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GECOM should force interim power-sharing compromise to fix electoral system- Henry Jeffrey

Last Updated on Tuesday, 9 June 2020, 15:07 by Writer

Chancellor of the Judiciary, Yonette Cummings-Edwards.

The Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards should be asked by the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Retired Justice Claudette Singh to head an interim power-sharing administration to fix the electoral machinery and hold fresh elections in 18 months, political scientist Dr. Henry Jeffrey recommended.

He believed that GECOM has the “power” to force a compromise between Guyana’s two major political parties in the context of a “culture” of electoral rigging  to hold on to two blocks of ethnic voting.

Jeffrey said if the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) rubbishes such an idea from the GECOM Chairman, she could then offer it to A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC). “I would say I am trying to put both of you to come together and speak under the Chairmanship of let’s say the Chancellor for at least 18 months to two years to try to get the electoral process right and perhaps you people can sit down and think of how you can move this country together,” he said on Periscope on Politics aired Monday afternoon on News-Talk Radio Guyana 103.1 FM.

Arguing that both political parties  have been using the bloated voters’ list to cheat elections repeatedly, Dr. Jeffrey contended that the GECOM Chairman should take a “radical” step to get the political leaders to clean up the voters’ register.

Heading into the March 2, 2020 general and regional elections, the incumbent coalition A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) and its three allied election commissioners had pushed for house-to-house registration to clean up the voters’ list, but the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and its three commissioners had vigorously opposed  such a move.

Political Analyst, Dr. Henry Jeffrey.

Then GECOM Chairman, Retired Justice James Patterson’s decision to conduct house-to-house registration had been short-lived  as his successor, Singh, had scrapped the exercise after just over one month, citing a tight time-frame after the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) had validated the December 2019 no-confidence motion which should have seen general elections constitutionally being held in March, 2020. Eventually, GECOM had settled for a combination of merged data from that house-to-house process and the legally provided for claims and objections period to update and sanitise the list.

The High Court had also ruled that it would be unconstitutional to scrap the national database of registrants from which eligible voters are extracted once they attain the age of 18 years.

Jeffrey reasoned that the PPP, which has been accused of rigging the March 2, 2020 general and regional elections, should not be handed the reins of governmental power because they would frustrate an election petition. “I don’t buy that these complaints have to be left to some sort of elections petition. I think it would illogical and I would say stupid. Hear what you are saying must happen: that the persons who are being accused of stealing must be given the instrument – the government in other words- to prevent the investigations from happening. We have seen it happen before where up to now the petition that the PPP left has not occurred,” Jeffrey said.

Senior Counsel, and Former Speaker of the National Assembly, Ralph Ramkarran

Referring to the situation on the East Coast Demerara where 29 boxes of ballots had no supporting documents but were subsequently cleared by GECOM as valid because they were stamped, Dr. Jeffrey argued that the commission would have to examine that situation on the basis of probability by using the State apparatus. “They can call upon instruments of the State. It is not for political and for speculation. Whether or not these things happen can be proven and must be proven satisfactorily to the satisfaction of the Commission and its Chairman. You just can’t throw them aside as I have seen this here and I have seen that here. Allegations are being made. Once they are made, they must be properly investigated and the outcomes factored into the final decision,” he said.

But former House Speaker, Senior Counsel Ralph Ramkarran said GECOM could not do many of the things that Jeffrey wants. “GECOM is constrained by two things- the Constitution which provides the broad powers and the Representation of the People Act. GECOM is a statutory body. It is created by law. It can’t do anything it wants to do. It can’t do anything that Henry says it must be do. All this stuff that Henry is saying it is provided for nowhere in any law that I know of,” said Ramkarran, a former PPP executive member.

The former PPP government minister from 1992 to 2008 recalled that the High Court had sought to block the swearing in of Janet Jagan as President, However, she had already been secretly sworn in when the High Court Marshals had served her court papers. He said GECOM or the High Court should provide the redress. “If something is against the law, the only persons that can determine that are the courts. Go straight to the court, the earliest opportunity and say this is against the law. Don’t propagandise the law,” he said.

Political Scientist and well-known Caribbean pollster, Peter Wickham challenged those levelling allegations to provide concrete evidence to show that the PPP rigged the polls. “The failings in the system are GECOM’s, not the PPP,” he said. Wickham  quipped that the PPP deserves an award for being out of power and rigging the elections.

The United States, Britain, Canada, European Union and the Organisation of American States (OAS) as well as the local private sector and small political parties have all urged that the results from the national recount be accepted and for a government reflected of the will of Guyanese be installed.

The conclusion of the recount of all ten electoral districts and tabulation of the Statements of Recount (SOR) unofficially hands the PPP a clear win over the incumbent APNU+AFC. The final tally gives the PPP 233, 336 votes and APNU+AFC 217, 920 votes. Under the joinder system, A New and United Guyana, Liberty and Justice Party and The New Movement won a total of 5,190 votes which entitles them to one seat in the 65-seat National Assembly.

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