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Legal, administrative hurdles about to be cleared for local govt elections

Last Updated on Friday, 28 August 2015, 22:54 by GxMedia

The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) says government has promised to pilot legislative changes through the National Assembly to pave the way for the holding of Local Government Elections (LGE).

The elections management authority says government has also promised to issue an order for the Local Authority areas where the polls will be held and also widen the boundaries to take account for an increase in housing stock.

Government hopes to hold the polls in December, 2015 for the first time since 1994.

But GECOM says it cannot fulfill government’s wish unless the law is amended to permit the electoral management body to use the latest National Register of Registrants that was used to prepare the voters list for the May 11, 2015 general and regional elections.

“The existing legislation relative to the preparation of the Preliminary List of Voters requires that the Lists be prepared from the Official List of Electors that was used for the 1992 General and Regional Elections.  This legislation must be amended to clear the way for the Lists to be extracted from the up-to-date National Register of Registrants,” said GECOM in a statement.

GECOM says its Legal Officer and the Chief Parliamentary Counsel are drafting legislative amendments for Minister of Communities, Ronald Bulkan to take to the National Assembly. “Accordingly, it is imperative that it be made abundantly clear that until and unless GECOM is given the legal authority to extract the Preliminary List of Voters, the Commission cannot move forward with its Work Plan for the conduct of Local Government Elections,” said GECOM in a statement.

At a meeting called Friday by GECOM’s Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, he told Minister of Communities, Ronald Bulkan that GECOM cannot proceed to prepare a Preliminary Lists of Voters for the conduct of Claims and Objections to finalise the Registers of Voters that for the elections to be held in the 65 Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) and the six Municipalities in Guyana.

GECOM also wants the Minister of Communities to issue an order declaring the Local Authority areas where the elections would be held.

The Chief Elections Officer also urged the government delegation to extend the boundaries of Corriverton, Anna Regina and Bartica to take account of the growth of housing communities there to prevent thousands of persons from being disenfranchised. “He (Lowenfield) emphasized that the authority to extend the boundaries of these Local Authority Areas is vested in the Minister of Communities and urged that this matter be addressed with alacrity towards ensuring that the concerned citizens are given the opportunity to participate in the Local Government Elections,” said GECOM,

The Ministerial Team included Mr. Emile McGarrell, Permanent Secretary and Mr. Derek Kowlessar, Advisor to the Minister.  The GECOM Team included Mr. Vishnu Persaud – Deputy Chief Election Officer, Ms. Juanita Barker – Legal Officer and Mr. Duarte Hetsberger – Personal Assistant to the CEO.

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