PPP/C wants LGE next year, pledges resources for preparation – VP
…says “criminal types” must be removed from GECOM
The People’s Progressive Party/Civic Government said that it wants Local Government Elections (LGE) next year but first, the “criminal-types” within the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), who held the country at ransom for some five months after the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections, must be removed.
This is according to Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo during a press conference on Friday.
“Let me just say clearly that the People’s Progressive Party wants Local Government Elections next year. We believe that we can do extremely well in Local Government Elections and we are going to be working really hard, COVID or not, to ensure that we improve the lives of people in their communities right across the country,” he posited.
To this end, Jagdeo noted that the 2021 budget will have resources for GECOM – a constitutional agency – to prepare for the Local Government Elections.
“We want to make sure that communities and people have the right to choose their leaders in the local areas and we’re going to provide resources to prepare for Local Government Elections…,” he contended.
The Vice President however noted that the PPP/C will have no confidence in the electoral system if the same criminal elements at GECOM are involved in the process.
Several top GECOM officials, including Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield and Deputy Chief Elections Officer Roxanne Myers, along with other staff are currently facing electoral fraud charges in court over their involvement in attempts to rig the March 2020 polls.
“We’re expecting that the Commission will get rid of the criminals… The whole country knows that these are criminal types who tried to steal the elections and put the country through a trauma – hardcore, in your face type of criminals. They cannot run any elections,” Jagdeo asserted.
He went on to say, “Nobody – not the international community, none of the [political] parties – excepting APNU that was complicit in the plot to rig the elections, have any confidence in them. And so, there has to be changes there; that’s what we want. Somehow that’s being misinterpreted as the PPP doesn’t want Local Government Elections.”
While LGEs are due next year, President Dr Irfaan Ali had previously cited the need for confidence to be restored in GECOM before proceeding with any other elections, especially in light of the events that unfolded after the March polls, which saw Guyana being embroiled in a political and electoral crisis for five months.
Despite this, however, the APNU/AFC Opposition has been insisting that Local Government Elections be held next year with the current lot of GECOM officials although they are currently facing electoral fraud charges.
The coalition is adamant that Local Government polls must be held every two years. LGEs were last held in Guyana in 2018, and are due again in 2021.
In fact, Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon last week told reporters that his party would continue to pressure the PPP/C Government to hold Local Government Elections.
But President Ali had already explained that “What we have to do is to fix what is there first. We have to ensure we have a system that is working; a system that we can trust; a system that is professional and operates in an unbiased manner, so that the people of our country can have confidence.”
He said that based on his engagements with the public, there is overriding concern that there could be a repeat of the events after the March 2 polls.
“I’ve received letters from many stakeholders in our country. And they all told me that they do not want to go back to the process they went through in those five months. And that is of uttermost importance in the minds of our people. And that is what we have to address,” he added.
The Head of State further noted that “GECOM itself, that is an independent commission, and they have to address this also. The CoI (Commission of Inquiry) and so on would help to highlight weaknesses, challenges, opportunities, threats in ensuring that the system is fixed.”
At the last Local Government Elections in November 2018, the then PPP/C Opposition secured 52 of the 80 Local Authority Areas (LAA). While PPP/C got 61 per cent of the votes, the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and Alliance for Change (AFC) – which contested the Local Government polls separately – obtained a mere 34 and 4 per cent of the votes, respectively.
This followed the holding of LGE in 2016, during which the PPP/C also claimed the majority of the LAAs.
After the 2018 LGE, GECOM spent over a year trying to get ready for snap elections that should have been held within three months of the then A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance for Change (APNU/AFC) Government falling to a No-Confidence Motion in December 2018.
GECOM finally held General and Regional Elections on March 2, 2020. But as if the previous delays were not enough, Guyanese were forced to wait another five months before the results could finally be declared by GECOM on August 2, 2020, after local and international pressure.
Following the controversial five-month-long elections, a number of high-ranking GECOM officials have been investigated by the police and charged for misconduct in public office and forgery.
In addition to Lowenfield and Myers, embattled Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo is also before the courts on electoral fraud charges. (G8)