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Chief Elections Officer says elections possible in March; PPP demands polls in November

The Chief Elections Officer and team on Friday told the seven-member Guyana Elections Commission that the earliest the machinery can be ready for general elections is next year March.

The government-nominated elections commissioners appear not to be challenging that timeframe. Vincent Alexander, one of the three government-nominated election commissioners says he will not object to a March timeframe.

“I have no major contention with those timelines but we, as I said, in a consensual mood were looking at the activities which are not statutory to see how they could be curtailed,” he said.

Mr. Alexander says the proposed timeframe of March for statutory and administrative deadlines are being revised.

Previously, the Guyana Elections Commission had told the Caribbean Court of Justice that it would have been ready by December 25.

But opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) elections commissioner, Robeson Benn, adds that the just completed month-long registration exercise should be used to extract the names of first-time registrants with the aim of holding elections in November, 2019.

Benn said he and his colleague election commissioners – Bibi Shadick and Sase Gunraj – advised the seven-member commission that the July 20 to August 31 house-to-house registration exercise could be used partly.

‘There should only be minimal use of data from the house-to-house registration to identify persons who are first-time registrants for addition, with a process with the political parties as scrutineers, to allow for a process for the addition of those first-time registrants, who should not be much, into a database during a claims and objections period and that will completely shorten the time-period required for an election and that election could hopefully be held no later than mid to late November,” Benn said.

Meanwhile, Alexander said GECOM wants to procure equipment and other supplies to continue printing national identification cards locally. In this case, he prefers printing of those cards for just about 400,000 persons who would be on the voters list. “Minimum for me, those who are on the voters list. In the interest of time, I could see us not necessarily producing all of the ID cards because ID cards would come up from 14 (years old) right up. In the interest of time, I could see us producing for 18 (years and beyond),” he said.

Alexander could not immediately say how long it would take to produce the national identification cards. But the cross-matching of fingerprints of the more than 370,000 persons who were recently registered with the existing National Register of Registrants could take 16 days.

The High Court recently ruled that once registered, except in certain circumstances, the names of persons could not be constitutionally or legally removed from the National Register of Registrants.