No agreement on elections date; President to meet GECOM

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A meeting between President David Granger and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo Wednesday ended without any agreement on a date for general elections, with the President insisting that there is no crisis even though his Government has just 15 days more to remain in office.

According to the Opposition Leader, he was not interested in discussing any other issues outside of a definite date for elections. The President has said that a date for elections depends on the readiness of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).

“I, on the 25th of February, wrote the Chairman of GECOM indicating that I am prepared to enter consultations with him to ensure that credible elections are held in a shorter time as possible.

“I would like to meet the entire Commission to determine what the needs are in terms of time and money,” the President said following the meeting.

The Opposition Leader has argued that the resort to GECOM’s readiness is a ploy by Granger’s administration to delay elections.

“…does it mean we never have elections in Guyana again if GECOM is never ready?” Jagdeo questioned the President.

According to Article 61 of the Constitution, elections are held on a date “the President shall appoint by proclamation.”

The Opposition Leader’s argument is that the Government wants to hang on to power as long as it could since the Government-nominated Commissioners are insisting on new house to house registration before elections and that can take up to eight months.

Jagdeo has proposed that elections be held by April 30 before the current voter’s list expires and he believes that is reasonable.

He is not prepared to agree to a long-term extension of the Government’s life.

With the passage of the December 21 No Confidence motion, the life of the Government will expire on March 21, as the constitution dictates that elections must be held three months after the passage of such a motion.

The life of the Government can only be extended if the date for elections is extended, according to Article 106 (7) of the Constitution. And that extension has to be by way of a Parliamentary vote of two-thirds of the members of the National Assembly.

The Opposition Leader insisted that he would only agree to an extension that is “credible and close to the constitutional requirement.”

As such, he said the ball is in the President’s court.

Once he meets with GECOM, the President said he would meet again with the Opposition Leader.

“…the door is open; the Leader of the Opposition has agreed to meet again,” President Granger stated.

He added: “The people of Guyana could be assured that we’re working to ensure that credible elections are held in a shorter time as possible.

“There is no crisis. There are issues which have to be resolved and most of those issues will depend on what I hear from GECOM when I consult them.”

Immediately after the passage of the No Confidence motion, the President committed to working even more closely with the Opposition and to stick to abide by the Constitutional requirements of the No Confidence vote.

“We will do everything necessary to facilitate the smooth functioning of General and Regional Elections bearing in mind the need for normal governmental functions to continue uninterrupted,” the President said in a statement on December 22.

However, soon after, the Government challenged the vote on the grounds that the 33 members who voted in favour of the motion for it to pass did not represent a majority of the 65-seat National Assembly.

Further, it supported arguments that the vote of Mr Charrandass Persaud, which gave the opposition the majority, was not valid because he defected from the Government and was also a dual citizen and so did not occupy his seat legally in the House.

The first resort to challenge and have the No Confidence motion reversed was to the Speaker of the House. However, on January 3, he refused to reverse his ruling that the motion was passed.

The Government then moved to the court. All of its arguments were thrown out by the Chief Justice, who on January 31 declared that the No Confidence motion was legally passed and is in force.

The Government then moved to the Court of Appeal. The appeal has not yet come up for arguments.

In the meantime, the Government is seeking to have a “stay” on the effect of the No Confidence motion. The Court of Appeal will hear those arguments on March 15 and then a decision will be made.

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