GECOM split on reopening registration

Members of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) have reached a stalemate on the decision to reopen Claims and Objections to facilitate registration of eligible voters for this year’s elections.

GECOM’s six commissioners met yesterday morning with Chairman Dr. Steve Surujbally on the issue, but this newspaper was told that the meeting produced no outcome as the commissioners could not reach consensus. Stabroek News understands that the government and opposition-nominated members of the commission were split on the issue. As a result, another meeting has been planned and Surujbally may be forced to cast the deciding vote. Surujbally could not be reached yesterday.

Although GECOM had previously ruled out extending the last Claims and Objections exercise, which ended June 9th, a commissioner requested that the issue be reviewed, based on the argument that some persons previously without access to source documents for registration had since acquired them, and that the process would not jeopardise the date for elections.

Stabroek News was also told that GECOM established that it has the legal and financial wherewithal to launch other Claims and Objections exercise. The Polls are constitutionally due by December 28.

Meanwhile, yesterday AFC leader Raphael Trotman wrote Surujbally saying his party was “greatly concerned” that GECOM’s Commissioners were considering the PPP/C’s request to re-open the Claims and Objections period for additional persons’ names to be placed on the Preliminary Voters List (PVL).

“The AFC states that unequivocally, that we reject any move to accommodate the PPP/C’s request as there is absolutely no legitimate basis on which it can be made. We take the opportunity to point out that all contesting parties are to be placed on a level playing field by the Commission, and as such, not only will a re-opening of the process greatly undermine this expectation, but will give the populace the impression that there is collusion between GECOM and the PPP/C government to provide an unfair advantage to the PPP/C at the upcoming elections,” Trotman said in the letter said.

He added that an additional unwanted result of such a move would be “a further undermining of GECOM’s credibility, bringing into question its ability to conduct free and fair General and Regional elections. I need not stress on the unmanageable tensions that are likely to arise in such a situation.”

The letter came a day after the AFC joined with the PNCR and the WPA in issuing a warning that holding a new round of Claims and Objections to facilitate registration could taint the upcoming polls. They also charged that GECOM appeared ready “to bend to the will” of the government and the ruling party.

The PNCR, AFC and WPA detailed their concerns in a letter addressed to Surujbally to address the issue of an exercise to facilitate potential electors now in possession of source documents needed to register.

In light of recent pronouncements on the issue by President Bharrat Jagdeo and the PPP/C, the opposition parties said the commission seemed ready to acquiesce to government and the ruling party, while noting the danger of such a move. The PPP/C, however, in a statement issued on Wednesday evening that that it would continue to support any initiative that would afford eligible citizens who now qualify to be registered, while denying that it was seeking to delay the polls.

The opposition parties noted that they received information from field operatives that suggested that GECOM has commenced preparations in the field for 13-day Claims and Objections exercise.

The PPP/C in its statement said that the position taken by the three parties was “sad,” in light of the fact that that they all acknowledged that there is a significant number of eligible citizens not on GECOM’s list of electors because of difficulties securing source documents for registration.

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