Granger dismisses December election date, meets with GECOM
President David Granger has dismissed reports in the media of an election date in mid-December, telling reporters “the news couldn’t have come from me.”
The President and Director General of the Ministry of the Presidency Joseph Harmon briefed the media Thursday immediately after he met with the new Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Justice (rt’d) Claudette Singh and all six commissioners.
“I shall wait on the advice of the Commission,” the President said when asked about the media reports of an election date in December.
The Head-of-State remains adamant that it is for GECOM to advise him when it is ready for general and regional elections and that the meeting with the Commission on Thursday was to assure the elections body that the Government will respect its independence.
The Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) is pressuring the President to name a date on or before September 18 for elections in keeping with the Caribbean Court of Justice’s (CCJ) June 18 ruling which validated the December 21 No-Confidence motion and the consequential orders issued on July 12.
But the President reiterated that the CCJ was quite clear that it cannot issue coercive orders and cannot direct GECOM when to hold elections.
“If ballot papers have not yet been printed, you know, can I tell the Commission to have elections on the 18th of August?” the President questioned.
The GECOM is currently engaged in House-to-House registration to create a new voters list – a process which will take months to complete.
But this registration exercise is now the subject of a legal challenge and the Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George-Wiltshire is set to hand down her ruling on August 14.
As such, Harmon said the GECOM Chairman has committed to communicate to the President GECOM’s position on the way forward after the CJ’s ruling and the after meeting with the Commission on August 15.
Meanwhile, the President again noted that he will not interfere in the work of GECOM.
“Although it is early in the tenure of the new Chairman, I don’t think it was inappropriate to meet at this time to give her the assurance that the Government is going to continue to observe the independence of the election commission, it will not dictate, it will not interfere, it will not intrude in the work of the Commission; it will observe all of the roles and responsibilities of the Commission given to it by the Constitution.”
The President also indicated to the new Chairman that the Government is interested in “early and credible” elections.
The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) on July 12 urged the President, the National Assembly and the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to abide by the letter and spirit of the clear constitutional provisions of a No Confidence vote – that elections should be held in three months.
The Court had noted that the Constitution envisages that the Government continues as a caretaker or interim Government until elections are held and a new President is appointed. As such, the court said the Government is expected to behave as a caretaker.
While the Court stayed away from giving orders dictating the date by which elections should be held, it suggested that the provisions of the constitution set that timeline.
The Opposition is relying on article 106 (6) of the Constitution of Guyana which states that the Cabinet, including the President, shall resign if the Government is defeated by a vote of No-Confidence.
However, the Government is relying on 106 (7) which states that “Notwithstanding its defeat, the Government shall remain in office to hold and election within three months,” or for a longer period supported by two-thirds of the national assembly.
The President says he will be meeting with the Opposition Leader on Friday.