The People’s Progressive Party (PPP)/Civic-appointed Commissioners of the Guyana Elections Com-mission (Gecom) say that the Commission is not ready for local government polls which are scheduled for March 18 next year.
Commissioner Bibi Shadick told a press conference at PPP headquarters, Freedom House on Saturday that she is “not convinced that the secretariat understands the complexities of this new system which will be used for local government elections.
She contended that the plans laid out by the secretariat follow those of the general election without taking into consideration that these upcoming local elections are very different from the ones the country has been having since 1964.
She is most concerned about the logistical difficulties that would be involved in the voting of the disciplined services. They usually vote on a separate day and their votes then have to be dispatched to the various constituencies.
According to Shadick, who was accompanied by commissioners Robeson Benn and Sase Gunraj, each local government authority is akin to a country itself with several constituencies.
“I’m not convinced that the secretariat understands fully what is required,” she said, noting that there are 580 constituencies for which 580 different ballot papers have to be printed depending on who is contesting. This is as a result of the hybrid first-past-the-post/proportional representation system that will be used for the first time in next year’s election.
“A man who is listed in constituency number three in Hydronie/Good Hope is stationed somewhere in lower Berbice somewhere, you need to have an envelope with his name and the specific ballot paper and you have to do this for everyone in the forces and then somebody has to separate them and make sure that they make it into the right ballot box,” Shadick said as she asked, “how do we know they got it right?”
She also contended that there are still laws that have to be amended to allow for the elections to be held and that Gecom has not informed Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan despite recommendations to do so.
“Three areas gazetted on a previous order as Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) are now gazetted as towns but this new order does not seek to repeal the old order, so as it is we have two orders extant. One that names 65 NDCs and six towns and one that names 62 NDCs and nine towns,” Shadick said.
Another concern is the size of the population in some constituencies.
According to Shadick there are nine constituencies with less than a hundred voters.
One constituency in Leguan she said has 55 voters, yet any candidate who wishes to contest is expected to have at least 30 backers.
“How do you have a contest If you need 30 backers for one candidate and one person can’t back more than one candidate yet there are only 55 voters?” Shadick asked.
A final concern raised is the proposed date of the election. March 18, 2016 is a Friday.
“How do we hold elections on a Friday and in the middle of the school term when we are using schools as the polling stations. When are they going to prepare these places? We are accustomed to having elections set on a Monday so you have the weekend to prepare schools and disrupt the students as little as possible.
What are you going to do to prepare these places in the middle of the term when students will also be writing their end of Easter term examinations?” Shadick asked.