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General elections likely this year – Business Minister

Minister of Business Dominic Gaskin addressing a forum on “Oil and Gas Development in Guyana” at Rice University’s Baker Institute in Houston, Texas.

Minister of Business, Dominic Gaskin on Tuesday disclosed that Guyanese might go to the polls later this year to elect a new government of their choice.

Addressing a forum on “Oil and Gas Development in Guyana”, at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy in Houston, Texas, Gaskin noted that elections are usually held every five years unless some constitutional provisions are triggered.

In that regard, he suggested that one of Guyana’s constitutional provisions appeared to have been activated and elections were likely to be held this year. “The last election in 2015 was an early election and it looks likely that we’ll be going into another early election some time this year,” said Gaskin who is a top executive member of the Alliance For Change (AFC) which is part of the governing coalition with the People’s National Congress Reform-dominated A Partnership for National Unity (APNU).

This is the first time since the no-confidence motion was passed last year that a Guyana government minister has hinted that general elections would be held in 2019.

In recent weeks, AFC and APNU ministerial teams, clad in party-branded clothing, have been on outreaches in Linden as well as the Rupununi region that is inhabited by mostly Amerindians. Gaskin noted that Guyana’s largely race-based political landscape and winner-takes-all electoral system lead to concerns about neglect and marginalisation by the governing party, but parties were increasingly targeting Amerindians and Guyanese of mixed ancestry.

“We live with this constant anxiety and I’d like to think that this is improving with each successive election because our indigenous and mixed-race populations are growing as a percentage of the whole and this now makes it imperative for any political party seeking election to appeal to more than a single ethnic group,” he said.

The Business Minister’s comments came against the background of the 65-seat National Assembly passing an opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP)-sponsored no-confidence motion on December 21, 2018. Since then, the High Court’s decision that the no-confidence motion was validly passed by 33 to 32 votes has been appealed in the Guyana Court of Appeal and is likely to head to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) was Tuesday expected to set firm timelines for conducting house-to-house registration to remove the names of dead persons and migrants and facilitate the internal migration of others.

The governing coalition and its three election commissioners have been pushing for house-to-house registration, while the PPP and its commissioners had been insisting that elections must be held with the current voters’ list which expires on April 30, within the 90-day period after the no-confidence motion was passed.

President David Granger and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo would have to agree to extend the deadline by which elections would be held and approve funds for those polls.

Following Gaskin’s keynote address, a panel of experts from Guyana’s government and the international oil industry explored oil and gas prospects. The panelists were Newell Maurice Dennison, Commissioner, Guyana Geology and Mines Commission; David Patterson, Minister of Public Infrastructure; Sean Herrera, Managing Director of the Caribbean, Schlumberger, and Jamie McInerney Senior Director, FTI Consulting. The event was moderated by Francisco Monaldi, Fellow in Latin American Policy, Baker Institute.

The event was co-sponsored by Bank of America, its wealth management division, Merrill Lynch, TOTALTEC and the Guyanese-American law firm, Hughes, Fields and Stoby.