—President restates GECOM’s solely responsible for the conduct of polls
—says constitution safeguards body from political interference
PRESIDENT David Granger, on Monday, maintained that it is the exclusive responsibility of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to conduct General and Regional Elections here under the constitution and this responsibility is safeguarded from political interference.
“The Elections Commission has exclusive and explicit responsibility for the conduct of general and regional elections in accordance with the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana (at Article 62). The Constitution (at Article 162 (1) I) states, further, that: ‘…The Elections Commission shall have such functions connected with or relating to the registration of electors or the conduct of elections…,’” the Head of State said in an address to the nation, shortly after his meeting with the Carter Center at State House.
He was keen on noting that the Elections Commission is insulated from political influence, instruction or interference, and its independence is safeguarded by the Constitution. “The independence of the Commission and the integrity of the electoral process are essential to ensuring elections which express the will of the electorate,” President Granger explained.
As long indicated, the Head of State said he remains committed to providing governmental assistance to GECOM to ensure that the much-anticipated elections are not contaminated by mismanagement or malpractice.
“The Elections Commission has a constitutional obligation, therefore, to ensure that everything necessary would be done to deliver credible elections. It is the Commission’s task to ensure that adequate resources are acquired; personnel are employed; the Official List of Electors which enfranchises all eligible voters is published; administrative mechanisms to ensure efficient polling and the counting and tabulation of results are implemented; and that the laws of Guyana are enforced,” the President detailed.
His Government, he iterated, will provide assistance to the Commission to enable it to conduct credible elections at the earliest time possible. “My position remains unaltered,” he told the nation. The Head of State added: “I have acted expeditiously throughout the year to ensure that credible general and regional elections are held. I consulted the Elections Commission on two occasions. I consulted the Leader of the Opposition on three occasions to select a new Chairman of the Elections Commission in accordance with the Constitution (at Article 161 (1)). I appointed Justice Claudette Singh, SC, CCH, as Chairman of the Commission and administered the Oath of Office to her on 29th July 2019.”
The President has full confidence in the Chairman’s independence, integrity and impartiality and her intention and ability to perform the functions of her office in the best interest of the Guyanese people.
Last week, teams from the Government and the Opposition met with the Chairman of the Commission, Justice (Ret’d) Claudette Singh and her Commissioners on separate occasions to ascertain GECOM’s readiness to conduct early elections. During those meetings, both sides were assured that the Commission is doing everything to facilitate early elections free of any corrupted practice. Amid increasing pressure from the Parliamentary Opposition – the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) – for elections to be held now, President Granger, in his address to the nation, said the Commission should be allowed to do its work.
“The Elections Commission must be allowed to continue the task of preparing for the forthcoming general and regional elections. The Commission has an obligation to assure the public that it is ready to conduct credible elections and to advise the President of its readiness to do so. I could then dissolve Parliament and issue a proclamation appointing a date on which elections could be held in accordance with the Constitution,” he said.
The Head of State noted that it would be reckless and irresponsible, on his part, to appoint a date for elections without the Commission’s advice and assurance that it would be ready to conduct elections on such a date.
“I call on all Guyanese to have confidence in the Elections Commission. I am ready to be guided by the Chairman’s assessment of the Commission’s preparedness to conduct elections. I urge everyone to uphold the Constitution and respect the judgment of our independent institutions and the people who have been appointed to manage them. I look forward to the Commission’s recommendation to conduct credible elections at the earliest time possible,” President Granger urged the nation.
Last week, an electoral expert told Guyana Chronicle that the Elections Commission must comply with the statutory guidelines outlined in the Representation of People Act, and warned that, to do the contrary, would be to breach the Constitution and the Laws of Guyana.
GECOM’s Secretariat has proposed a March 2020 election timeline but the Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has rejected such a proposal. He has threatened widespread protest actions after September 18, 2019 if a 2019 date for elections is not set.
But the electoral expert said Jagdeo and the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) have adopted an irrational position. It was explained that the Elections Commission, as advised by the Secretariat must act in conformity with the Constitution of Guyana, the Elections Laws (Amendment) Act of 2000 and the Representation of People Act.
The electoral expert made it clear that Justice Singh nor her Commission cannot set a timeframe for elections independent of the Secretariat, and in total defiance of the Constitution and the Representation of People Act which have set out clear guidelines.
There are approximately 35 statutory guidelines that the Elections Commission must abide as outlined in the Representation of the People Act. According to Section 9 of the Representation of the People Act, the Notice of the date for submission of the list of Candidates (Nominations Day) cannot be not be done no later than 32 days before Elections. Added to the act states that candidates must be informed of defects in the list of candidates not later than 30 days before the election, and by the 29th day before the election is held, corrections must be submitted. Those are just three of the 35 statutory guidelines established under the act.