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Political parties in ‘ground games’ for local govt election candidates; PPP probing claims of dead, fake backers

General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party, Bharrat Jagdeo.

As political parties engage in a ground battle at the community level for candidates to contest the November 12 Local Government Elections, General Secretary of the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP), Bharrat Jagdeo on Monday said if claims of irregularities are proven to be true the candidates would be instructed to withdraw from contesting a constituency in the Wakenaam Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC).

“We are examining that now. If that turns out to be true, we are going to instruct the people on the ground not to contest that area because we will not tolerate it. We’re doing an investigation now that within this one constituency there may have been a situation of that nature,” he said.

Noting that there are complaints of large-scale fraud  in 42 of the 80 Local Authority Areas, he cited the need for the Guyana Elections Commission to put in place stiffer penalties for election related offencs by GECOM officials and offending political parties.

GECOM’s Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield up to late Monday afternoon said the elections management authority did not receive any objections by named candidates or backers.

They have until September 26 to file objections and also submit replacement candidates.

Ganesh Mahipaul of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), the largest party in A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), has accused an unnamed a PPP operative of submitting many fake backers from  Maria Johanna, Wakenaam Island, Essequibo River. “Most of the signatures here are forged signatures which is a criminal offence and punishable by law. Also, dead persons are on this list and next to their names are signatures. This is illegal to the max and requires the police intervention,”  he said.

However, Jagdeo said there was no need for the PPP to engage in electoral irregularities more so in Wakenaam NDC, his party’s stronghold where it won 15 of the 18 seats in the 2016 local government elections.

However an elections expert, who is intimately familiar with the workings of political parties on the ground level, said following Nomination Day, they were now asking persons to sign documents claiming they were not candidates or backers. The expert accused political parties of intimidating persons in the communities by taking out the pictures of the names of candidates at the GECOM Returning Offices and then confronting persons who had signed in support of candidates.

“It creates problems within the communities..They do that and then some party with the means urge people to go and change it or you can’t live here anymore. How can you be living here and going and signing for those people (of an opposing party),” the expert said.

Across in Constituency 8 in the Tuschen-Uitvlugt Local Authority Area, nine persons stated in affidavit that they never agreed to be backers for the Alliance For Change (AFC) candidate in that area but had merely signed a paper that they had been told was for improved electricity supply. “We were of the opinion that the signatures were required for the provision of street lights and drainage, we were never told that our names would be used for support for Alliance For Change candidates for the above-mentioned elections,” they said in the affidavit. They “raised objections and respectfully ask that our names be withdrawn as backers/supporters for the list of candidates for the Alliance For Change (AFC),” they said.

Mahipaul accused the PPP and the AFC of forgery, while  adding that a number of APNU candidates were also claiming they were unaware of the reason for signing. “The APNU on the other hand got the people to sign to their names but now some of the people are saying they didn’t know what they were signing but the point is they signed themselves,” said Mahipaul.