Chief Election Officer presses for correction of of LGE voters lists

Last Updated on Tuesday, 6 December 2022, 16:27 by Denis Chabrol

Chief Election Officer Vishnu Persaud.

The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) on Tuesday decided to push back discussions on correcting the register of voters for Local Government Elections and the power of the Minister of Local Government to demarcate constituency boundaries.

If GECOM’s Chief Elections Officer Vishnu Persaud’s proposal for a 14-day corrections exercise is accepted by the commission, he has already told the Chairman of that election management body that local government elections could no longer be held on March 13, 2023.  ”

It is acknowledged that the approval of this proposal would cause the conduct of Local Government elections to be further delayed. However, it is humbly submitted that the value to be derived from the unimpeded involvement of all concerned at the level of all Local Authority Areas is of greater importance,” he told the GECOM Chairman. 

The opposition A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) on Tuesday insisted on the need for changes to the voters list for next year’s Local Government Elections to take account of re-adjusted boundaries for a number of local government constituencies and the unnecessary listing of more than 200 names of persons.

“Our preliminary investigations would have revealed that the list, currently as printed and released to the public, does not accurately and properly capture changes of constituency boundaries. There are persons, who ought to have been in new boundaries, are outside of them and persons, who are within new boundaries as published by the list, are not properly so placed based on the requirements,” APNU+AFC Executive Member and Shadow Attorney General Roysdale Forde said.

He challenged the legal authority of the Local Government Minister to change boundaries within Local Authority areas rather than merely establishing the areas. Mr Forde said it is the Elections Commission that has the authority to change boundaries. Mr Forde said that after so many months of planning for the LGE, this has turned out be an embarrassment for the Chief Election Officer backed by the silence of the GECOM Chairman. “It is completely in shambles, it is a complete, total devastating mess. It is an embarrassment to the country,” he said.

Mr Forde emphasised that GECOM’s responsibility is to prepare voters lists in keeping with the law and engage the public as part of a wider process for claims and verification. He said it “completely unacceptable” for GECOM to post copies of a list with thousands of names of persons that should not be listed.

The APNU+AFC claimed that there are at least 200 names, including the name of the deceased sister of Local Government Minister Nigel Dharamlall, that are still on the voters list in one constituency.

The coalition made its position known less than three hours before opposition Election Commissioner Vincent Alexander succeeded in getting the Chief Election Officer letter to the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Retired Justice Claudette Singh to be part of the official record of Wednesday’s meeting.

Mr Persaud, in his December 3, 2022 letter, warned the GECOM Chairman that if APNU+AFC’s concerns were not addressed, that party could boycott the LGE scheduled for March 13, 2022 and that could damage GECOM’s image. “The APNU+AFC coalition, as a major parliamentary stakeholder in the conduct of elections, has a large support base among the electorate. In this regard, it would not be unreasonable to assume that the constituents of the coalition would withhold their participation in the upcoming Local Government Elections i.e. something any electoral management body should guard against insofar as transparency and inclusivity as fundamental standards for democratic elections are concerned,” Mr Persaud said in his letter. 

The Chief Election Officer recommended that a 14-day period for correction to the Registers of Voters for be held in the 70 neighbourhood councils and 10 municipalities to correct the registers and hopefully stave off an APNU+AFC boycott of the poll. “This would not only guarantee transparency and inclusivity, but would address the specific concern of the APNU+AFC coalition, but by extension engender participation of the coalition’s support base in the Local Government Elections,” Mr Persaud said.

If his request is approved by the Commission, GECOM will have to conduct claims for entry in the Register of Voters, correct incorrect listing of particulars of any voter, entertain application for change of name, application for transfers from one local authority/constituency to another or from a nonlocal authority area to a local authority area, address objections to incorrect listings in the Registers of Voters, conduct hearings to objections and the verification of address to see if they are associated with claims for entry, transfers and objections made on the basis of incorrect listing

APNU+AFC said the claims and objections period could n0t cure a number of the problems that have cropped up with the Register of Voters for LGE.

Nomination Day is slated for next week.

The High Court has a pending case concerning the preparation for LGE.