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No general elections by March 20; poll preparations will take 148 days

Chairman of GECOM, James Patterson, Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield and Deputy Chief Elections Officer Roxanne Myers.

Guyana’s Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield on Friday ruled out General Elections being held by March 20, 2019, saying that he has been awaiting the green light since January to begin preparations.

“Today is the 8th (of January). You haven’t said anything to me yet. If you communicate to me, I move,” Lowenfield told a news conference.

Deputy Chief Elections Officer, Roxanne Myers said if elections were to be held in March, then nomination day would have had to be by the end of January.

Myers said it would take 148 days to prepare for elections, but in reality it would be 105 days if procurement of sensitive materials such as ballots, stamps and ink are done concurrently with the other activities such as training of staff to man more than 2,000 polling stations countrywide.

Assuming GECOM Commissioners give the administrative staff the go-ahead on Monday, Lowenfield said the elections could be held in July 2019.

However, with the existing voters’ list expiring on April 30, 2019, the GECOM administration says that list can be converted into a preliminary voters’ list and used to create a new voters’ list through a claims and objections period that would take a total of 35 days.

Lowenfield deflected questions on whether he believed a voters’ list emerging from that process could produce a credible election. Instead, he preferred to leave that to the Commission to decide.

The GECOM Chairman, Retired High Court Judge James Patterson, bluntly refused to answer questions about the major sticking points preventing the seven-member decision-making body from instructing the administrative Secretariat to begin preparations.

Patterson, instead, referred the media to the other six commissioners for answers.

Lowenfield said the People’s Progressive Party’s call for training of polling day officials to be compressed by conducting the sessions during the week instead of weekends was not feasible because the participants are mostly teachers who work all week.

Myers said house-to-house registration could take at least nine months. That is a process the governing coalition parties and their three commissioners are pushing for to purge the list of non-residents and dead persons.

The National Assembly’s passage of a no-confidence motion on December 21, 2018 has put Guyana into election gear.

The High Court, in ruling that the motion was validly passed, has not granted a stay or conservatory order which was filed by Attorney General Basil Williams.