Private Sector criticises discriminatory reduction of polling places

General and Regional Elections

…Opposition Leader warns of protest action against GECOM

The Opposition – People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) – has come out swinging against the Guyana Election Commission’s (GECOM) drastic but unequal reduction of private residences as polling places, warning that it will protest against the decision if necessary.

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo

This was communicated in a statement on the social media account of the party’s General Secretary, Bharrat Jagdeo. While the party expressed hope that they would not have to resort to such measures, it noted that GECOM’s decisions is a discriminatory one.
“We will continue in its relentless struggle to reverse the discriminatory, unfair and inequitable allocation of polling places so that the Guyanese electorate right across the country, but more particularly, on the East Coast Demerara, are afforded the opportunity to exercise their democratic right to vote on March 2, 2020, in fair, convenient and hassle-free environment,” Jagdeo said on social media.

PSC Head, Retired Captain Gerry Gouveia

He added that the party will continue to engage GECOM, the international community and the international observer teams in Guyana until this matter is satisfactorily addressed. “If necessary, we are prepared to galvanise the tens of thousands of electors who are affected,” Jagdeo warned.
Here, the party specifically referred to the worst affected communities of Mon Repos, Good Hope, Lusignan, Annandale and Foulis on the East Coast of Demerara (ECD). However, the party did not rule out involving other areas of the country in a peaceful protest against GECOM.

Private Sector
The Private Sector Commission (PSC) was also heavily critical of the reduction of polling places and noted the “very real possibility” that a large number of voters, particularly in rural areas, will be disenfranchised due to the changes made by GECOM.

GECOM Chair, Retired Justice Claudette Singh

“The Private Sector Commission wishes to point out that, while GECOM is bound in law to observe the statutory process requiring the Chief Election Officer to act within the authority of the Commission, he appears to have acted unilaterally and on his own by changing the location of polling places between January and February and without informing the contesting political parties,” the Commission said in a statement on Monday.
The PSC noted that it is dismayed at the claim reported in the media to have been made by the Chairman of GECOM that “the decision to change the location of these polling places was in response to a recommendation made by the Carter Center that private residences should not be used as polling places.”

Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield

According to the Commission, it checked and found that the Carter Center did not recommend the removal of private residences as Polling Stations. This claim was made by GECOM Chairperson, retired Justice Claudette Singh, only days ago.
“The PSC has checked and is informed that the Carter Center in its final report, following the 2015 elections, made no such recommendation and we call upon the Carter Center to immediately publicly make the Center’s position clear on this matter,” the PSC said.
The PSC added that it must also point out that, in any event, GECOM has, in fact, identified a number of private residences for polling places and mainly in the urban area of Georgetown. “The Chief Elections Officer had presented to the Commission in January a document assigning polling places which was acceptable to the contesting political parties who are represented on the Commission.”
The Commission noted that considering the timing of GECOM’s decision, it should at a minimum reverse the last-minute changes made to the assigned polling places and revert to the ones all stakeholders had agreed on in January.