Jagdeo’s election date olive branch to Granger proved futile
…will precipitate constitutional crisis on March 21
A high-level meeting between Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo and President David Granger ended in stalemate on Wednesday as the issue regarding the date for an election was not addressed, which ended with Guyana on the precipice of a massive constitutional crisis.
Upon his arrival at the Ministry of the Presidency for the meeting with the President, Jagdeo told media operatives that he was not optimistic that the meeting would bear any fruit. However, he contended the main reason why he chose to attend was because of the people of Guyana in light of national interest.
The former President was accompanied by former Presidential Advisor Gail Texieira; former Attorney General Anil Nandlall, former Junior Finance Minister Juan Edghill, and People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) presidential candidate and former Housing and Water Minister Irfaan Ali.
The President’s team on the other hand included Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo; Minister of State Joseph Harmon; Vice President and Indigenous People’s Affairs Minister, Sydney Allicock; Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Basil Williams; and Social Protection Minister Amna Ally.
The meeting lasted for about one hour and on Jagdeo’s departure, he told the media that he and President David Granger did not reach an agreement on a date for elections. Jagdeo had proposed that General Elections could be held before the current voters list expires on April 30, 2019.
The Opposition Leader posited that that deadline was reasonable, while explaining that training and procurement of materials for elections can be completed within a new 50-day deadline. He reiterated that the Opposition is still not prepared to extend the life of the Government beyond 90 days which expires on March 21 following the passage of the No-confidence Motion on December 21, 2018.
“I said at this point in time we are not going to extend the life of the Government unless there is an agreement to a date that is as credible and close to the constitutional requirement,” he said, explaining that the President informed him that he is awaiting word from the Guyana Elections Commission’s (GECOM) to determine an election date, and offered for them to both meet with officials there.
Jagdeo said he rejected the offer on the basis that the President has the authority to get GECOM ready for an election. “I said to him, you are the President of Guyana…you have a duty to uphold the Constitution, GECOM is a creature of the Constitution, GECOM cannot override the Constitution and unless we have a discussion on a date, we are not prepared to move forward on any other issue.”
The Opposition has also maintained that his party will not support house-to-house registration because it could delay the elections for at least eight months. He also suggested that in order to address fears of electoral fraud, Government should fund three polling agents from their representative parties to work at each polling station to ensure that only people who are eligible to vote do so.
According to the former President, the meeting was aimed to “suck me back into a long drawn out talk about useless things. I said you are the President and you have a responsibility and not us. You have to set the date for elections, and therefore you tell us when and in exchange for that we might be prepared to go…the time is ticking. The ball is in his court. He is the one who is leading the country into a crisis.”
Jagdeo said he also reminded the President that he had advocated sanctions on Guyana in the period after the purgation of Parliament and before elections in 2015, and the Opposition is prepared to do the same thing. He stated that until the date is settled, there was nothing further to discuss.
Meanwhile, in a statement subsequent to the meeting, the parliamentary Opposition stated that the President has not given the Guyanese people any assurance that the imminent danger the country faces will be averted. “Instead, the parliamentary Opposition could only conclude that the President and his Government have and will continue to act in bad faith, and, that the
President is willing to subvert and violate the Constitution to suit his Government’s objective of staying in power beyond March 21, 2019,” the statement said.
The parliamentary Opposition maintained that after March 21, 2019, the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change coalition Government becomes unconstitutional, illegal and illegitimate.
Following the meeting, President Granger addressed the nation in a video posted on the Ministry of the Presidency’s social media pages, where he described the meeting as “fruitful” whereas both Government and the Opposition are working towards finding a solution to the issues.
Granger did admit, however, that discussions between him and Jagdeo and their teams were mainly centred on GECOM because it is the only entity that could deliver an election. On that note, he maintained that he cannot set an election date unless GECOM is ready. The President also noted his plans to meet with the Commission next week.
“GECOM is in charge of elections, not the Executive. I cannot decide when elections will be held. The President or the Executive or any other body cannot intervene, cannot intrude, cannot interfere in the work of GECOM and so we have to allow GECOM to do its work,” he said.
He continued: “Let me make one thing clear, GECOM is autonomous, GECOM is an independent agency and there is no part of the Constitution which gives the President or the Executive in general authority to interference, intervene or intrude in the work of the Elections Commission.”
Nevertheless, Granger explained that he would now have to enquire from GECOM what they would need to prepare for the elections. Notwithstanding that, the Head of State said he will work to have an election at the earliest time possible, while assuring citizens that Guyana is not facing a crisis.