Guyana’s political crisis is more intractable than the one in Venezuela. We may not have the same level of physical violence or political instability which now prevails in Venezuela, but our crisis is far deeper and more dangerous.
Investors are now extremely worried about the prospects of violence and protracted instability in Guyana. The tense political environment and the brazen act of the GECOM in launching, without any advance notice, house-to-house registration, have raised ominous concerns. Questions have already been raised about GECOM’s impartiality and the fact that this action is being undertaken where there is no Commission in place to oversee its work.
Earlier this year, the Secretariat of GECOM had explained the reasons why immediately after the no-confidence motion it did not begin immediate preparations for elections. It said then that it needed the permission of the Commission.
It now seems to have gotten that permission, via a proclamation from the Chairman. Except that Chairman’s appointment has been invalidated by the Court. The Commission now has no Chairman and cannot meet without one.
Even if the Secretariat can claim that it has a lawful instrument to conduct house-to-house registration, it ought to have recognised that circumstances have since overtaken that proclamation. And since a new Chair has to be appointed, it should have held its hand and awaited the appointment of this chairperson, especially in light of the decision of the CCJ.
The Secretariat cannot be blind to developments, which can impact on its functions. GECOM may be a political spectator, but it is not a disinterested spectator.
It ought to have known that the CCJ has ruled that Articles 106 and 107 of the Constitution have been triggered. As such, the Secretariat has to be aware that moving towards house-to-house registration would render a nullity, the decision of the CCJ. And this constitutes an act of contempt.
GECOM does not need house-to-house registration to conduct an election. It held one last November, which was credible. House-to-house registration is not imperative, and therefore the better thing to do was to await the appointment of a new Chairman and for the original proclamation to be ratified by the new Chairman and his Commission.
The decision of the GECOM Secretariat deepens the country’s political crisis. The CCJ has ruled that the three-month period for the holding of elections was paused during the hearing of the legal cases contesting the validity of the no confidence motion. This is no longer the case. The government’s caretaker tenure runs out on September 18, 2019. GECOM has therefore worsened the country’s political crisis by its blatant initiation of house-to-house registration, which will mean that elections cannot be held in accordance with the timelines of the Constitution.
The decision of GECOM has inflamed political tensions. An ugly incident during a PPPC peaceful protest yesterday signals the prospects for violence in the weeks and months ahead. It will embolden forces out there who are bent on derailing the democratic process, and this can result in violence and instability far more extreme than what is taking place in Venezuela.
In that country, elections were held in May 2018 and Maduro was elected as President after the Opposition parties imploded following their failed attempts to topple Maduro through street protests. Maduro was democratically elected but the Lima Group, in which Guyana has strangely found itself, derecognised the Maduro administration. It claims that the elections were not democratic because the Opposition parties were not allowed to field candidates. But it is not as if Maduro banned them. It was a case in which they could not field a consensus candidate after they imploded following their failed attempts to topple the government through street protests.
Elections are not under threat in Venezuela. That country has one of the best electoral machineries in the world. Its work was commended even by the Carter Centre. Former US President Jimmy Carter has monitored elections in more than 92 countries and he said that the Venezuelan process was the best in the world.
Venezuela’s crisis will be resolved, one way or the other, or by the holding of elections. The elections machinery in Venezuela remains intact and impartial. The same cannot be said with absolute certainty in Guyana.
GECOM’s actions this past week have raised the political temperature in Guyana to dangerous levels. It has threatened the democratic foundations, which were re-laid since 1992. It has worsened the political tensions in the country.
On Friday, it was nasty water, which was thrown but who knows what is to come next!
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