Ramotar yet to assent to bill for local gov’t polls by August

President Donald Ramotar is yet to assent to the amendment bill that sets August 1 as the deadline for the holding of local government elections.

The opposition last month used its parliamentary majority to fix the deadline over objections by the government, which tabled the bill but ultimately did not support it after the date was added.

Stabroek News attempted to contact Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall and presidential advisor on governance Gail Teixeira to determine the president’s posture on the bill but neither of them could be reached.

Even if the bill is assented to, and the order given by the Local Government Minister for the holding of the long-delayed polls, the Guyana Elections Commission (Gecom) would still need to wait on budgetary allocations, which are not yet guaranteed and could be in jeopardy in the light of opposition threats to withhold support for the budget.

Observers have noted that the parliamentary opposition’s threat to withhold support for the budget—if the parties are not allowed to amend it— may also end up undermining their ambitions to have local government elections held by the deadline, and could even trigger a call for national elections.

Meanwhile, a senior Gecom official yesterday told Stabroek News that the opposition should have consulted the agency before deciding on the August 1 deadline. Several Gecom officials have stated that they would need approximately six months to make the necessary preparations for local government elections to take place after the order is given for a date.

Attempts were made to contact APNU leader David Granger as well as Shadow Local Govern-ment Minister Ronald Bulkan to get APNU’s views on these realities but to no avail. Stabroek News also attempted to contact AFC leader Khemraj Ramjattan to solicit the same information but he was unable to address the issue.

Acting Chief Justice Ian Chang had ruled that the National Assembly’s power is limited to either giving or withholding approval of the budget estimates, after finding that the combined opposition acted unlawfully when it cut amounts from the 2012 and 2013 budgets, indicating that a move to do so this year, as was their likely intention, would also be unlawful. APNU and the AFC, who are relying on guidance from the Standing Orders, have as a result threatened to withhold support from this year’s budget if they are prevented from making changes.

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