Guyanese fears of rigged elections valid – Opposition Leader

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Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo

With the legitimacy of the last Regional and General Elections being challenged by the Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and with renewed talks on the ground over the upcoming election cycle, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has said that fears of rigged elections are legitimate.

He said recently, these fears expressed by various pockets of people across the country are not unreasonable and points right back to previous rigged elections, which occurred in Guyana under the leadership of the People’s National Congress (PNC).

Jagdeo, General Secretary of the PPP, said too that some of the key players during that period in the 1980s are still prominent in the current Government. He said this gives more reasons why citizens across Guyana may have that level of fear about election rigging.

But the former President said such fears are compounded by the fact that President David Granger unilaterally appointed a Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), in the person of retired Justice James Patterson, 84, who is accused of being aligned to the PNC.

“What we have said to people is that because of that fear, we have to work harder, be more vigilant and block any attempt to rig… that is what we are doing now,” he stressed. The PPP General Secretary has in the past called on Guyanese to be alert and work hard toward preventing this.

Jagdeo has vowed to fight against any form of election rigging. He has accused the coalition of allegedly crafting certain strategies that have the potential to jeopardise the entire electoral process, citing the appointment of Patterson as the GECOM head.

“We expected this; we have lived with this a very long time. But they (Government) are not going to deter us from fighting aggressively for free and fair elections. They are not going to break our spirit with these appointments. And there will be consequences,” he had stated.

He said if the Government chose not to live by the rules and took power without observing the rules, then the PPP would not be bound by any rules, because it would basically be a freedom struggle. “It changes from a struggle within an established democracy to one of fighting for freedom.”

Although he believes that the stage is being set to rig the 2020 elections, Jagdeo has made clear that such a task could not stand in an open and democratic society. “There will be an attempt given the nature of the PNC, an attempt to try to tamper with the elections,” he added.

President David Granger during his third presser since his party came to power in 2015

The PPP has also raised concerns in relation to Government’s attempt to allegedly pad the Voters’ List. Only recently, Jagdeo also raised concerns again about thousands of Haitian nationals who arrived in Guyana, but many of them have not left the country. He alleged that they may have been trafficked here.

He also raised concerns over Government’s moves to create new townships as a means of trying to tamper with the current system and create an avenue for them to allegedly tamper with the votes. Although this has happened previously, the PPP still managed to sweep a major victory at the last Local Government Elections (LGE). The next LGE is set for November 11.

But President David Granger has brushed aside suggestions that he would follow in the footsteps of the late President Forbes Burnham. Burnham was accused of rigging elections to stay in power. He ruled Guyana from 1964 until his death in 1985.

“I have never rigged an election in my life; I have no intention of ever doing so… I am not aware that rigged elections were an ideal of Forbes Burnham,” he said. Granger has repeatedly pointed to the ideals of Burnham, but said as far as the rigging of elections was concerned, “I don’t see how that is applicable to anything that I have said or intend to do.”

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