Opposition takes GECOM to court over Voters’ List for upcoming LGE
Chief Scrutineer of the A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC), Carol Smith Joseph, has filed legal actions against the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), challenging the process used to compile the List of Electors, or Voters’ List, for the upcoming Local Government Elections (LGE).
The Fix Date Application, which was filed on Friday at the High Court in Georgetown, lists GECOM, the Chief Elections Officer, the Commissioner of Registration, and the Attorney General as respondents.
Joseph, through her Attorney Roysdale Forde S.C, is asking the court to make a series of declarations: that GECOM acted ultra vires and unlawfully in compiling the List of Voters for Local Government Elections; that the action of the Chief Elections Officer and/or the Commissioner of National Registration in extracting a List of Electors pursuant to GECOM’s order is similarly ultra vires and unlawful;
that GECOM acted in dereliction of its duty under the relevant electoral laws; and that GECOM has a constitutional duty to ensure that registration of electors is conducted in accordance with the law.
“The process employed by the Commission to prepare a Register of Voters for use at the next Local Government Elections has deprived the electors and/or voters of the opportunity to object to persons on the Register of Voters in the manner provided for in, and contemplated by, Local Authorities (Elections) Act Cap. 28:03” is one of the grounds stated in the legal document.
Another outline is “The process employed by the Commission to prepare a Register of Voters for use at the next Local Government Elections has not been in accordance with the Local Authorities (Elections) Act.”
To this end, Joseph has asked the court to grant orders setting aside GECOM’s order to extract a List of Electors for Local Government Elections “…on the ground and for the reason that the said Order, No. 55 of 2022, is ultra vires and unlawful.”
She also wants the court to set aside the extraction of the List of Electors by the Chief Election Officer and/or the Commissioner of National Registration; as well as for an order to be granted compelling the Elections Commission to comply with the relevant sections of the Local Authorities (Elections) Act Cap 28:03.
Another order is being sought to direct and/or compel GECOM to compile a register of voters in accordance with the provisions set out in the Local Authorities (Elections) Act Cap 28:03 before conducting any Local Government Election in Guyana.
Back in October 2022, Local Government and Regional Development Minister Nigel Dharamlall had set Monday, March 13, 2023 as the date for hosting the long-overdue local government polls in Guyana. This was the earliest date that GECOM indicated the elections could be held.
However, despite filing legal proceedings that could potentially disrupt the holding of these polls, the APNU+AFC Opposition has already participated in the exercise of submitting its symbol to GECOM, which it admitted in the court documents.
The law requires that these symbols be submitted at least 21 days before Nomination Day. That deadline was November 12, 2022. Under Section 51 of the Local Authority (Election) Act, none can contest the election without submitting their symbol.
Meanwhile, GECOM has designated December 12, 2022 as Nomination Day for the upcoming LGE. On Nomination Day, parties or organisations/groups or individuals running at the local government polls make their way to a designated location set by GECOM, where their representatives are required to submit their List of Candidates to the Chief Election Officer (CEO), as well as sign on to the required documents, such as a code of conduct, in order to contest the elections.
LGE, which is constitutionally due every two years, was last held in 2018. At the last LGE in November 2018, the then PPP/C Opposition had secured 52 of the 80 Local Authority Areas (LAAs). This followed the holding of the LGE in 2016, when the PPP/C had also claimed most of the LAAs.