Chief Elections Officer says new Guyana elections cannot be held on March 19

Keith Lowenfield

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, CMC – The Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, in Guyana said on Friday that regional and general elections cannot be held in Guyana next month as being called for by the main opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP), in keeping with the country’s constitution following last month’s successful vote of no confidence that brought down the three and half year old coalition government.

Lowenfield told a news conference that based on the options presented to the Commissioners of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) the March 19 date for the elections “isn’t possible”

Jagdeo calling for March 19th elections

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has been calling on GECOM to ensure that the elections are held on that date after he successfully moved the motion of no confidence that toppled the David Granger administration on December 21 last year.

Jagdeo received the support of then government backbencher Charrandass  Persaud, ensuring that the defeat of the coalition that had enjoyed a slender one seat majority in the 65-member National Assembly.’

The High Court last month validated the action and refused to grant a stay, resulting in the authorities according to the Guyana Constitution having 90 days from the passage of the motion to hold the elections. The government has since appealed the High Court ruling.

GEOCOM officials who were present at the news conference told reporters for the March 19 date to have become relevant, Nomination Day would have had to be on the last day of January.

They said further that GECOM would not have been able to acquire the necessary materials to ensure a credible election by that date.

Election working plan being studied

But Lowenfield, who was flanked by the GECOM chairman, retired Justice James Patterson and other Commission officials, said that the Secretariat had provided the Commissioners with a working plan and options on January 22.

“The options are with the Commission. The Commissioners…they are deliberating on the submissions with a view at arriving at a position at the end of the day, because as you are aware they are to provide feedback to the whips and wat guidance they can take back to the Leader of the opposition and the President.

“Now the reality is very simple. For us to conduct an elections, an elections has to be staffed. At the moment if an election is to be held we have an estimated amount of 2,300 polling stations (and) those polling stations will have to be manned by staff.”

Time needed to train election workers

He said training for those workers would take considerable time and that all areas of Guyana had to be properly staffed in order to conduct the poll.

“One shudders to think if there is going to be a polling station without an attending PO (presiding officer) to go there,” he said, adding “someone can very well say let’s close the elections down because GECOM is not ready

Lowenfield also raised the possibility that Guyanese nationals working at the various embassies may not be able to cast their ballots if the elections were to be held next month given the various measures that must be undertaken to ensure the credibility of the poll.

He said the issue of house to house registration and other factors are still being debated by the Commissioners.

“I have said on the 22nd of January when the Commission first met for the year …that the Commission must provide to the Secretariat approval for us to go into an operational mode. That approval is not with the Secretariat as yet.

“We order when the elections are on the horizon,” he said, adding approval has had to be granted to the Secretariat ‘for us to move into that mode.”

Figures released by GECOM show that 633,155 people are not eligible to cast ballots, but Lowenfield said that should it expire on April 30 without an election being held “would see the need for a new list, a new official list to be provided.”

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