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President to meet GECOM on Thursday ahead of “imminent” election date

GECOM Chairman Claudette Singh flanked by (left to right) PPP-aligned election commissioners Robeson Benn, Bibi Shadick, and Sase Gunraj and pro-coalition commissioners Charles Corbin, Vincent Alexander and Desmond Trotman.

President David Granger is Thursday scheduled to meet with the seven-member Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), ahead of a possible announcement of an elections date in December, officials confirmed.

A well-placed official said the talks are slated for 10 am at the Ministry of the Presidency and is linked to his imminent naming of an election date.

Demerara Waves Online News has learnt that Guyanese might be going to the polls around mid-December.

That’s three months later than September 18, the date the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) says the elections must now be held since the Caribbean Court of Justice validated last December’s no-confidence motion. That political party is maintaining that it would not give its support for a two-thirds parliamentary extension of the life of the government.

Noting that the parliamentary recess lasts from August 10 to October 10, Director-General of the Ministry of the Presidency, Joseph Harmon, said the naming of an election date this month depends on the political situation. “Whether in fact the President will do anything with respect to the Parliament will be determined by the issues which arise politically and which will be addressed at the appropriate time,” he said.

Indications are that the Guyanese leader will be seeking an update from the Commission and the Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield on the status of house-to-house registration and preparations for general and regional elections.

GECOM had already stated at the start of house-to-house registration that preparations for an early poll had also begun.

It is unclear whether the pro-coalition election commissioners will back down from their original position that the registration exercise is absolutely necessary for a credible voters list and free, fair and transparent elections or they will agree to reactivate and scour the existing list of registrants through an intensive claims and objections period.

After their first meeting with recently-appointed GECOM Chairperson, Retired Justice Claudette Singh, the pro-coalition trio did not commit itself to clinging to house-to-house registration as the only means of cleaning up the voters list. “The issue of sanitisation of the list is not a matter in question. At the moment, whenever the issues reach the table, the commissioners will look at all the factors at that point in time and determine what is the best way forward. At the moment, that matter is in progress, being executed, and at the time when we are faced with making a decision, all the factors will be taken into consideration at that time…The Chairman will make a determination of that,” elections commissioner Vincent Alexander has said.

Earlier Wednesday, Director-General of the Ministry of the Presidency, Joseph Harmon gave no immediate indication of whether he envisaged an appeal if the High Court next week rules that the house-to-house registration exercise will collide with the holding of elections by September 18, 2019 timeframe within which Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire has already said elections should be held.

Attorney General Basil Williams said if the PPP does not support an extension of the life of the government, the President would remain in office until general and regional elections are held.

President Granger has acknowledged, in keeping with the Caribbean Court of Justice’s decision that validated the no-confidence motion, that his administration is in “caretaker” mode and would not, among other things, pass a National Budget for next year.

Since coming to office in May, 2015, the Granger-led administration has tabled and passed the next year’s national budget late in the last quarter of the preceding year.

Harmon on Wednesday said the interim status of the government has also seen a cut in non-essential overseas travel by the President ministers and no signing of new deals that would bind the administration after the next general elections.