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Unilateral GECOM Chair swings vote to further delay elections

January 12, 2020

first_imgCourt-ordered Article 106 March 19 elections…no house-to-house registration vote taken – PPP CommissionerGuyana is on the brink of a constitutional crisis after the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairman, Retired Justice James Patterson used his deciding vote and sided with Government Commissioners to pass a motion that new elections could not be held in 90 days as constitutionally mandated.GECOM Chairman Retired Justice James PattersonThis decision was made during a meeting of GECOM Commissioners on Tuesday at the Commission’s Kingston, Georgetown headquarters, where they put three issues in relation to elections preparation to a vote.The first being elections cannot be held in 90 days; the second issue had to do with funding for elections, and the third was for GECOM to return to normalcy.Commissioner Robeson Benn, who represents the Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic, said the votes from Commissioners of both sides created a deadlock, the Chairman had the deciding vote.“All the votes and motions were carried … our side voted against them, but the motions were carried based on the vote of the Chairman supporting the other side,” he explained.Benn said that he and the two other Opposition-nominated Commissioners voted against the call for funding of the elections, explaining again that monies could be transferred to GECOM.“Our position on that is that it is an abandonment of the constitutional mandate and its duties and responsibilities,” he stated.As it relates to the vote to return to normalcy, Benn said, “The thing is when they say is normal activity, it brings in a suggestion of house -to-house registration.”However, he denied that that vote was to give permission to begin that process.Meanwhile, Government-appointed GECOM Commissioner Vincent Alexander said that GECOM’s position was simply to state its readiness for an election and Opposition Commissioners had agreed to take the matter to a vote. Alexander said that the meeting helped to break the stalemate and move onto the other issues.Constitutional crisisMeanwhile, the PPP has said in a statement that it was of the view that the situation at GECOM would certainly guarantee that Guyana is pushed towards a constitutional crisis.It said too that the action by GECOM is intended to influence the court proceedings set to continue today in the Court of Appeal.The Constitution makes clear that the Judiciary cannot extend the deadline by which General and Regional Elections are constitutionally due; such an act remains in the remit of the Legislature.Government Commissioners Desmond Trotman, Vincent Alexander and Charles CorbinAccording to the Party, GECOM in its refusal to hold elections demonstrated its illogical willingness to toe the Government’s line. In so doing, it has made the Constitution of Guyana subservient to the will of the Commission and this should not be the case.GECOM’s mandate, as stipulated by the Constitution, clearly states in Article 162 (1) of the Constitution that: “The Elections Commission shall have such functions connected with or relating to the registration of electors or the conduct of elections as are conferred upon it by or under this Constitution or, subject thereto, any Act of Parliament.”Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo recently stated that President David Granger should announce a date for the hosting of elections.“The Legislature has spoken. The Judiciary has spoken. The President, over the weekend, seems to believe that none of this matters. And so we have to show him that we are serious about having him respect our Constitution,” Jagdeo stated.Jagdeo had stated too, “GECOM has a moral and ethical responsibility to get elections done before March 19. What is before the Commission now is to come up with actions to ensure this. So, I don’t know where this thing about July is coming in. There is only one way that date can be extended. And Opposition and Government have to agree by a two-thirds majority.”GECOM had given July as a timeline for the hosting of elections, but at the same time, it stated that the present voters’ list would expire on April 30.Although the Opposition has been calling for elections within the constitutional time frame, the Government claimed that it was up to GECOM’s readiness to host same.Since the passage of the no-confidence resolution, GECOM has been dragging its feet with respect to elections preparation. It has also been calling for house-to-house registration which could take months.last_img

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