PPP cites reduction of polling places in stronghold communities

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The People’ Progressive Party says it is “deeply disturbed” by the recent decision of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to reduce the number of polling places “especially in PPP strongholds.”

A statement from the opposition party Thursday night described the decision of GECOM as “another attempt to frustrate voters, suppress and hinder voting and create possible confusion on Elections Day.”

According to the PPP, the Party received the revised list of Polling Stations on February 17, after its Elections Agent Mr Zulficar Mustapha wrote to the Chief Elections Officer requesting same.

“Upon receipt, the Party made a number of objections and proposals and also met with Mr Keith Lowenfield to express our concerns and to explain in great details the unnecessary hardships which these decisions will cause.

“At this meeting, a commitment was given by Mr Lowenfield to consider our proposals with a view to make the necessary adjustments. To our utter disappointment all, except one (1) of our proposals, were rejected by the GECOM without any proper reason or explanation.”

The PPP noted that GECOM proposes to use 2,339 Polling Stations in 2020, an increase of 40 Polling Stations, in comparison to the 2, 299 Polling Stations used in 2015, “even though there is a significant increase of almost 90,000 electors in 2020 when compared to 2015.

“We consider this to be an undue fetter imposed upon the rights of the Guyanese voters to exercise their franchise freely and it constitutes a hindrance to the expression of the Guyanese electorate to exercise their democratic right to vote in a comfortable manner and in an accommodating environment.

Meanwhile, the PPP further noted that the decision by GECOM to discontinue the use of Private residences as polling places is being applied discriminatorily and not fairly.

The PPP said there are many private residences being used in Georgetown and along the East Bank of Demerara as Polling Stations.

However, the PPP listed areas where there are challenges such as:

-1) Mon Repos, East Coast Demerara, with almost 7,000 electorates, GECOM has reduced the number of Polling Places from ten to two, eliminating completely all private residences, while cramping all the polling stations into two schools situated at the same location – this will definitely result in confusion, frustration and will keep voters in lines for several hours.  In addition, voters would have to travel miles to arrive at these Polling Places.

2) Lusignan, East Coast Demerara, one Polling Place is located at the Lusignan Prisons, located over a mile in the deserted backlands from where the closest voter resides.

3) Annandale, East Coast Demerara, again no private residences are used and the entire community would have to vote at three (3) schools, adjacent to each other, at the northern end of the village.

4) Chesney Village, Region 6, residents will have to traverse over two (2) miles to the polling station instead of voting in their own community as was the case in previous elections. Yet there is a public building in Chesney Village but the place where they now have to vote, two miles away, is a private residence. This simply does not make sense.

5) The decision to use tents on the Railway Embankment at Foulis, East Coast Demerara is preposterous, since it will lead to traffic congestion and can excite security concerns.

6) There is no polling place in La Grange, a very populated community and the residents are expected to vote in the neighboring village Bagotsville, which is known to be an APNU stronghold.

“The above is not an exhaustive list but amounts to sufficient evidence for the Party to conclude that there may be a deliberate strategy by GECOM to displace voters and create confusion on Election Day. Additionally, the GECOM website is misleading voters with regards to their polling stations.

“Residents of Felicity, East Coast Demerara, are now informed via the GECOM’s website that they are voting at MMC Parking Lot (Tent).

“This Polling Station is not on the list of Polling Places that were given to the PPP, it was never identified to be a polling station. The Party is concern because this is just one such case that was brought to our attention but there could be many more such instances which will create chaos and confusion.

The PPP called on GECOM to “eschew its current posture and to adopt one which facilitates and encourages smooth and peaceful voting by the electorate in an environment that is safe and comfortable.”

“We take this opportunity to call on the technical advisors from the Commonwealth, IRI and Canada, all the election observer teams in Guyana, the diplomatic community and civil society organizations to note our concerns and to join us in our efforts to ensure that the Guyanese electorate gets a free and fair opportunity to exercise their democratic right to vote on March 2, 2020.”

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