Guyana election commission says it cannot hold election next month

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.