Less than 48 hours ago, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) eventually decided to increase the number of polling stations in areas where concerns were raised over inadequacy and overcrowding. Those areas are traditional strongholds of the People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C) and with the numbers of polling stations initially been reduced, there were genuine fears of persons being disenfranchised.
The PPP/C, having uncovered the reduction, fought relentlessly to have the situation rectified. The issue came to fore after GECOM stated that the traditional use of private residences as polling stations will be reduced. Further, the elections body claimed that its decision was based on advice from the Carter Center.
In reality, the use of private residences was eliminated in two particular areas that are known to supportive of the PPP/C; areas that in the past had multiple polling stations, both with the use of private and public buildings. In doing so, the use of private residences in areas known to be supportive of the APNU/AFC Government was not reduced or eliminated.
That can clearly be interpreted as a deliberate attempt by GECOM, more especially its Secretariat, to give an advantage to the Government at the expense of the PPP/C and its supporters. This was deemed blatantly unfair by the PPP/C and hence its unrelenting efforts to have the number of polling stations in question increased. The PPP/C’s position was supported by many sections of civil society.
What is even more worrying is that, reportedly, the Carter Center did not offer the advice to reduce as GECOM claimed. Once again, such actions bring into question the intent of GECOM’s Secretariat having, over time, implemented measures that are not only disadvantageous to the PPP/C but in some instances, in contravention of the constitution.
These obviously led to accusations that the Secretariat is carrying out the wishes of the APNU/AFC Government which in itself has disrespected the constitution to avoid holding elections following the December 21, 2018, No-Confidence Motion (NCM). APNU/AFC’s subsequent actions and stated positions seemed to be mirrored by those of GECOM’s Secretariat.
From court cases to unconstitutionally extended timelines, it became difficult to refute a seeming collaboration between the GECOM Secretariat and APNU/AFC. Much has been said about this and had it not been for the valiant efforts of the PPP/C and its General Secretary, the current situation may have been completely different.
In response to the PPP/C’s claim of support in the areas affected by the reduction in polling stations, the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) of GECOM publicly stated that he cannot accept an area being a stronghold of any political party, more so, the PPP/C. Such a statement is worrying especially since Guyana is a small country and in general, the political persuasion of villages is no secret.
Even if the CEO wanted to sound as if he is politically correct, his records of how the areas in question would have voted in the past would have served to better inform his public position. Regardless of his claimed lack of knowledge of political strongholds, the unfairness of lesser polling stations in the areas— two for about seven thousands voters in an area supportive of the PPP/C as against six for about two thousand voters in another area deemed to be supportive of APNU/AFC— clearly should not have escaped him.
The question of why reduce the number of stations only in areas supportive of the PPP/C as against others must be publicly answered by the CEO. What could have been his reasoning? It was reported that polling stations were identified and agreed by the Commission in January this year. However, what was eventually declared publicly differed. GECOM Commissioners appointed by the PPP/C claimed that it was altered without their knowledge.
Again, such actions speak to what seems a sustained effort, reportedly on the part of the GECOM Secretariat, to place the PPP/C at a disadvantage. What is means is that along the process to have elections on March 2, fairness may have been compromised, forcing strong opposition from the PPP/C and sections of society.
Noticeably, it’s the PPP/C that is leading the way to ensure that the upcoming elections are free and fair while many, if not all, of the smaller parties contesting, are silent over these glaring actions. As a matter of fact, they have been silent on the Government’s unconstitutional actions since the NCM. They have, by their own actions, or lack thereof, given GECOM’s Secretariat and the APNU/AFC Government, a free pass.
So with a senior Minister calling on her supporters to stay vigilant and follow the ballot boxes and offering jobs only to party supporters, to President David Granger wearing his Party’s colour on the day the Joint Services voted, to another Minister promising house lots to some members of the Disciplined Services the day before they voted, have not been challenged by the smaller parties. That further confirms the obvious; the PPP/C is leading the fight for fair elections. Some have even opined that the PPP/C main challenger seems to be GECOM. That may not be farfetched given the continual action of the Secretariat.