With preparations already on the way for the hosting of the long-overdue Local Government Elections (LGE), the General Secretary of the ruling People’s Progressive Party (PPP), Bharrat Jagdeo disclosed that the party is in readiness mode and is currently in the process of vetting potential candidates to run in the upcoming race.
Last month, Local Government and Regional Development Minister Nigel Dharamlall set Monday, March 13, 2023, as the date for the hosting of the long-overdue Local Government polls in Guyana. This was the earliest date that the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) indicated the elections could be held.
At a press conference on Friday last, Jagdeo, who is also the Vice President of the current PPP/C Government, was asked about the party’s preparation. He said, “We’re ready for elections.”
The General Secretary further reaffirmed the PPP’s commitment to having grassroots and new leadership participating in the upcoming elections.
“We have a kind of elaborate process and we allow people to work on the names from the bottom up but we give guidance about what we expect from people and the messaging. And so, we’ve done that and we’re in the process of vetting candidates. So, we’re ready for elections whenever they come in March,” Jagdeo contended.
He reminded that the PPP has always been contesting in all the Local Government bodies – both at the Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDC) and township levels. According to the GS, even while in Opposition, the party had contested in all the Local Authority Areas (LAAs) across the country unlike the A Partnership For National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition, which did not run at all the LAA areas despite being in Government at the last two Local Government Elections.
Jagdeo had long signalled the PPP’s readiness to contest the Local Government polls. In fact, as far back as August, he had indicated that the party is in preparation mode for LGE.
“We’re already gone on an election footing. We’d be ready where elections are held this year or next year. We don’t control when that happens, GECOM does but we’d be ready at any time,” the General Secretary had stated.
However, with LGE just months away, there has been much uncertainty regarding the Opposition’s participation in the polls.
Leader of the APNU/AFC Opposition, Aubrey Norton has said that they will not participate in and also threatened to block any elections from being held if the voters’ list is not cleansed.
Since losing the March 2020 elections, the coalition Opposition has been claiming that the voters’ list is bloated. This is despite GECOM already conducting Claims and Objections, a legally mandated method of cleansing the list.
The exercise captured more than 3000 new applicants who will be eligible to vote by October 31, 2022, with only 18 objections to names on the Preliminary List of Electors (PLE).
And based on a 2019 High Court ruling, GECOM cannot remove any person from the National Register of Registrants (NRR) – from which the voters’ list is compiled – unless they are dead or otherwise disqualified under Article 159 (2), (3) and (4) of the Constitution.
Meanwhile, there is also no confirmation on whether the AFC will seek to contest the LGE alone or in the coalition. AFC was famously forced to contest the 2018 LGE alone without its coalition partner and ended up securing just 4 per cent of the total votes cast.
At a press conference last month, AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan had told the media that its National Executive Committee will decide the party’s position on contesting the LGE after consultations, which are slated before 2023.
Already, GECOM has designated December 12, 2022, as Nomination Day for the upcoming LGE. To this end, GECOM has called on parties wanting to contest the polls to submit their symbols by November 12, 2022, in accordance with Section 48 (1) of the Local Authority (Elections) Act, Cap 28:03. Under Section 51 of the Local Authority (Election) Act, none can contest the election without submitting their symbol.
The law requires that these symbols be submitted at least 21 days before Nomination Day.
On Nomination Day, parties or organisations/groups or individuals running at the Local Government polls make their way to a designated location set by GECOM, where their representatives are required to submit their List of Candidates to the Chief Elections Officer (CEO), as well as sign on to the required documents, such as a code of conduct, to contest the elections.
LGE, which is constitutionally due every two years, was last held in 2018.
At the last LGE in November 2018, the then PPP/C Opposition had secured 52 of the 80 Local Authority Areas (LAAs). This followed the holding of the LGE in 2016, during which the PPP/C also claimed the majority of the LAAs.