Local government elections not expected; to intensify demand for clean voters list – Opposition Leader

Last Updated on Tuesday, 9 August 2022, 21:44 by Denis Chabrol

Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton on Tuesday said he did not believe that Local Government Elections (LGE) would be held this year, but vowed to intensify pressure for a clean voters list.

“I don’t believe that the government’s intention is to have Local Government Election. The government has never shown an interest in Local Government Election,” he told a news conference, citing the repeated postponement of LGEs by the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC).

His position comes in the wake of confirmation that the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is working towards the holding of the local polls for the 10 towns and 70 neighbourhood councils before yearend.

He, however, said the opposition coalition of A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) would continue to mount pressure on the Irfaan Ali-led administration to put systems in place to clean the bloated voters list of 661,378 registrants. Official figures show that 464,563 persons voted in the March, 2020 general and regional elections.

“You’ll see from the figures that the list is padded. There is, like we pointed out, no country in this world outside of Guyana under Irfaan Ali and (Vice President Bharrat) Jagdeo  in which a list has more than 80 percent of the population on it more so when young people under 18 constitute more than 200,000 of our population so it’s barefacedness,” he said. Official figures show that Trinidad and Tobago has a population of 1,208,789 and 1,134,135 eligible voters, but 658,297 voted in that country’s 2020 election.  In the just concluded St Kitts and Nevis general election, there were 50, 933 eligible voters and a total population of 53, 192 persons.

Plans, according to Mr Norton, include educating Guyanese about the need for a clean voters list and “additional action” after GECOM produces the preliminary voters list to confirm “the actual figures”.  He did not elaborate, but said that APNU+AFC would continue to engage the international community and mobilise support. “We’ll intensify those activities,” he said.

Mr Norton on Tuesday noted that several international election observer missions have over the decades recommended that steps be taken to ensure the voters list is more realistic. He also recalled that when the PPPC was defeated in 2015, that party had called for house-to-house enumeration to sanitise the list.

The High Court has ruled that names cannot be constitutionally removed from the national database of registrants and so those who are 18 years and older must be extracted and placed on the voters list. However, the names of deceased persons can be removed from the voters roll if they are supplied by the General Register’s Office and through a system of claims and objections.

The People’s National Congress Reform-led opposition coalition has vowed to block the holding of elections unless the voters list is scrubbed of the names of deceased persons and migrants in order to address its fears of substitute voting in the names of those absent.

The coalition and the PPPC continue to trade allegations 0f election rigging. The Caribbean Court of Justice is yet to decide whether an appeal of a High Court decision on the fate of an opposition-sponsored election petition.