Aspects of two of the four local government bills had been sources of contention for the government prior to last week’s vote but the legislation was passed unanimously ending a 12-year reform process.
“We’ve appointed a campaign director and the various parties in the Partnership are sending persons to the campaign team and we’re making all the preparations for registration and dissemination,” APNU Chairman David Granger told reporters Friday.
He added that public education was one of the Guyana Elections Commission’s (GECOM) weaknesses and this would be essential once the president assents to the four bills passed on August 7 which will lead to a more complex system.
“There’s really 71 different elections, as you know there are 65 local democratic organs and the six municipalities and it’s a mixed system so we believe that there needs to be much more detailed and much more widespread public information about local government so we’ve started that process.”
GECOM has said that it would need some six months from the time the bills are assented to in order to complete its public education work. The opposition parties, civil society and even the diplomatic community had been pushing for the polls to be held this year.
“We expect that it will be held as early as possible, if it takes six months it takes six months but we’re working, it will happen and we’ll keep the pressure on,” Granger said.
“The critical element right now is presidential assent and it is in the hands of the government and once that is given the okay by the executive we feel we can have elections within a reasonable period of time.”
The Constitution states that the president has 21 days from the passage of legislation to give his assent or not and if the latter his reasons for doing so must be stated.
Three of the four local government bills are currently before the Attorney General’s Chambers for review, something the APNU finds unnecessary.
“We do not acknowledge that the Attorney General has any input to make to matters which would have been deliberated on and decided on by the National Assembly. The word of the National Assembly is the last word, he cannot change something that we’ve approved so he has no role to play.
Once the National Assembly makes a decision, dots the i’s crosses the t’s it goes to the president for assent, we don’t accept that he has a role to play,” Granger said.
Executive member Deborah Backer added that there was nothing in the laws requiring the AG’s intervention after the Assembly would have pronounced and that he was merely a conduit at that stage.
“I am confident that the president will sign it and we can have local government and give all Guyanese a chance to elect their people who are going to serve them directly,” she concluded.
Local government elections were last held in 1994.