Opposition Leader says Govt conspiring with GECOM to rig elections

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Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Head Office located at Kingston, Georgetown

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has accused the coalition Government of conspiring with the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to rig the next General and Regional Elections, based on their insistence to replace the current voters’ list through house-to-house registration.

Addressing his weekly press conference on Wednesday, Jagdeo said his party has made several proposals to put certain safeguards in place to ensure that credible elections could be held by April 30 but both parties have refused to make it possible to hold elections by that time.

Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo

Jagdeo feels that elections could be held in a short period by extending the validity of the voters’ list for another two months, during which elections could be held.

“There are safeguards against all of these things and that is why I believe the call for house-to-house registration will not ensure that more people are on the list and has a clean election… The only reason for house-to-house is to delay elections,” he told the press.

Jagdeo claimed that there were plans not to register at least 10 persons for each polling station in People’s Progressive Party (PPP) strongholds to ensure that 20,000 persons are unable to vote. He also claimed he has been told that when concerns are raised, the PPP will be blamed on the grounds that his party has been demanding early general elections.

He told the media also that plans were also afoot to double-register persons and for GECOM to refuse to do fingerprint scanning to remove duplicate registrants from the list, give foreigners fake birth certificates to allow them to register. But Jagdeo said, “We are not going to accept this. We are not going to roll over and play dead on these issues.”

Making reference to recent news that GECOM would only be able to hold elections in late November, Jagdeo said it points to another act of conspiracy between the Commission and the President. He argued that not only were the Opposition-appointed GECOM Commissioners not consulted but the advice was sent to the President two days before March 21.

He feels, “This letter was a carefully contrived letter…. It gives President Granger an excuse out to say it’s not me, its GECOM…which he has been saying all along. And look, now we have them saying that they can’t hold elections until November the Opposition is being unreasonable. It is not us (Government); it is GECOM delaying the polls.”

Date

Jagdeo has already made it clear in a social media post that the PPP will never accept the November 2019 date for the holding of elections, as is being put forward by the three Government-nominated GECOM Commissioners and Chairman, retired Justice James Patterson.

Patterson wrote President Granger, informing him that General and Regional Elections cannot be held before late November 2019, even though GECOM is constitutionally mandated to hold elections within three months of the passage of a no-confidence motion against the Government.

Justice: James Patterson

In the case of Guyana, that deadline expires today. In the letter dispatched to the Head of State, the GECOM chair explained that since the elections body is continuing with its normal work programme, that is, the holding of house-to-house registration, it will need some $3.5 billion to host elections.

Patterson also claimed that GECOM would only be able to produce a new voters list with a qualifying date of October 31, 2019. He continued by urging the President to make the required additional resources available.

In this regard, the GECOM Chairman explained that “no election date should be contemplated less than five months after these funds are placed at the disposal of and under the control of GECOM.”

Since the December 21, 2018 passage of the motion of no-confidence against the APNU/AFC coalition, calls have been made by various stakeholders including foreign diplomats here for the Government to abide by the Constitution and set a date for elections.

The Opposition has already written several international bodies and representatives asking that they do not recognise the coalition Government after March 21, if there is no extension.

No collusion

Meanwhile, Government in a statement on Wednesday evening, denied any collusion with GECOM. It added that GECOM is an independent, autonomous agency that is responsible for the administration of elections in Guyana.

The Constitution of Guyana at Article 62, provides that “Elections shall be independently supervised by the Election [s] Commission in accordance with the provisions of Article 162.”

“President David Granger has repeatedly emphasised that the Government of Guyana will not interfere or intrude in the work of the GECOM,” the statement said.

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