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Call elections now with existing voters’ list – Caribbean political scientist

Peter Wickham

Political Scientist, Peter Wickham has recommended that President David Granger call general elections soon without house-to-house registration.

Appearing on a News Talk Radio Guyana post-Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) order panel discussion, Wickham said A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) coalition had contested previous elections, including the 2015 polls that it won, with the same list.

“I personally don’t think that the list is in a bad shape and I believe if you won once on the list, you can probably win a second time on the list,” said Wickham whose Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES) five months ago predicted a close fight between the opposition People’s Progressive Party and the incumbent A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) coalition.

Wickham said Guyana is not the only country in the Caribbean where there are bloated voters’ lists due to the fact that names of deceased and migrants are not easily removed. The noted Caribbean pollster said there are existing mechanisms such as a claims and objections period that could remove and place persons on the list.

“The reality of the electoral lists all over the region is an unfortunate one. There are many countries in the region where the list is easily one-third larger than the size of the actual population for many different reasons,” he said.

The coalition had contested the 2011 and 2015 General Elections and the 2016 and 2018 Local Government Elections with the same voters’ list that expired on April 30. The law can be amended for the life of the list to be extended and subjected to claims and objections.

In recent days, the coalition appeared to have toned down its call for house-to-house registration but at the same time has been insisting on having a credible voters’ list. But veteran Guyanese trade unionist, Lincoln Lewis does not believe that government has changed its position on the need for house-to-house registration. “It’s not changing its approach but it has changed its language in selling it to the society,” Lewis said.

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) on Friday said it could not dictate a specific date for Guyanese to vote for a government of their choice. That responsibility, the court said is the constitutional domain of the President, Opposition Leader and to some extent the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).

Political Science Professor David Hinds expected that the government and opposition would be “pushed” to a solution by “outside forces” by the Americans, British, Canadian and European governments. That is an approach, he hoped, would be a thing of the past. “I really hope the day can come when your leaders can sit down and arrive at solutions for themselves,” he said.

The CCJ has ruled that last December’s no-confidence motion was validly passed and that the President and Cabinet ought to have resigned and the President and government remain in office as a “caretaker” until the next General Elections.

The Trinidad-headquartered regional Court said general elections ought to have been held within three months after the motion was passed or at another date subject to a resolution supported by two-thirds of the National Assembly.

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has ruled out supporting an extension.

President David Granger has said he is hopeful of appointing a new GECOM Chairperson by Monday after which he expects to be advised when General Elections are possible.