APNU/AFC wants LGE with compromised GECOM officials

Joseph Harmon

The APNU/AFC Coalition Opposition wants Local Government Elections (LGE) to be held with the current batch of top electoral officials who are currently before the courts facing charges of electoral fraud.

While the next round of local government elections are due next year, President Dr Irfaan Ali has cited the need for confidence to be restored in the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) before proceeding with any other elections, especially in light of the events that unfolded in the five months after the March 2 polls, which saw Guyana being embroiled in a political and electoral crisis.

However, the Coalition Opposition 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 a statement on Wednesday, the APNU/AFC said, “…we call on the PPP regime to hold the Local Government Elections in 2021, and to make the necessary preparations and budgetary allocations for the holding of same.”

Moreover, Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon told reporters that his party would continue to pressure the PPP/C Government to hold Local Government Elections.

On the sidelines of the swearing in of Chairmen and Vice Chairmen for the Regional Democratic Councils earlier this week, President Ali told reporters, “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 went on to say 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). 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 delay were not enough, Guyanese were forced to wait another five months before the results could finally be declared by GECOM on August 2nd, 2020, after local and international pressure.

In the aftermath of 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.

Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield; Deputy Chief Elections Officer Roxanne Myers, and embattled Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo are among the top GECOM officials currently before the courts on electoral fraud charges.