APNU-AFC seeking electoral advantage at LGE by gerrymandering boundaries, says PPP

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The PPP held a press conference at Freedom House on Monday to raise their concerns with the LGE

The announcement made by the Communities Minister, Ronald Bulkan, to have the number of Constituencies reduced from 16 to 14 in existing Local Government Areas (LAAs) -making them the subject of re-designation with proposed re-demarcation by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM)- is aimed at giving the APNU-AFC Administration an electoral advantage at the upcoming Local Government Elections (LGE).

This is according to the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) on Monday, as they noted that “having closely examined the specific Constituencies which have been reduced and which will now have to be absorbed or merged into other Constituencies in these LAAs, the Party is of the firm opinion that the proposed changes, as reflected in the Ministerial Order, would give an electoral advantage to the governing APNU Party as opposed to the other contestants in those LAAs.”

Recently, Bulkan announced the creation of 1 new township and 8 new Neighbourhood Democratic Councils- an increase of 9 LAAs, bringing the total LAAs to 80.

By doing this, the PPP has asserted that the Minister has failed to observe the Constitutional Provisions enshrined in Article 13 of the Guyana Constitution which mandates “providing increasing opportunities for the participation of the citizens, and their organizations in the management and decision-making processes of the State, with particular emphasis on those areas that directly affect their well-being”.

In addition, it was also stressed that no consultations have been done prior to the changes, nor has Bulkan made a move to provide reasons for his reduction of the LAAs even though some two months has elapsed since the change was made.

GECOM’s Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield

Media operatives were on Monday, during a press conference, informed that after the disclosure, a meeting was held with the PPP and the Chief Elections Officer of the GECOM, Keith Lowenfield on July 30, 2018, to address some concerns the Party has.

In their list of approximately 13 observations and concerns, the Opposition noted that GECOM has not informed them as to what the specific re-demarcations in the Constituencies are, leaving the party “at a great disadvantage.”

“This is causing serious delays in commencing and finalizing the identification of Candidates and Backers for the 2018 LGE as the geographic identity of the proposed Constituents remains unknown.”

“In addition, the PPP takes this opportunity to point out that it suggested to Mr. Lowenfield the need for security markers to be placed on all requisite forms to be used as part of the process for the upcoming November 12 Local Government Election (GECOM,” they said, while noting that the party strongly believes that this would help to safeguard the integrity of the process.

However, the Opposition expressed astonishment having learned that, according to them, the GECOM Commissioners, appointed by the People’s National Congress (PNC), vehemently opposed this suggestion.

“This has obviously raised concerns causing the PPP to question whether forms without any security mark are being used by the APNU operatives from the 2016 elections.”

The PPP has also asserted that it remains convinced that these developments point to gerrymandering of the boundaries of the Constituencies in 14 LAAs and the attempt to increase the APNU’s balance of votes through the creation of 9 new LAAs.

“Unfortunately, after the LGE, many of these new LAAs will be severely challenged to be sustainable due to the small size of the population and limited resources available within these areas,” the Party reasoned, positing that the “Government is clearly unconcerned about the post-election consequences to these communities and are focused on their overriding objective to ensure they aren’t slaughtered in the 2018 LGE as they were in the 2016 LGE; thus this expediency trumps all other concerns of the people.”

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