Opposition to mount campaign for election law reforms- Harmon

Last Updated on Sunday, 20 September 2020, 20:31 by Denis Chabrol

The opposition A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) has indicated that it would be mounting a campaign for constitutional reform or reform of  certain electoral laws in a bill that could be jointly drafted with government, Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon said at the weekend.

He was at the time contributing to the debate on the 2020 National Budget in the National Assembly that is meeting at the Arthur  Chung Conference Centre, Liliendaal, Greater Georgetown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He urged that constitutional reform be treated as a priority, failing which the coalition would like to sit down with government and hammer out a bipartisan bill to take on board decisions on election-related cases by the Caribbean Court of Justice and Guyana’s courts.

“While that can take some time, we can examine a bipartisan bill that seeks to amend certain aspects of our electoral laws to take into consideration the findings of the CCJ and our Court of Appeal and the High Court,” he said.

The Opposition Leader said if the Irfaan Ali-led government does not agree to amend the laws, the coalition would enlist support from civil society. “If we do not get buy-in from the government side on this matter because we consider it so important, we will consult with civil society and bring a motion on this floor to that effect,” he said. A motion, like a law, can be defeated by government’s simple majority of 33 seats.

He alerted the governing People’s Progressive Party (PPP) that the coalition would not be returning to the polls with the same laws and with the “same bloated list.” “It is a travesty, it is a travesty, we cannot go back,” he said.

The APNU+AFC, he said, was prepared to support the allocation of more funds to facilitate the recommendations by the Courts, constitutional reform and amendment of the electoral laws.

Mr. Harmon said the APNU+AFC coalition also wants the bloated voters list to be addressed as a top priority. While in government, the coalition and its three election commissioners had repeatedly raised concerns that the voters list would create the conditions for voter impersonation and other irregularities.

Of the 661,378 eligible voters, 480,061 cast their votes and 460,352 votes were deemed as validly cast. The coalition has since filed two election petitions, saying that the March 2, 2020 polls were rigged by the PPP through a bloated list, absence of documents to reconcile votes cast, voter impersonation and other irregularities.

Under intense pressure from the international community to accept the results based on the national vote recount, then President David Granger in the end insisted that he would accept any declaration that was made by the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission.