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President’s unilateral appointment of GECOM’s Chair will result in further loss of confidence in commission- PPP

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The Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) has expressed its “deepest concern” at President David Granger’s rejection of the list of six names submitted for the appointment of a Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and says if the President ends up making the appointment unilaterally, it will result in a “tremendous loss of confidence in an already publicly impugned elections commission.”

According to the party, in a letter to Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo on Monday (January 09, 2017), President Granger said that the Curriculum Vitae (CV’s) of the persons whose names were submitted “do not seem to conform to the requirements of… Article 161(2)…” of the Constitution.

Article 161(2) states that “Subject to the provision of paragraph (4), the Chairman of the Elections Commission shall be  a person who holds or who has held office as  a judge of a court having unlimited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matter in some part of the Commonwealth or a court having jurisdiction in appeals from any such court or who is qualified to be appointed as any such judge, or any other fit and proper person, to be appointed by the President from a list of six persons, not unacceptable to the President, submitted by the Leader of the Opposition after meaningful consultation with the non-governmental political parties represented in the National Assembly.”

In his remarks at State House during a Media Brunch on Sunday (January 08, 2017), noted that the list is “unacceptable.” According to his interpretation, only persons who are Judges, qualified to be Judges, or former Judges or can hold the position.

The PPP said the “sentiments expressed by the President, then the President’s interpretation of the Constitution is nothing short of a perversion of both the language and the spirit of Article 161(2)” since it also said “any other fit and proper person.”

The party highlighted that of the persons who held the office of GECOM’s chair in the past with the exception of Doodnauth Singh SC who possessed legal qualifications, were deemed qualified under “the fit and proper person” category.

Additionally, “we must emphasize that GECOM’s composition was also designed to achieve a particular degree of equilibrium; hence, the composition three nominees from the governing party and three nominees from the opposition with the chairman holding a balance with the power of a casting vote” the PPP said, adding that “if the President is permitted to unilaterally appoint a chairman of his own choosing, then it will fundamentally alter that vital balance. This will result in a tremendous loss of confidence in an already publicly impugned elections commission.”

“Such an appointment will not only be unconstitutional but will certainly compromise the integrity of the electoral machinery,” PPP said.

The party also claimed that the list was submitted after widespread consultation with almost every major representative organisation in the country and a rejection of this list is, therefore, a rejection of the voices of all these organisations.

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