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GECOM must prove readiness for polls- Luncheon

Government on Wednesday called on the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to prove that it is ready for local government elections or early general and regional elections.

Reacting to assurances by GECOM Chairman, Dr. Steve Surujbally that the electoral management body would be ready for the local poll once the Local Government Minister issues the order, Cabinet Secretary Dr. Roger Luncheon said government would be convinced only if a detailed explanation of the state of preparedness in keeping with the laws and regulations was provided.

“Cabinet’s contention is fairly simple. GECOM should provide a timely and a more exhaustive status report on its readiness and its preparedness for local government as well as general elections,” said Luncheon.

The Guyana government has been facing repeated calls by local stakeholders and Western nations for long overdue local government elections to be held.

Recent claims and counterclaims of readiness by the three ruling People’s Progressive Party (PPP)-nominated GECOM commissioners, Surujbally and Luncheon have pointed to an apparent deep split in the seven-member commission over the issue. “The exhortations of the Chairman should now be matched by the evidence and we say if indeed shortcomings, if indeed deficiencies are identified, let’s fix them to the satisfaction of  stakeholders, let’s fix them to the satisfaction of the electorate,” said the Head of the Presidential Secretariat.

GECOM has said that it can fulfill all the requirements within the statutory 180-day time frame after the order has been issued or a date has been called.

The Guyana government also expressed concern that the Claims and Objections period from August 4 to 31, 2014, with a list-validity date of October 2014, appeared to be tying President Donald Ramotar’s hand to a period within which he must call elections.  “That list that is based on that qualifying date is not a list for all time. Indeed, it is a list that can only be used if an elections were called within the period of its validty and we understand that is three months,” Luncheon added.

He said Cabinet has reasoned that GECOM appeared to be setting the outside election date because without a declaration, by setting a qualifying date.  “It is marginalizing the constitutional role of the President in  making that declaration for general election so what is Cabinet is sensing, unless otherwise advised, there can be something sinister about this approach,”

The Cabinet Secretary declined to immediately link GECOM’s Claims and Objections period to a possible no-confidence vote by the combined opposition that would automatically result in the President and Cabinet resigning and the holding of general elections in three months.