AFC is a separate entity, allowed to skip LGE – Norton

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PNC Leader Aubrey Norton and AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan

 

 

In the wake of coalition partner Alliance For Change’s (AFC) decision to boycott the Local Government Elections (LGE), Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton has said that A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) will make its own position on contesting the election known at the right time.

In an interview with this publication, Norton noted that if the AFC came to a decision that it was not in their best interest to run for LGE 2023, then they have all rights to take the course of action they have taken.

According to Norton, the smaller party is a separate entity. When it comes to APNU and whether they will come to a similar decision, Norton said that this will be made known when the time is “right”.

“The AFC is a separate entity. And it can make a decision to not participate. That is their right… this is not something for me to have thoughts on. The AFC as a political party, they are a part of the coalition, but they are a party by themselves,” Norton said.

“Our party will declare our decision at the right time. We continue to protest for a new voters’ list. But we also have constituents. We are consulting with them. And the decision will be made at the right time,” Norton further explained.

On Sunday, the AFC announced its decision to bow out of contesting the upcoming LGE, a decision the party supposedly arrived at due to its concerns over the list of electors and after much debate. It added the caveat that it would not contest unless there are changes to the list of electors.

The party claimed that the list of electors is ‘bloated’, an often-repeated claim of its coalition partner, APNU. The party also echoed concerns of its partner, which is yet to confirm if it will participate in LGE, that the list contains the names of Guyanese who migrated.

According to the Constitution of Guyana and previous court cases, however, Guyanese who have migrated cannot be removed from the list of electors since residency of Guyanese citizens is not a requirement to vote.

This was demonstrated since 2019, when Chief Justice (ag), Roxane George ruled that the removal of the names of persons from the list of registrants, who were not resident in Guyana and could not participate in the House-to-House Registration exercise, would be unconstitutional. Her decision was subsequently upheld in the Court of Appeal.

The requirements for a person to vote, as set out in Articles 59 and 159 of the Constitution, are that that person must be 18 years or older, and must be a Guyanese citizen or a Commonwealth citizen resident and domiciled in Guyana.

The AFC also said in their statement that the electoral system is not perfect and that they were not willing to “perpetuate a deception”. They further said that they would support postponing LGE until their definition of a “clean” voters’ list is arrived at.

AFC’s pull-out from contesting LGE comes at a time when the smaller party is already receiving diminished returns whenever it goes to the polls. Such was the case in 2018, when the party, then part of the APNU/AFC coalition Government, was forced to contest LGE on its own. It ended up securing just four per cent of the total votes cast.

The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has already designated December 12, 2022, as nomination day for the upcoming LGE, which are set to be held next year March.

On nomination day, parties make their way to a designated location, where their representatives are usually required to submit their list of candidates to the Chief Election Officer, as well as sign on to the required documents, such as a code of conduct, to contest the elections.

These representatives are usually accompanied by a large retinue of their supporters, dressed in party colours, although all the parties who submit symbols do not always make a grand entrance or even go at all.

Parties, voluntary groups and individuals are meanwhile required to submit their symbols in accordance with Section 48 (1) of the Local Authorities (Elections) Act, Cap 28:03. The law requires that these symbols be submitted at least 21 days before nomination day.

The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), has already signalled its readiness to contest the upcoming LGE. As far back as August, Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo, who is the General Secretary of the PPP/C, had said that the party is in preparation mode for LGE.