Jagdeo pushes for tougher laws to prevent electoral fraud

Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo
Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo

Vice President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo has hinted that the Government will be taking steps very soon to strengthen the relevant laws to have persons face severe penalties, including jail time, for electoral related offences.

Jagdeo was at the time commenting on the Government’s readiness for Local Government Elections which are constitutionally due next year.  He indicated that while the PPP/C is always ready to face the electorate the party would first work to have the electoral system strengthened, including the necessary legislation, to prevent the chaos that occurred following the March 2 General and Regional Elections.

“We have to think about changes to the Representation of the People Act, to put in that Act, Amendments early, maybe next year, some penalties, elections related penalties, so people can go to jail…for some of the things they tried to pull off in the past,” the VP asserted during a recent interview programme.

Jagdeo further explained that the Legislation has to be made clearer by outlining how the elections count/tabulation takes place, and more particularly the publication of the Statements of Poll (SoPs).

He bemoaned the fact that until now the PPP/C has not received the SoPs from the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) even though it has made several requests for same.

“GECOM refused to release them (SoPs), of course, we have them (PPP/C copies), we made them public. I don’t know how they would ever win a petition when we called for the SoPs they don’t present them or they present them and they (SoPs) show that APNU lost the elections.”

Region Four Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo and Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield

Nevertheless, the VP expressed that the Government is preparing for the elections and will be allocating resources in the 2021 Budget accordingly.

However, he noted: “nobody expects; not APNU supporters nor the international community, nor the PPP or any other party for that matter, that we will ever got to elections with a (Keith) Lowenfield there or a Roxanne Myers. If they do, they need to have their heads examined”.

According to Jagdeo, the elections could still be run-off “if you have good people, with the same electoral system”.

He insisted that it would be impossible to have free and fair elections with the same set of controversial persons at the helm.

“Look at the rabid display that they have had, I don’t need to tell you about it, the whole country knows about it, the world knows about it, not a single international organisation or any country has said that you can have free and fair elections with those individuals still in place,” Jagdeo asserted.

President Dr Irfaan Ali had also expressed similar views citing the need for confidence to be restored in the electoral machinery in light of the events that followed the March 2 General and Regional Elections.

“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,” Ali had said.

He had asserted 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.

Local Government Elections were last held in 2018, which resulted in the PPP/C securing 52 of the 80 Local Authority Areas (LAA). It 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 APNU/AFC government falling to a No-Confidence Motion in December 2018.

GECOM finally held General and Regional elections on March 2nd 2020. But as if the previous delay was 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 are being investigated by the police and charged for misconduct in public office and forgery, including Chief Elections Officer Lowenfield, his deputy Myers, Region Four Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo, among others.