Norton threatens to stop local govt elections over “widespread forgery”

Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 April 2023, 6:26 by Denis Chabrol

PNCR and Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton speaking as protesters chanted and held placards to express their dissatisfaction with the nomination process.

Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton on Tuesday threatened to take action to stop the June 12, 2023 Local Government Elections for Guyana’s 70 neighbourhood and 10 town councils because of numerous unsettled claims of alleged forgery by the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC).

“If you have before you a number of people who have forged signatures and up until now GECOM (Guyana Elections Commission) cannot say ‘these are qualified, these are disqualified’, it means that the entire system is compromised and so we will have to relook the situation and do everything to ensure there are no local government elections ,” he said from the picket line near GECOM’s headquarters.

Despite failed efforts to have biometric identification systems at polling places and the names of deceased persons and emigrants removed the voters lists, opposition Chief Whip Christopher Jones said his opposition would still contest the elections. “You have to go into an election with those regulations that you would want in place not being in place because not going to an election you run the risk of losing your constituency, you run the risk of losing municipalities in which you have hundreds of thousands of supporters… so you just can’t abandon your base and not go to the election, you have to contest,” he said.

The PPPC had levelled similar charges against Mr Norton’s People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR)-led A Partnership for National Unity (APNU). But Mr Norton said there was “widespread forgery” which should see the disqualification of a number of candidates because they had been supported by fraudulent signatures. “Clearly, the PPP is establishing itself as the true riggers of elections. The PPP clearly does not have the support it claims to have. If it had the support, why then would it be forging signatures?,” he said.

Chairman of the Alliance For Change (AFC), Cathy Hughes, whose party is not contesting the local elections due to unresolved concerns about the accuracy of the voters list, joined the picketing demonstration. because the system was not working and there was fraud. “We talk about democracy but you can’t have democracy if the fundamental right to cast a vote is not honoured,” she said. Ms Hughes said GECOM should take the alleged fraudsters to court but instead there was silence by that election management body. “GECOM has to do something about it. They have to come to the people of Guyana and tell us what they are doing to fix this situation before local government elections,” she said.

An estimated 100 supporters, the largest number of PNCR/APNU of people to have turned out on the picket line in recent times, participated in Tuesday’s protest to press demands for a  fraud-free machinery.

Shadow Attorney General Roysdale Forde, who also joined the picket line, declined to say what could be the next steps to seek redress but pointed out that there is a case before the court that deals with related matters.

The PNCR Leader said the 2023 LGE was in “jeopardy”, partly due to what he regarded as a biased GECOM Chairman, Retired Justice Claudette Singh. The opposition is disappointed in what it regards as the almost certain voting by Ms Singh with the three PPPC-aligned Election Commissioners to make key decisions such as the appointment of a Chief Election Officer and a Deputy Chief Election Officer.