After all of the local court rulings on the validity of the December 2018 no confidence vote (the CCJ is still to pass judgment), after the Government has laid out every reason why preparations for the national polls cannot be hurried, the PPP is still trying to get the nation to believe that national elections could be held sooner than the Elections Commission says it is able to.
The Opposition tried to create social, political and even economic upheaval last February when they kept insisting that the elections had to be held by the third week of March, 90 days after the passage of the infamous no confidence vote in the National Assembly. They travelled through the Regions spouting nonsense, misleading the people into believing that the elections could be held when they wanted it, even insisting that the 5-year old Voters List of Electors should be used.
Can you imagine the ruckus that would be created if Guyana went to the polls with an old list bloated with people who are deceased or have migrated, and a list missing the names of thousands of young people who turned 18 years old since 2014? They will be first time voters, and this is a big deal, no doubt about that.
Would you forgive a Government for taking away your civic right to choose who you want to lead your country?
There is one more thing to consider. The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is the only institution that is constitutionally authorized to make any decision regarding the staging of national elections, and GECOM has already made several things very clear:
• The Commission needs at least 148 days to ready itself to conduct credible, free and fair elections according to dictates of the Guyana Constitution
• Since the List of Electors (LE) expired on 30 April, 2019, the Commission needs millions of state dollars to create a new list
• The only mechanism to create a credible LE that could be approved by every party is house-to-house registration
If GECOM does not ensure that ALL eligible voters are registered and given their ID cards, Government will be sued, and the elections will be declared invalid. That would be a waste of time and billions of dollars would have been squandered. It will hold back progress.
GECOM needs a lot of money, which was not budgeted for 2019, to purchase and print ballot sheets, train polling day staff, purchase the correct ink, purchase/repair communication equipment so that the staff working on Polling Day in the regions could stay in contact with head office, the police force and other essential services providers.
GECOM needs time to train Polling Day staff. GECOM has to plan all activities for Nomination Day including letting the public know about the lists of Candidates each party presents.
One of our members reminded us that in 2014 when the former Government had assured the nation that it was going to hold Local Government Elections for the first time in 14 years, GECOM had set a timetable of 180 days, and those elections never materialised. Early this year, faced with loud demands for immediate elections from the PPP, GECOM asked for 148 days to prepare, less than they needed in 2014.
That 2014 work plan had included demarcation of boundaries, acquisition of non-sensitive election materials, advertising, hiring and training Election Day workers, public education, and time for claims and objections after the lists were posted before Election Day. In addition, due to the “dynamic expansion of housing”, they had to re-check community boundaries.
GECOM Commissioner Vincent Alexander who has earned himself a reputation for his eagle eye, has insisted that the pre-April 2019 list of electors was heavily bloated. He is sure that it is numerically impossible for Guyana to have over 500,000 eligible voters for these reasons:-
1. Guyana’s population at last census was approximately 780,000 people
2. The national schools population under the age of 18 is more than 250,000
3. Permanent migration statistics hovers around 7.2 percent per year
4. Therefore, the estimated number of voting-age Guyanese adults has to be less than 500,000.
This is more than ample justification for the House-to-House Registration exercise!
It showed the PPP’s position to be unreasonable, so they changed tack and began to accuse GECOM of receiving instructions from the Government. The Opposition needs to be reminded that ‘Dis time nah lang time”. When they were in office, they strenuously denied this same accusation, even tossing aside some international suggestions of political control over the elections machinery.
So it is no surprise that with the tables turned, the PPP expects this government to do exactly the same things they used to do. The leader also accused some GECOM Commissioners of having partisan political reasons for their vote for house-to-house-registration.
The PPP has to learn that things don’t work that way anymore. Guyana is in a position where the opinions of the international community have to matter, and for economic reasons in particular, Government has to walk the straight and narrow, work with international norms, choose wisely the models we adopt to conduct business, maintain socio-political balance, and best of all, look after the welfare of all our citizens.
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