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GECOM not ready for local govt elections

The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) will be unable to hold Local Government Elections by August 1, despite an amendment by the National Assembly that the poll should be held by that date, a source said.

The usually reliable commission source said that none of the political parties has consulted with GECOM about its preparedness for the polls.

Government is on record as preferring the election to be held on or before December 1, 2014.

The Commission’s machinery, the source explained, needs at least 180 days to conduct and complete a number of key activities. They include verifying the eligibility of candidates in each of the 71 local authorities and printing separate ballots for each local authority because the candidates will be different. Usually, the commission needs at least 21 days before E-day to print the ballots overseas.

Although a number of activities can run concurrently, the source explained that GECOM will need sufficient time to train trainers who will in turn train from presiding officers to polling clerks. “We cannot go and start training people unless we know that there will be local govt elections,” the source told Demerara Waves Online News (www.demwaves.com).

The source said government has so far not indicated to the commission when it would like the election to be held. Another strong signal that the country is some time off from Local Government elections is the fact that a section of the National Budget has not been activated for funding the polls.

Local Government Elections have not been held since 1994. The American, British and Canadian diplomatic missions, private sector and civil society organisations on Wednesday reiterated the need for the poll to be held in 2014.

“While 2013 passed without local government elections being held, significant progress was made to set the stage for these historic elections in 2014,” they said in a joint letter.

Those entities were of the view that the legislative and administrative arrangements were largely in place and that the election should be held by August 1 in keeping with an amendment to the local government law by the opposition-controlled House.

From all indications, President Donald Ramotar will not be signing that amendment into law on grounds that GECOM would be ready.