Carter Centre urges extension of elections deadline

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Following a one-week visit to Guyana and meetings with several political parties and the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), the Carter Centre is urging “all sides to find an agreed-upon way forward to establish an early election date.”

As the three-month period for holding of elections after the passage of a No-Confidence motion against the Government expires today, the Centre in a statement Thursday evening said by virtue of the day being a holiday, “under Guyana’s Interpretation and General Clauses Act, the constitutional three-month period… would expire on the following day, March 22, 2019.”

As such, the Centre said it hopes the National Assembly is able to convene no later than Friday to authorise an extension of the election timeline and to avoid a period of constitutional uncertainty.

The Centre said from its conversations with senior political leaders on both sides, it has found that both President David Granger and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo share a desire to have elections in the shortest possible time, consistent with law and pending judicial decisions.

Following the team’s meeting with GECOM, the body made several proposals which can lead to an early election date.

The Chairman of GECOM, Justice (Ret’d) James Patterson this week informed the Head of State that the agency will be ready to hold elections “no earlier than late November,” after the completion of the ongoing house-to-house registration.

In defending the house-to-house registration exercise which the political opposition has deemed unnecessary, the election commission said the current voters list is “bloated” and raised the issue of the likely inclusion of significant numbers of Guyanese living overseas.

Without the registration exercise, elections could be organised in July or August, the Carter Centre statement noted.

“Give the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the vote of no confidence and the constitutional requirement for early elections, there are several steps that could be considered to try to mitigate concerns about the voter list while scheduling elections as early as possible,” the Centre said as it proposed the following options.

  • Using data from the Ministry of Immigration, GECOM could prepare a reference list of Guyanese who are currently overseas (for three months or longer) and also included on the voter registration list. The voters on the reference list would not be removed from the registration list (other than through already existing legal procedures like, for example, the claims and objections process). But the reference list would be made available to party agents and scrutineers to facilitate enhanced review of these names during the electoral process, both during the claims and objections period and on election day, serving as a deterrent to multiple or substitute voting.
  • The reference list would supplement safeguards already in place in Guyana’s electoral administration to protect against multiple voting. As The Carter Center has recognized in the past, Guyana’s existing safeguards are strong and consistent with international standards for democratic elections.
  • In addition, GECOM could consider providing resources to expand the number of political party agents and scrutineers who can monitor the electoral process before, during, and after election day. These efforts could be complemented by a strong presence of international observers and domestic citizen observers to enhance transparency.

The Carter Centre delegation is led by Jason J. Carter, chairman of the Carter Centre’s Board of Trustees and includes David Carroll and Brett Lacy of the Center’s Democracy Program.

Prior to the delegation’s visit, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter spoke with President Granger and opposition leader Jagdeo, both of whom indicated they would welcome a Carter Centre team.

The Carter Centre said it is also aware of pending decisions from the Court of Appeal and that these decisions may be appealed to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

President Granger has already informed the Opposition Leader that he will announce a date for elections soon.

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