Opposition Leader, President exchange views on early elections
…Granger expects GECOM’s position within a week
President David Granger and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo on Friday met to continue discussions as it relates to the holding of early elections as ruled by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) and mandated by the Constitution of Guyana.
During the nearly two-hour-long meeting, the two political leaders shared their views on critical matters such as elections deadline, House-to-House Registration, and the resignation of the Cabinet.
Speaking with reporters outside State House after the meeting, Jagdeo opted not to divulge any details on the exchanges, only saying that they shared their respective views.
“[The meeting] was about sharing views. My views were shared there and I don’t think it is a secret what my views are on these matters… I think it’s early and hopefully we’ll meet again sometime soon,” the Opposition Leader posited.
The two sides have been at loggerheads since the June 18 ruling and subsequent consequential orders of the CCJ. The Trinidad-based regional court had upheld the December passage of the No-Confidence Motion against the Government, triggering Article 106, which states that the Cabinet including the President shall resign and hold elections within three months.
The Opposition has been contending that elections are to be held by September 18, which is three months after the CCJ validated the No-Confidence Motion. In fact, elections ought to have already been held since March 21, 2019 – but due to the court proceedings, this deadline was on pause.
Despite this, however, the coalition Government has been contending that in order for the upcoming elections to be “credible” then there needs to be a new voters’ list since the current one is “bloated”.
In fact, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), which is also bounded by the CCJ ruling, went ahead and commenced House-to-House Registration which could delay early elections until February next year. The 22-day-old exercise, which is expected to last some three months, has so far netted over 150,000 registrations, reports say.
But Jagdeo contended that they are trying to hold elections as early as possible with a new database that is yet to be created. The National Register of Registrants Database (NRRD) consists of all registrants from the age of 14 and above. From that database, the voters’ list or Official List of Electors (OLE) is compiled.
Cognisant of the concerns of the Head of State about youths being disenfranchised if the current list is used, the Opposition Leader reiterated that a new list can be compiled using the same database through a Claims and Objections period.
“That database, based on their timeline, would be ready until sometime next year, that is, the NRR. We already have a time-tested database that has run the gauntlet of four elections and we’re not using that but we’re planning to host elections in the near term on a database that we haven’t started creating as yet – not even knowing about the quality of the database as yet. It defies logic,” he asserted.
On this note, Jagdeo was further asked whether the Opposition would consider extending the timeline for the hosting of elections under any conditions. In response, he lamented the lack of reasonableness from the Government.
“Right now, we have not made a decision on that because there is no date and there is no reasonableness on the part of the Government… I wanna keep an open mind on these issues but right now, we’re fast approaching a deadline of September 18, beyond which the Government will then be practising unconstitutionally rule. In fact, the Government would be unconstitutional period,” Jagdeo told reporters outside State House.
According to Jagdeo, the Government and its GECOM-nominated Commissioners continue to deliberately delay the elections and still expect the PPP to be reasonable.
The Opposition Leader noted that what should happen going forward is what he has already asked the President to do and he refuses to do, that is, issue a proclamation dissolving Parliament, name a date for elections and resign.
“That is a positive signal to start [from],” Jagdeo noted.
On the other hand, however, President Granger in a statement after Friday’s meeting insisted that GECOM has to first advise on its state of readiness before he goes ahead and names a date for polling day.
“I will continue to abide by the Constitution and pay attention to the Chairman of the Elections Commission who will advise me… I made it clear that it is impossible if not impractical for me, even though in the final analysis I have to proclaim a date, I could not do so without the advice of the Elections Commission,” he said.
Nevertheless, it was noted that the Head of State is expecting that the GECOM Chair, (ret’d) Justice Claudette Singh, will indicate to him within a week’s time the Commission’s position on the way forward as it relates to the hosting of early elections.
The President had met with the GECOM Chair and six Commissioners on Thursday.
“We agreed that it is the Elections Commission which is central to this process; it is an electoral process; it is not a governmental process or parliamentary process. It is an electoral process which is entirely in the hands of the Elections Commission… We are looking to hear something, maybe in a week’s time. At the same time, I would like to assure the public that the meeting today with the Leader of the Opposition was important and beneficial. It helped to clarify issues which still exist within the two sides. There has been no agreement but greater clarity on the positions of the two sides,” Granger noted after Friday’s meeting with the Opposition Leader.
Accompanying the two political leaders during that meeting were Presidential Candidate of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Irfaan Ali and Director General at the Ministry of the Presidency Joseph Harmon.