Government-nominated Commissioner on the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Attorney Sase Gunraj has stated that with embattled Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield, his Deputy Roxanne Myers and Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo now removed, there is a possibility that the electoral body can still hold Local Government Elections (LGE) before the end of this year.
The ruling People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government was adamant that it will not go ahead with another election with the embattled trio at the helm of the Election Secretariat.
Lowenfield, Myers and Mingo attempted to sway the results of the March 2020 General and Regional Elections in favour of the then A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government.
The three election officers are all before the courts on a number of electoral fraud charges and were on Thursday terminated from their respective posts at GECOM after the seven-member Commission voted on three motions tabled by the Government-nominated Commissioners for their dismissals.
With the embattled trio gone, Commissioner Sase told reporters on Thursday that there are still a few months remaining and if GECOM is serious enough about holding the Local Government polls then this can be done.
“The holding of Local Government Elections within the statutorily defined time is imminently possible… I believe if the Guyana Elections Commission is serious about holding the elections as contemplated, we can put our shoulders to the wheel, ensure these vacancies are filled in a timely manner and the necessary preparations for the holding of elections are done,” he posited.
Asked how serious they are about holding the LGEs, Gunraj maintained that his actions as a GECOM Commissioner have always been geared towards getting the work done in an efficient manner that finds the favour and acquiescence of all the stakeholders in this process, including the electorate.
Nevertheless, he is hopeful that his fellow colleague Commissioners at GECOM also share the same belief so that they can get this task done.
“It is my hope that my colleagues, as well, on the Commission will see the urgent need to have this done for us to be compliant with the laws to carry out our mandate as specified in the Constitution and let’s get the work done. Unfortunately, we have seen the tardiness at times that characterises the operations of GECOM. But I hope in this instance… we see the need to have this done and get it done quickly,” Gunraj contended.
Local Government Elections is constitutionally mandated to be held every two years and with the last one held in 2018, it is due this year.
While, Government has reassured that Local Government polls will be held this year, it has cited the need for public confidence to be restored in GECOM following last year’s March 2 General and Regional Elections, which left Guyana embroiled in a political and electoral crisis for five months. As such, calls were mounted for the removal of key electoral officials who are responsible for those events.
Nevertheless, some $1.1 billion has been set aside in GECOM’s 2021 budget for the hosting of Local Government polls. This includes $237.7 million for the printing of 500,000 ballots for LGE.
Only last week, President Dr Irfaan Ali, during a press conference to mark his Administration’s one year anniversary in office, said Local Government polls is still on Government’s agenda, while noting that it is up to GECOM to advise on its readiness.
“Let me be very clear that the PPP/C Government welcomes Local Government Elections. We have made the necessary budgetary provisions in the budget to facilitate Local Government Elections. However, it is the role of the Guyana Elections Commission to be in a position to run these elections,” he said, adding that “It is the Guyana Elections Commission that must advise on its readiness.”