It is unacceptable for President David Granger to only call a date for elections until the Guyana Elections Commission decides it is ready, a civil society forum said today in a press statement.
A number of civil society bodies, including the Anglican Church of Guyana; the Guyana Human Rights Association; the Movement Against Parking Meter; the Inter-Religious Organization; the Guyana Presbyterian Church; the Roman Catholic Church; the Transparency Institute of Guyana Incorporated; the Guyana Rastafarian Community; the Guyana Agriculture Workers Union; the Private Sector Commission; the Red Thread; the Aircraft Owners Association of Guyana; and RISE Guyana, banded together to maintain that “Guyanese deserve better”.
In its missive, the forum said that the President’s refusal to call a date because he did not receive enough guidance from GECOM only serves to revive insecurities generated by the controversial selection of the current GECOM Chair, Justice (retd.) James Patterson.
Further to this, the body said that the main preparatory tasks for elections are routine – prepare the Voters List, arrange polling stations, train staff, print ballot papers and administer polling day. It contended that all of these technical issues are the responsibility of the Chief Elections Officer rather than resting on the opinions of the Commissioners. Given the not-too-distant Local Government Elections, the body argued that GECOM is more prepared than normal.
With regard to the concerns about the ‘bloated list’, the civil society group said, “It retains names of dead or migrated persons and to this extent, artificially lowers the ‘turn-out’ percentages. The argument for a house-to-house renovation of the list, therefore, is that it is desirable, but it is not essential, given continuous registration.”
It added, “As a basis for setting aside the constitutional provision to hold elections in 90 days invoking the need for house-house registration, therefore, is unacceptable. Moreover, notwithstanding the decision to renovate the voters’ list every seven years, neither of the major parties took steps to ensure this was undertaken and cannot credibly invoke the need to do so now.”
For the above reasons, the civil society forum believes that deferring the exercise of Presidential responsibility to set the date for elections to such time as GECOM determines its own readiness is unacceptable. It reminded that the Constitutions mandates GECOM to be ready within 90 days and there is no provision that allows the President to amend that provision as a pretext for not announcing a date for national elections.