An opinion survey I conducted for the North American Caribbean Teachers Association (NACTA) last week found that the overwhelming majority of the nation wants President David David Granger to appoint, without any further delay, the Chair of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) from the latest (third) list of six nominees submitted by Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo last month.
GECOM has been without a Chair since last February when Dr Steve Surujbally resigned from the position. The Commission’s critical election work has been largely suspended since that time. Jagdeo nominated twelve potential chairpersons, all of whom were rejected by the President as not being “fit and proper” because they were not all (former or sitting) judges or potential judges. The Chief Justice recently ruled that the Chair does not have to be a judge as President Granger had required.
Dr Jagdeo then submitted a third list comprising a judge, potential judges and a former GECOM Chair). Almost all of the respondents interviewed in the poll are in agreement with the Chief Justice that any fit and proper person can be appointed Chair of GECOM and that the nominee or appointee does not have to be a judge. They are of the view that all 18 nominees of the Opposition Leader are qualified to be Chair of Gecom and that the President should not further hold up the appointment from the latest list.
Voters express suspicion that the Government is dragging its feet on the appointment of GECOM Chair as a strategy to delay elections due by mid-2020 because without a Chair GECOM cannot engage in registration of voters and prepare a new list for an election. Respondents also voiced concerns that without a Chair, there could be contamination of the electoral list with ineligible registrants that could affect the outcome of an election.
The poll randomly interviewed 392 likely voters to yield a demographically representative sample (43% Indians, 30% Africans, 16% Mixed, 10% Amerindians, and 1% other races) of the population. The poll, using the live interview method, was coordinated by Dr Vishnu Bisram, pollster, newspaper columnist, and educator in NY. The results of the poll were analyzed at a 95 per cent significance level and a statistical sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points was found.
Asked if they support the ruling of the Chief Justice that the Chair of GECOM can be any fit and proper person who is not necessarily a judge, former judge or qualified to be a judge, 79% concur with only 3% disagreeing and 18% not offering a response (largely not having knowledge about the issue).
Asked if the President should appoint the GECOM Chair now, 85% said yes, with 2% saying no, and 13% not offering an opinion. But many expressed reservations on whether the President will proceed to appoint a Chair because they feel he wants to choose his own person to head the electoral body.
More findings will be released in another report.