With Local Government Elections (LGE) set for November 12, People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Member of Parliament, Dr. Frank Anthony, is urging the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to urgently address the numerous concerns surrounding the redrawing of local area boundaries.
The PPP has met with GECOM and their appointed Commissioners have tried to get the issues resolved, but to no avail.
Dr. Anthony told Kaieteur News that GECOM must establish an impartial oversight body to oversee the redrawing of the boundaries within the Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) and publish the criteria for boundary apportionment to be used.
“Analysing the limited available information, one can readily conclude that many of the proposed boundary changes are in favour of the ruling party. If this is indeed the case, then GECOM is no longer an impartial arbiter of the elections, and this can have severe consequences in undermining our fragile electoral system,”
He stated that in the interest of transparency, GECOM should publish the process that would be used in the reconfiguration of the boundaries within the NDCs and allow for meaningful consultation with residents and other stakeholders on the proposed boundary changes.
“If implemented, these simple measures can go a long way in preventing manipulation of the process and restoring some confidence in GECOM. For the sake of local democracy, I do hope that good sense can prevail,” Dr. Anthony stated.
He opined that the Government, through Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan, is seeking to interfere in the election process. Based on the order made by the Minister on June 7, Dr. Anthony stated that the Government has reduced the allocation of the seats to several existing NDCs.
In Region 2, Dr. Anthony noted that the redrawn boundaries will see Evergreen/Paradise being decreased from 18 to 16 seats; Aberdeen/ Zorg en Vlygt from 18 to 16 seats; Good Hope/Pomona from 18 to 16 seats.
Dr. Anthony noted that similar scenarios obtain for Regions 3, 4, 5 and 6.
According to Dr. Anthony, to give effect to the Bulkan’s instructions, GECOM is using section 38a (5) of the Act which states that “the Elections Commission may by order combine or subdivide one or more electoral divisions to form a constituency for the purpose of electing members of that Local Authority.”
“Using these broad guidelines, GECOM has commenced a process of reconfiguring the boundaries within the NDCs. From the feedback that I have received, it seems that the residents of the affected NDCs were not consulted by GECOM on any proposed changes to constituency boundaries. The public is unaware of the process and criteria that GECOM intends to use in carrying out these ministerial instructions,” Dr. Anthony noted.
He pointed out that in all of the affected NDCs it is alleged that GECOM has already made decisions on how these boundaries will be reconfigured.
According to Dr. Anthony, these proposals have not been formally disseminated to communities, neither have residents and stakeholders been afforded an opportunity to scrutinise them.
“To make matters worse, the maps and constituencies boundaries mounted by GECOM for the 2016 Local Government elections are still on display in the affected NDCs,” Dr. Anthony noted.
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