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GECOM, Govt differ on readiness for elections

The Guyana government on Wednesday appeared to deflect responsibility for the holding of  long overdue local government elections to the Elections Commission (GECOM) but the electoral management authority maintained that it was waiting on government to call the date.

Asked how the government intends to deal with plans by the United States (US) to continue its crusade for elections to the five town councils and 65 Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs), Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr. Roger Luncheon hoped that those calling for the polls would consider that GECOM was not prepared. “I don’t believe they are ready and the information I have, they are not going to be ready in a month of Sundays (soon),” he said.

Luncheon added that GECOM was responsible for speaking to Guyanese about its preparedness for either of the two polls. “We have always accepted that the Elections Commission has to signal its preparedness to hold whether local government or general elections,” he said.

But a usually reliable Elections Commission source insisted that the elections management agency would be ready once the government, through the Local Government Minister, issues an order for the election to be held on a given date. “We still have our plan for local government elections which will be activated when we are so required to do once the minister issues his order,” the source told Demerara Waves Online News.

GECOM needs 180 days to prepare for the polls in the 585 constituencies including 15 in Georgetown. Preparations would include claims and objections, training of polling day staff and the printing of ballots.

The source said that GECOM has not been consulted since 2010 about local government elections when government had contemplated holding the election which the Peoples National Congress Reform (PNCR) had threatened then to boycott.

GECOM has been planning and budgeting for the polls for several years now and the constituencies have been already demarcated with the assistance of the Lands and Surveys Commission.

The American and Guyanese governments last week clashed when Acting Foreign Minister, Priya Manickchand repudiated then US Ambassador to Guyana, Brent Hardt for pointing out glaring inconsistencies and excuses by government for not holding local government elections since 1997.

The US, Britain, Canada and the European Union have contended that Guyana is violating the constitution as well as local and international laws by failing to hold the local government election. In fact, Britain has gone as far as saying that the delay in doing so was a stain on Guyana’s democracy and a violation of the Commonwealth Charter.