Opposition Leader reminds President, Govt illegal from today
…says November timeline for elections “unacceptable”
…President says election date to be announced “shortly”
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo on Thursday reminded the coalition Government that it becomes illegal at midnight, having failed to host General and Regional Elections within 90 days of the passage of the No-confidence Motion.
This comes on the heels of Government announcing on Wednesday that President David Granger will soon name a date for elections, though polls were constitutionally mandated to be held by March 21, 2019.
The President’s impending announcement was indicated in a letter sent to Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo on Wednesday. It was sent by Minister of State Joseph Harmon on behalf of the Head of State, who is currently in Cuba where he has been receiving treatment for Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
In the correspondence, reference was made to the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Justice James Patterson, letter to the President in which he indicated that the agency would not be able to hold polls until late November when an official list of electors is available.
As such, the President informed the Opposition Leader in the letter that he intends to set a date for elections within that timeframe.
“… His Excellency, the President, intends to shortly name a date for General and Regional Elections in Guyana within the framework provided by the Chairman of the Elections Commission,” the letter stated.
However, in a response on Thursday, Jagdeo pointed out in a letter addressed to the Minister of State that the timeline given by GECOM is “unacceptable”.
He further reminded that at midnight on Thursday, the coalition Government becomes illegal, having failed to hold elections within the constitutionally mandated timeline following the December 21, 2018 passage of the No-confidence Motion.
“I reiterated that the timeline outlined by the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission, in his March 19, 2019 letter, is totally unacceptable. I, therefore, request that you remind President David Granger that at midnight tonight (March 21) his Government becomes illegal,” the Opposition Leader said in his letter to Government.
According to Article 106, the President and his Cabinet has to resign and call elections within three months or at a later date agreed upon by two-thirds of the National Assembly.
Jagdeo had previously committed to extend the deadline pass the 90 days but only if the President set an elections date before April 30, when the current voters’ list will expire.
However, despite mounting pressure on President David Granger to set a date for polls before Thursday’s expiration of the March 21 deadline, the Head of State had insisted on awaiting the elections body to guide him on their level of readiness before executing his presidential responsibility.
But GECOM had previously indicated that it cannot hold elections before the March deadline and has voted to do house-to-house registration which will conclude in November. In fact, the Chairman in a letter to the President on Tuesday informed him that polls cannot be held before late November 2019.
“I would proffer that the Commission would be in a position to conduct General and Regional Elections no earlier than late November 2019 with an official list of electorate having a qualifying date of 31st October, 2019,” Justice Patterson indicated to President Granger.
He went on to explain in the correspondence that since the elections body is continuing with its normal work programme, that is, the holding of house-to-house registration, it will need some $3.5 billion to host elections and as such, “no election date should be contemplated less than five months after these funds are placed at the disposal of and under the control of GECOM”.
However, the Opposition Commissioners on GECOM have blasted the unilaterally appointed Chairman for sending the letter to the Head of State without discussing the contents with the Commissioners.
Some experienced political analysts, including distinguished lawyers, and civil society bodies have predicted that the country will head into a constitutional crisis. But President Granger contends that there will be no crisis and that he will remain in office until a new President is sworn in after elections.
But even as coalition continues with its ‘business as usual’ approach, it has been accused of using the courts to delay their exit from office. Acting Chief Justice Roxane George in January had ruled that the No-confidence Motion was validly passed in the National Assembly and that Government is resigned.
However, the coalition has appealed the High Court’s rulings and the Court of Appeal is expected to hand down its decision on these proceedings today at 15:00h.
Nevertheless, Jagdeo has already engaged several international bodies and the diplomatic community here to not recognise the coalition Government after March 21. The ABCE community has been vocal on the political situation in Guyana, calling on Government to uphold the Constitution.