Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Dr Steve Surujbally yesterday an-nounced that April 7 is Nomination Day where lists of candidates for the general and regional elections have to be submitted to the Chief Election Officer.
Political parties will be required to submit their list of candidates for the May 11 general and regional election to Chief Election Officer, Keith Lowenfield at City Hall and also sign on to a Code of Conduct. Surujbally made the announcement during a meeting with political parties to discuss the prerequisites associated with the preparation and submission of Lists of Candidates for the elections.
Under Section 9 of the Representation of the People Act Cap. 1:03, the Guyana Elections Com-mission shall by Notice published in the Official Gazette appoint a day not later than the 32nd before election day on which the lists of candidates may be submitted.
In brief remarks, Surujbally called on the political parties to maintain campaign decorum and said that the 2011 Code of Conduct is in need of strengthening. “The code of conduct for political parties will again be put in the electors’ domain and I would not have done that in a different way but one party leader, one of the party’s leaders said to me that that code was for 2011. Well for me it should have carried itself on to 2015.
However, what we will do is take the code of 2011, we know that it was weak in one or two points, we will strengthen…and we will give that new and improved version to the political parties,” he said.
The GECOM chairman said that while he would have preferred to have the Code of Conduct presented sooner rather than later, he was advised that it should be provided to parties after Nomination Day as that would present an accurate picture as to which parties would be contesting the elections. Surujbally acknowledged that campaigning has already commenced.
Statements on the campaign trail most notably by former president Bharrat Jagdeo on Sunday have been criticised for their potential for incitement. One particular Jagdeo comment at Babu John, Port Mourant, Berbice, was labelled as racist and inflammatory.
Jagdeo, at a subsequent press briefing at PPP headquarters Freedom House, defended his remarks saying that he was “proud” to raise the issue of race and said that the evidence was there that members of the opposition ventured into villages beating drums and making racist remarks.
Jagdeo had stated that the opposition “did it in South (Ruimveldt). I hope this doesn’t happen in these elections because they did it in the last elections. We know racism exists we know they use that language to campaign but if we use it we are exacerbating it?”
“From the last election to now I can bring maybe five persons who can say we have heard this in our homes or heard that, the drum beating people walking to their homes and saying and shouting this. Would that be enough for you? Or does the Stabroek News want me to sign it and have it notarized and stuff like that,” he added.
Surujbally yesterday said that he hopes that parties would “maintain campaign decorum… rhetoric will remain respectful at all time this respect is not just for the opposing parties themselves, this respect has to do with the Commission as well as the electorate in extenso.”
The commission’s Media Monitoring Unit told Stabroek News prior to GECOM’s press briefing yesterday that it was working on the March report on whether the media was following the Code of Conduct set out for elections.
The report will be made available in early April. As it stands, the MMU’s Project Manager Lavern Pinto told Stabroek News that while politicians may say and convey certain messages, it was the media that would be monitored on its reportage.
Quizzed on this, Lowenfield told Stabroek News that it was an area that needs to be looked at more closely and that since the media raised the issue of accountability in reporting what was said in a way so as to not incite racial unrest, politicians would also need to be held to a level of accountability.
He also announced during the opening of the meeting that during the last Claims and Objections period 3,800 new registrants were added while an additional 6,900 transfers were completed.
Yesterday’s meeting was attended by representatives from the People’s Progressive Party, the APNU+AFC coalition, Victory of the People, Healing The Nation Theocracy Party, the Independent Party and the Guyana Small Man Party.