on to say that a total of 34 votes were needed to have it validly passed. Acting Chief Justice Roxane George has since ruled that while Persaud is a dual citizen, his vote remains valid as a result of the doctrine of necessity as well as the resolution was validly carried having garnered the majority of the votes of the elected Members of the House.
It has been 66 days since the resolution was carried and no move has been made by the Government to have elections held within the constitutionally mandated 90 days. In fact, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) last week indicated that it will require at least five months to prepare for polls.
This move has been condemned by many with observers accusing GECOM of ignoring its constitutional mandate to buy time for the Government.