…but ready to move into required mode
The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) says it has not been consulted by Government or any political parties on the holding of Local Government Elections this year, but stands fully prepared and ready to move into the required mode.
GECOM’s Chairman, Dr. Steve Surujbally, during a press conference yesterday at Cara Lodge to introduce Keith Lowenfield, who was appointed Chief Elections Officer (CEO) and Commissioner of National Registration on Wednesday, also made it clear that the Commission has not yet received any signal from the Minister of Local Government and Regional Development on a possible date.
Under the law, the Minister is the one who would “start the ball rolling” by indicating a date.
The Opposition has been tagging August 1 as the date to hold the long-overdue elections, following the passage of critical reforms for Local Government Elections a few weeks ago.
After Local Government Elections in 1994, a halt on the agreement of Government and the Opposition was placed on the future polls until reforms were in place.
The elections are critical for choosing new Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) and City Councils. The absence of elections has been blamed for the breakdown of infrastructure in the 65 NDCs, as a result of death, migration, mismanagement and plain corruption by Councillors.
General Secretary of the ruling People’s Progressive Party, Clement Rohee, had said that it is unlikely that the August 1 date will be met, as GECOM still has a number of things to complete including voters’ education and demarcation of voting districts.
However, GECOM’s Chairman stressed that no General Secretaries, Government Ministers or others have contacted the body on the issue.
Surujbally noted that the laws are clear as to the role of the Minister and what happens when a date is given and GECOM is unable for one reason or the other to comply.
GECOM has prepared a draft work plan which indicated that elections could be held as early as 180 days (six months) after the Minister has announced elections. That 180-day period is required by GECOM to ensure it is prepared adequately, according to the requirements.
“The pronouncement that elections cannot be held by August 1 has little to do with GECOM,” Surujbally said.
The official also indicated that 180 days is not written in stone, and could still be adjusted to hold the elections early, with GECOM preferring to await consultations than be guided by misinformation.
The GECOM boss also signaled intolerance for rushing into any fingernail-biting deadline.
Meanwhile, speaking on concerns that a delay of demarcation of voting districts could affect the process, the official said that new technology being used by the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission would speed up the process. Work could be completed as early as March 31.
Dr. Surujbally also expressed concerns over the passage of the national budget which if affected could have implications for monies to GECOM.
Questioned yesterday over the plans to test an automated ballot counting system that is getting support from the donor community, the Chairman said that issue is still being mulled by GECOM, which is not against the idea of doing a pilot run on at least 25 polling stations.
Meanwhile, in his remarks, Lowenfield said that he will be counting on the Commission to carry out its mandate.
“During such times, I will uphold, defend and promote the interests of the Organisations to the best of my ability, providing leadership and taking initiatives in the best interests of GECOM, in consultation with the Commission, as may be necessary.”
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