GEORGETOWN – Dismissing the demands of the opposition that General and Regional Elections must be held within three months, President David Granger, on Wednesday, said only he, as President of Guyana, can set a date for elections.
“It is my duty; it is not the duty of the Leader of the Opposition to decide when elections would be held,” President Granger told reporters on the sideline of an accreditation ceremony at the Ministry of the President on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) upheld the December 21 vote of no-confidence against the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Government, thereby triggering the need for early elections. Contending that the government is on now “borrowed time,” Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo, said that elections must be held within three months.
But President Granger said, while government respects the decision of the Trinidad-based CCJ, he will issue a proclamation based on the advice of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM). “I cannot make a proclamation unless I am informed by GECOM,” the Head of State told reporters.
President Granger said a date for elections would be held once GECOM indicates that it is in a state of readiness to do so. “…As soon as the Chairman of GECOM advises me that they are ready for elections, I will make a proclamation,” he further assured reporters.
The President is warning against rushing the process. “I don’t want a situation like we had in Nigeria, in which 2 o’clock in the morning, the elections commission calls up the government and says elections can’t be held,” he said.
While the Parliamentary Opposition, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP/C), has been demanding early elections, it has refused to the attend the National Assembly and as such, was not involved in the process of approving the necessary finances for the holding of the elections. Added to that, it’s appointed commissioners on the Elections Commission have developed a trend of boycotting and walking out of critical meetings. President Granger said Guyanese and other observers must take note of these actions.
“You have to pay attention to who has been damaging the functioning of GECOM by boycotting meetings, and who is not going to the National Assembly,” he urged.
“The National Assembly has not been prorogued; we have work to do to ensure that there are credible elections. I am committed to credible elections,” the Head of State said. After a period of consultation the with the Elections Commission, the government, with approval form the National Assembly, made approximately $3.4B available to GECOM in May to prepare for elections. The sum supplements the $5.546B GECOM had already received for 2019. The Elections Commission is currently preparing for the conduct of house-to-house registration – a process which was necessitated with the expiration of the Official List of Voters on April 30, 2019. President Granger said, at this stage, it is important for that process to be completed before General and Regional Elections are held. “We are committed to house-to-house registration. The old list is invalid, it is expired, and it is corrupted,” he said.
Maintaining that having fair, free and credible elections is of importance to his government, President Granger has long maintained that the current list of voters is outdated and corrupted. Reports indicate that there are approximately 200,000 incorrect entries on the now expired ‘Office List of Voters.’
Reacting to the landmark ruling on Tuesday, the President said the Constitution entitles all citizens over the age of 18 the right to vote. “It is a democratic imperative that house-to-house registration be completed swiftly so we can have an election at the earliest opportunity. The Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission, Justice (James) Patterson (ret’d), has previously informed me that the commission will be ready to hold elections in November 2019. This will be after the completion of house-to-house registration. I now await a recommendation for a specific date from GECOM and I will then issue a proclamation,” he explained.
He noted that the country will be heading to the polls and there is going to be a crucial choice for citizens to make. “A choice to decide the future of our country and, most importantly, the future with regard to jobs, living standards, and education for our children,” President Granger said. (Guyana Chronicle)