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GECOM Chairman blanks PPP’s talk of new round of registration

GECOM Chairman, Dr. Steve Surujbally

Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Dr. Steve Surujbally said he would not be giving into any demand for a new round of continuous registration, and assured that there are sufficient safeguards to prevent persons voting in the names of dead persons.

“I would not be a protagonist of that thing. If there are concerns, let us sort the concerns out. Don’t belabor people and the taxpayers with more money… Our list is near perfect. We have international best practice in every system that we do. What is not international best practice, we can improve upon it,” he told a news conference that was also attended by top diplomats here.

The governing People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has not ruled out pushing for a fresh round of continuous registration to ensure there is a clean voters list for general elections expected the latest by January 31, 2015 if a no-confidence motion is passed by the House. Alternatively, fresh polls could be held before year-end if President Donald Ramotar opts to name Election Day ahead of debate and passage of the motion.

Dr. Surujbally said party scrutineers have been involved in registration exercises that have led to the compilation of the National Register of Registrants (persons 14 years and older) and all application for registration forms have been signed by party scrutineers as witnesses to the transactions. 

Elections Commissioner, Vincent Alexander said the PPP’s suggestion that it might push for a new round continuous registration amounted to a contradiction because it is that party that has been expressing concern about the emergence of 78,000 new registrants on the preliminary voters list.

“It occurs to me that there is an inherent contradiction in the claim that the list is bloated , that you have between the last election and this PLE (Preliminary List of Electors)… and at the same time to ask for a new round of continuous registration can only add to that number,” said Alexander.

The GECOM officials said the involvement of party scrutineers in the registration and verification process was nothing new because monies have been set aside to pay them.

Using its own figures, GECOM said the increase of 87,295 electors in the 2014 preliminary voters list as against the 2011 OLE is based on the number of electors who now qualify for inclusion. The current preliminary voters list contains the names of 555,398 persons.

The GECOM Chairman acknowledged that the names of thousands of dead persons were on the National Register of Registrants, but they could be taken off only if the General Registrar’s Office of the Ministry of Home Affairs submits those names to the election management authority.  Latest statistics show that the names of 12,404 dead persons have been removed from the voters list based on information submitted from January 2008 to April 2014.

Surujbally stressed that not only the dead persons cannot vote but no one can cast ballots in their names because of several safeguards that have been developed and put in place. “I have a list-a menu of measures to stop that. Nobody can vote for a person that is dead within the system and political parties have helped us to develop that menu of measures so I am pretty secure in what we have,” he said.

The Commission Chairman said he has not received any complaints of alleged list-padding from the Alliance For Change (AFC) and A Partnership for National Unity (APNU).

He attributed the increased number of electors to more advocacy by political parties, increased number of birth certificates,  and more work by GECOM’s public relations department.