The Working People’s Alliance (WPA)—a vocal partner in the governing coalition—on Sunday urged President David Granger and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo to hammer out an agreement to clean up the voters’ list by either house-to-house registration or a claims and objections period.
WPA executive member, Professor David Hinds told Demerara Waves Online News that while he was not optimistic that A Partnership for National Unity’s (APNU) leadership would meet collectively to hammer out a common position on the judgements by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), his party wants Guyana’s two top political leaders to reach an agreement, but would frown on a court-imposed claims and objections period.
“We would prefer an agreement between the two leaders rather than order of the court so although we would have problems with claims and objections, ninety days, if the two leaders agree with that we will go ahead with that…When I, we would take a dim view, we would take a dim view if it is left to the court to make an order outside of the two leaders agreeing to that order,” Hinds said.
Granger has already invited Jagdeo to a meeting to discuss the political situation, only after the CCJ issues its consequential orders possibly on Monday at 2 pm.
Already, Jagdeo and Granger have openly differed on the timeframe for elections, with the Guyanese leader insisting on polls after house-to-house registration and the Opposition Leader demanding elections in August or September with the existing list after a claims and objections period.
The party stressed the “ball is once again in our leaders’ court” and it is yet another test of their political maturity, which has so often been absent from their deliberations. “WPA prefers a workable solution by the two sides rather than an order from the CCJ, which, in any case, seems reluctant to insert itself beyond its rulings,” the party said.
The WPA said any plan to clean up the voters list must be done swiftly. “In light of the stipulated constitutional timeline, WPA urges that this exercise be done in the shortest possible time. We do not believe that a few extra months offers the government side any unfair advantage nor do we think it amounts to the use of delaying tactics,” that party said. House-to-house registration has not started yet, although GECOM has trained its staff in elections preparations.
A New and United Guyana (ANUG) political party and the Jagdeo-led parliamentary opposition People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) have since acknowledged that the CCJ’s rulings said the law allows for continuous registration and claims and objections to capture 14-year-old persons and transfer them from the national register to the base list of 2001.
Calling for “consensus over partnership” in line with the CCJ’s desire for a “happy marriage between principle and practicality”, the WPA said it was backing calls by the governing coalition for house-to-house registration instead of rushing into an election with a tainted list that could result in post-elections instability and legal challenges.
“WPA is concerned that rushing to an election with a tainted list and the possible disenfranchisement of new voters would be unconstitutional and worse could aggravate tensions in the society that may prove counterproductive in the long run. Further, such a course of action could activate a new round of court actions that would ultimately cause more delays. We should not sacrifice one sacred principle in the undue haste to satisfy another one—what is needed is a formula that satisfies both. This calls for political will and maturity on the part of the leaders,” the party said.
The WPA noted the constitutional timeline of 90 days within which general elections should be called after the passage of a no-confidence motion, but argued that credible elections are “as sacrosanct” as that timeline to ensure Guyanese enjoy the guaranteed right of free and fair elections. “What is at stake is respect for both the rule of law and the need for free and fair elections in which all citizens are guaranteed the right to participate. WPA is satisfied that GECOM is not able to guarantee credible elections with the current voters list. Given our history of controversial voters lists and charges of crooked elections, WPA prefers to err on the side of electoral integrity,” the once vibrant mass-based political party said.
Regarding the selection of a new GECOM chair, the WPA said it endorsed the suggestion that both leaders agree to a list of potential candidates from which the president chooses the chair. The WPA cautioned against choosing someone who is politically connected. “We also suggest that such a list should not include anyone with overt political ties (to) any political party. We further urge that this process be done in a timely manner. WPA remains confident that there are eminent Guyanese who are ready to put the interest of the country above partisan concerns,” the party said.
Among Jagdeo’s nominees were former GECOM Chairman, Retired Major General Joseph Singh, international governance and democracy expert Lawrence Lachmansingh and attorneys-at-law Christopher Ram and Teni Housty.