Jagdeo says PPP/C ready for Local Government Elections
Vice-President Bharrat Jagdeo
Vice-President Bharrat Jagdeo

– funds for preparation will be in 2021 budget, party wants fixers at GECOM removed

By Navendra Seoraj

THE governing People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) is ready to contest the Local Government Elections (LGE) next year, and, as part of its readiness, Vice-President, Bharrat Jagdeo, has said that funds will be set aside for the holding of those elections, but he maintained that “criminal elements” attached to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) must be removed.

At the last LGE, which was held on November 12, 2018, the PPP/C was able to walk away with 61 per cent of the votes, while the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) garnered 34 per cent and Alliance For Change (AFC) four per cent of votes.

While the Vice-President affirmed that the party is not against the holding of LGE, he said the integrity of persons, still employed by GECOM, was lost after the eventful five-month impasse, following the March 2, 2020, general and regional elections, which ended with a victory for the PPP/C.
“The PPP/C wants LGE next year; we believe that we can do extremely well in LGE and we are going to be working really hard, COVID [COVID-19] or not to ensure we improve the lives of people in their communities across this country.

“The budget next year will have resources to prepare for Local Government Elections… but with the criminals, we have no confidence with criminals running the system… we are expecting that the commission will get rid of the criminals,” said Jagdeo during a press conference at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre, on Friday.
Those who have been charged with offences relating to electoral fraud and misconduct in public office are: Chairperson of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), Volda Lawrence; PNC activist, Carol Joseph; Deputy Chief Elections Officer, Roxanne Myers and Chief Elections Officer (CEO) of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Keith Lowenfield, along with his clerks, Michelle Miller and Denise Bob-Cummings; Returning Officer for Region Four, Clairmont Mingo; GECOM Elections Officer, Shefern February; and Information Technology Officer, Enrique Livan.

They are all accused of inflating the results of Region Four – Guyana’s largest voting district – to give the APNU+AFC Coalition a majority win at the March 2 polls, when in fact, the PPP/C had won by 15,000 votes.

“They (GECOM) do not need any evidence, the whole country knows these are criminal types who tried to steal the elections… they cannot run any election and I hope that the commission gets rid of them… the Chair (GECOM Chair) has to fight against the criminals,” said Jagdeo.
The Vice-President said the PPP/C wants to win the LGE and to ensure that communities and people have a right to choose their leaders, but fixers cannot remain at the commission.

The entire Guyana and even the international community witnessed, what he called, ‘brazen’ attempts to rig the March 2 elections.
“No party except APNU, which was complicit in the plot to rig elections, would have confidence in any of them (criminals),” said Jagdeo.
The Vice-President maintained that there has to be changes at the commission, a view which was shared by President, Dr. Irfaan Ali.
President Ali had said Guyana’s elections machinery will have to be ‘fixed’ before Local Government Elections are held.

In further expressing his view, the President had noted: “I am not getting into Local Government Elections now….what we have to do is fix what is there first to ensure we have a system that is working, a system that we can trust, a system that is professional, and a system that operates in an unbiased manner, so that the people of our country can have confidence.”
Like President Ali and Vice-President Jagdeo, GECOM Commissioners, Sase Gunraj and Vincent Alexander, have both agreed that things need to be “fixed” before elections are held. Also, when asked recently about the need for fixing the elections machinery, Chairperson of GECOM, Justice (ret’d) Claudette Singh had said: “That is true, that is very true.”
Justice Singh had also said another prerequisite would be the updating of the National Register of Registrants Database (NRRD) – used for the compilation of the Official List of Electors (OLE).
Although no official decision has yet been taken at the level of the commission, Justice Singh said it is necessary to have an updated register before elections are held.
Prior to the elections, GECOM had undertaken house-to-house registration with the aim of creating a new NRRD, but this process had to be cut short by Justice Singh following the ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice which upheld the no-confidence motion passed against the then APNU+AFC Government, thus necessitating the holding of Regional and General Elections in the shortest possible time.

The commission had then embarked on an extensive Claims and Objections exercise before preparing the Preliminary List of Electors.
The data garnered from the house-to-house registration process was merged with the existing NRR database, after which the OLE was extracted. The OLE had over 600,000 voters listed.
A review of this list, which is supported by Justice Singh, was also recommended by a three-member CARICOM team which scrutinised the national vote recount.
Providing that the commission decisively chooses house-to-house registration as the method of updating the NRRD, Justice Singh said there would be concerns related to the Chief Justice (ag) Roxanne George’s ruling that the commission could only add names and remove the deceased or persons who have been disqualified.
Vice-President Jagdeo also identified this as a “constitutional hurdle” but he suggested that the commission, instead of going to house-to-house could simply use the General Register Office (GRO) to remove the names of persons who have died.


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