Guyana’s Election Commission Says it Can’t Hold Elections by March

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Wednesday February 20, 2019 – The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) says it
cannot hold elections by next month, the deadline by which polls should be conducted
following the coalition government’s loss of a no-confidence motion last
December.

The seven-member commission – comprised
of three government-nominated commissioners, three commissioners nominated by
the main opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and a chairman – yesterday
voted to formally advise that it cannot hold elections by March 19. One of the three
opposition-nominated commissioners abstained from the vote on that issue, while
the other two voted against.

Under the Constitution, elections should
be held within 90 days after the passage of a no-confidence motion unless an extension
is agreed to by at least two-thirds of the members in the National Assembly.

But GECOM said it does not have the
necessary funding.

On that issue, as well as the vote on GECOM
continuing with its work plan for 2019 – which includes the start of the
house-to-house registration process, for which budgetary allocations were
already made – all three opposition commissioners voted against and the chairman
used his tie-breaking vote to side with the commissioners nominated by the
Government.

With regards to the possibility of
using monies allocated for the house-to-house registration for an election, Chief
Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield approached the Ministry of Finance for
advice.

The Guyana Chronicle quoted him as
saying that: “Based on the advice that we got from the Ministry of Finance, we
do not have the resources, the monies to run an election at this time….They
have indicated that we cannot use the money for registration to move it over to
elections. What we have to do is go back to the National Assembly for a special
appropriation for elections.”

Acting Chief Justice Roxane
George-Wiltshire last month ruled that the no-confidence motion against
government, passed on December 21, 2018 when then government backbencher Charrandass
Persaud voted with the Opposition, was valid, and elections should therefore be
held.

However, government is appealing the decision.

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