Guyana again inches closer towards Local Government Elections

Last Updated on Tuesday, 7 February 2023, 21:32 by Denis Chabrol

The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) on Tuesday signaled that the country was once again moving closer towards the holding of Local Government Elections (LGE) after the March 13, 2023 date was aborted, but the opposition abstained from voting on the workplan.

A highly placed source said LGE could be held during the second quarter – April to June- of this year, now that GECOM on Tuesday approved the work plan.

“In this regard, the Secretariat will proceed with the full implementation of the relevant statutory and administrative activities to ensure the successful conduct of the elections in the eighty (80) Local Authority Areas (LAAs) countrywide,” GECOM said.

But opposition A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC)-aligned Election Commissioner Vincent Alexander said he and his opposition-backed commissioners refused to vote for the w0rkplan but it was approved by a majority vote in the seven-member election management body.  “The opposition nominated commissioners abstained on the grounds that a fresh list and a mechanism to curtail multiple voting is a sine quo non for the holding of any election. They also maintained that the demarcation process was hijacked by the PPP (People’s Progressive Party) and that gerrymandering was perpetrated in keeping with what the Minister had illegally set out to do,” he said.

He said the government appointed commissioners also opposed entertaining any discussion on the introduction of digitization of the registration and voter identification processes. The APNU+AFC has for several months been demanding a clean voters list and the introduction of biometrics at polling stations, but GECOM Chairman Retired Justice Claudette Singh had already said that biometrics as a condition for voting would be unconstitutional and that the names of overseas-based Guyanese could not be removed from the national database of registrants as that would be a breach of Guyana’s constitution.

The March 13, 2023 deadline was scrapped over the accuracy of the voters’ list and the role of the Local Government Minister in fixing the constituency boundaries.

GECOM announced that that it would immediately move to roll out a “robust” civic and voter education programme, appoint Electoral Registrars and Assistant Electoral Registrars, and and extract the Preliminary List of Voters (PLV). “These activities are directly linked to the preparation of Registers of Voters for each of the 80 LAAs- 70 neighbourhood councils and 10 towns.

With preparation for the conduct of Local Government Elections having commenced in 2022, the GECOM Secretariat said it had already completed the training of management and polling day staff for all of the LAAs, and the receipt of applications for and approval of symbols submitted by political parties, voluntary groups and individuals who intend to contest in the elections.