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Opposition going into election without major GECOM reforms

The headquarters of the Guyana Elections Commission

Despite strident demands by the two parliamentary opposition parties for the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to be reformed, they said Friday that they have no other option but to go into early general elections without most of their demands being unfulfilled.

With the delivery of the Alliance For Change (AFC)-sponsored no-confidence motion to the National Assembly on Thursday and the commitment by A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) to support it, elections would be called between October this year and January 2015 and managed largely under GECOM’s same system.

Opposition Leader, David Granger said his APNU had no other choice but to forge ahead with the no-confidence motion and early elections because of government’s decision to spend money from the Consolidated Fund on projects and programmes that have been already disapproved by the majority opposition-controlled House. “In my view, although the GECOM reforms are desirable the most urgent step we need to take now is to prevent further lawlessness particularly in the financial sector,” said Granger who is also APNU’s Chairman.

Government has so far sought parliamentary approval for GUY$4.5 billion that have been already spent.

Asked what safeguards were there to ensure that GECOM manages a free and fair election, Granger said the opposition “cannot afford to wait until everything is perfect.”  “It’s an extreme measure but we have been forced into an extreme position by the government,” he said.

Granger said his parliamentary coalition remained interested in the public education/ information campaign, GECOM’s Information Technology and Media Monitoring.

Since the November 2011 general election, Gocool Boodoo is no longer Chief Elections Officer. He had been accused by the opposition of miscalculating the allocation of seats that would have given the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) 33 instead of 32 seats in the 65-seat House. The mistake was identified by Elections Commissioner, Vincent Alexander and a re-calculation was done by using the right formula. Boodoo has been replaced by Keith Lowenfield.

AFC General Secretary, David Patterson reiterated that his party wanted the elections management agency to be reformed but at the same time he argued that the alleged illegal spending of monies from the Consolidated Fund was good enough reason to go into an early election. “We are where we are because of the illegal spending by the government and that (GECOM reform) should not be the reason for us not to proceed with the no-confidence motion,” he told Demerara Waves Online News.

In the absence of a reformed GECOM, Patterson  said the opposition would be taking steps to ensure that all of the more than 2,000 polling stations countrywide are monitored by scrutineers. “We are calling for the no-confidence motion, we have to be vigilant. We have to as many as things in place- one of the most important things is scrutinizing the process,” he added.

The AFC is on record as demanding that all of the Commissioners step down and a commission that is representative of the opposition.

GECOM is in the process of preparing a voters’ lost that would be valid until January 31, 2015.