The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has never been known for its swiftness in the tabulation of numbers. It often takes more than five days for the GECOM to tabulate just more than 400,000 votes cast in general and regional elections.
GECOM has not provided a precise figure as to the total number of persons registered thus far. It has merely said that more than 174,000 persons are registered. This may be an estimation or an approximation.
But regardless of the precise numbers registered, what is clear is that none of these persons were registered in the presence of scrutineers from the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC). The opposition PPPC is vehemently opposed to house-to-house registration, which it views as intended to frustrate the constitutional requirement for elections within three months following the passage of a no-confidence motion.
The opposition believes that the government’s insistence on house-to-house registration is a ploy to delay giving effect to the no-confidence motion. The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) had ruled that the no-confidence motion was validly passed and that this passage consequently triggered provisions which require elections within three months.
When last year, the Secretariat of GECOM was asked why, after the passage of the no-confidence motion, measures were not initiated to prepare for elections by March 21, 2019, it said that it could not do so unless instructed by the Commission proper.
It therefore seems bizarre that the same Secretariat, after the ruling of the CCJ, commenced house-to-house registration based on a proclamation made days before the CCJ decision, but implemented after the CCJ decision which invalidated the appointment of the person making the proclamation.
The CCJ ruled on June 12, 2019, that the appointment of the then Chairman of GECOM, Justice (retd.) James Patterson, was unconstitutional. By the time house-to-house registration commenced, the Chairman had resigned and the Commission was not functional. This alone should have signaled to the Secretariat that it should have aborted its plans for house-to-house registration, given that there was no Chairman and given its position last December that it needed the sanction of the Commission proper to proceed with elections plans.
The Commission now has a Chairperson and the first order of business should be to examine how advisable it was for the Secretariat to proceed with the registration process when there was a vacancy within the Chairmanship of GECOM. This is a very serious matter which needs to be addressed, since it concerns the nature of the relationship between the Secretariat and the Commission.
The government insists that house-to-house registration is necessary for a credible voters’ list. This implies that the list which was used for the local government elections was flawed. But the government is not making this connection, because it knows full well that its contention about the list is just a ruse to allow it to override the no-confidence motion.
The western governments are not fooled. They know full well what is afoot. But it is most likely they are exercising restraint given the volatile situation next door in Venezuela.
In that country, the contention of the western governments and the LIMA Group is that the election of President Nicholas Maduro was not free because the opposition had not participated in the elections which returned Maduro to power
Well what are they going to say in relation to Guyana? How can there be a credible voters’ list resulting from house-to-house registration when more than 40% of the electorate have been registered without a single scrutineer from the opposition monitoring the process? How can there be a fair election when there is no monitoring of the registrations by the opposition – a process which is fundamental to preventing and detecting fraud and ensuring a clean list?
A credible list cannot emerge from house-to-house registration. The registrations are being done without oversight from the opposition. And this will mean that there will be suspicions about what has taken place thus far. House-to-house registration commenced when the Commission had no Chairman and therefore could not meet. So there was no oversight either from the Commission.
The house-to-house registration should have been stopped from day one, after it was clear that a basic control measure to prevent fraudulent registrations – monitoring by the opposition and the Commission – was absent. That is the second bone of contention which the Commission should raise with the Secretariat.
As things stand, it is hard to see how there can be confidence in the election machinery and the voter registration process unless the conduct of the Secretariat, since the decision of the CCJ, is examined. There cannot be a credible voters’ list if 174,000 registrations are redone without opposition oversight and unless the GECOM Secretariat is held accountable for its actions since June 12, 2019.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
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