Guyana in prolonged constitutional crisis since 2018 – Dr David Lewis

President David Granger addressing the 11th Parliament

Former Assistant United States Secretary of State for Caribbean Development in Puerto Rico, Dr David Lewis said a constitutional crisis looms over Guyana as the will of the people is being held, hostage.

Dr Lewis in his opinion piece published in the Miami Herald on Wednesday noted that Guyana has been in a prolonged constitutional crisis since December 2018.

“That’s when the government of President David Granger and his ruling coalition, A Partnership for National Unity-Alliance for Change (APNU-AFC) lost a No-Confidence Motion (NCM) vote against it in the National Assembly, then failed to step down within three months as mandated by the Constitution and a ruling of the regional Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).”

He added that the constitutional crisis endured through all of 2019, with various legal disputes, and effectively launched the country into an election campaign. Eventually, per a Supreme Court decision, General and Regional Elections were held on March 2, 2020. “Those elections were held but, three months later, remain undecided,” Lewis said in his article.

Dr David Lewis

Lewis is vice president of Manchester Trade Ltd, an international business advisory firm in Washington, DC and also an adjunct professor at the FIU School of Business.

He said following the massive offshore discoveries in Guyana, one hoped that betterment would have come. However, it is five years later and those “hopes are on the verge of turning to despair as a persistent political conflict sparked by the ruling party threatens to deteriorate into a full-blown democratic crisis.”

According to the votes tabulated on the night of the March 02, 2020, General and Regional Elections, the APNU/AFC Government was headed for defeat with the Opposition PPP/C headed for a clear victory.

“But, in a highly unusual move, election authorities delayed posting the results for the country’s most populous voting district, known as Region 4. All previous elections in Guyana have been determined by the voter turnout in this area. As Region 4 goes, so goes the election victory. Region 4 voters were effectively and arbitrarily disenfranchised by the Guyana Elections Commission.”

“Despite strong criticism from domestic and international observers for a lack of transparency, the Elections Commission released results to the media on March 13. The results show a win by the APNU–AFC coalition by 59,077 votes, which would give APNU-AFC a one-seat majority in the National Assembly,” Dr Lewis noted.

He, explained to his readers, that the various international observer missions including the European Union, Organization of American States (OAS), The Commonwealth and the Carter Center concluded that, “the tabulation of results for the election in Region 4 was interrupted and remains incomplete.”

The United States, United Kingdom, European Union and Canada have monitored the process closely. They have made clear to all parties, including the Elections Commission, the need for a free and fair transparent recount process to ensure the legitimacy of the victor and the subsequent government.

Clearly following the process as well, Dr Lewis wrote that that following the court battles and decisions, the current recount is integral in expressing the will of the people. He saved no words for the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) which he noted could not even meet its own 25 days’ deadline for the recount.

Moving on, he is hopeful that the anticipated June 16 declaration date comes to fore and the results of the elections announced.