The Government will soon be responding to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), which has written it identifying March 2023 as the soonest date the secretariat can carry out Local Government Elections (LGE).
GECOM Chairperson, Retired Justice Claudette Singh had written to Local Government and Regional Development Minister Nigel Dharamlall advising him that based on GECOM’s work plan, March 13, 2023 was the earliest date that LGE could be held.
Contacted on Wednesday, Dharamlall confirmed that he received the letter from GECOM. According to him, a response to the letter will be forthcoming “soon”.
According to the Local Authorities (Elections) Act, Chapter 28:03, elections are held according to the date set by the Minister. The workplan in question was arrived at by Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Vishnu Persaud, who was tasked by GECOM with coming up with a work plan for the holding of LGE.
At first, that work plan was supposed to be limited to this year end. However, that has since had to be extended amid successive weeks of what has been described by the Government-nominated GECOM Commissioners as delaying tactics at Commission meetings.
More than $750 million has been set aside in Budget 2022 for the preparations to be undertaken by GECOM for the hosting of LGE this year. This money is part of an overall $4.1 billion allocation to GECOM in Budget 2022, and was examined and approved by the National Assembly during its consideration of the 2022 Budget Estimates.
Included in the $783 million for LGE is a more-than-$300 million increase in “other goods and services purchased”, which jumped from $250.8 million in 2021 to $575.9 million in the 2022 Budget.
GECOM only recently concluded its Claims and Objections exercise, which captured more than 3000 new applicants who will be eligible to vote as of October 31, 2022, as well as a total of 18 objections to names on the Preliminary List of Electors (PLE). Additionally, there were more than 1800 requests for transfers.
LGE, which are usually due every two years, were last held in 2018. At the last LGE in November 2018, the then People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Opposition had secured 52 of the 80 Local Authority Areas (LAAs). This followed the holding of the LGE in 2016, during which the PPP/C also claimed the majority of the LAAs.
The A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), the main Opposition political party, meanwhile remains tight-lipped on its participation in the next LGE and its minority coalition partner, the Alliance For Change (AFC) is yet to communicate their joint contesting of the polls.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton was questioned about the APNU’s participation at the LGE, as GECOM continued its preparation for the hosting of the polls.
However, he maintained that the party would not divulge its participation or lack thereof, as he explained, “The question of elections has to do with strategy and tactic, and we think strategically we don’t need to say it at this time. We know what we need to say at our membership. We know we have to do – our preparation. We will do that. But we will decide at the right time what we say in terms of participation or non-participation.”