Carter Center team in talks with AG, Jagdeo

Three days before the constitutional deadline for the holding of general elections runs out, representatives of the Atlanta, Georgia-based Carter Center yesterday held separate meetings with Attorney General Basil Williams SC and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo.

A press release from Williams’s office said that a team of “high profile” representatives from the Carter Center visited the AG and discussed the current situation in Guyana, in light of the passage of the No Confidence Motion. No details were provided on the outcome of the discussion.

The members of the Carter Center team were identified as David Carroll, Brett Lacy and Jason J. Carter.

Jimmy Carter

The appearance of the Carter Center team is a sign that a last-ditch effort is being made for a solution before Thursday. The period for holding elections can only be extended if it is supported by a vote of two-thirds of the National Assembly. The government and opposition are at odds over an early election date and if Thursday arrives and there is no extension, legal and political analysts say that the government would have to be considered as illegal. This newspaper understands that the Carter Center team has met and plans to meet with key stakeholders here.  There is no indication of a planned meeting with the seven-member Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).

Two months after the December 21st no-confidence motion vote which triggered the fall of the government and the three-month timeframe for general elections, a team from the Carter Center came to Guyana for what it called an exploratory mission. The two representatives, Assoc-iate Director  Lacy and Legal and Electoral Advisor Anne Marlborough, had met with government, the opposition and members of GECOM to gather information on preparations for the holding of polls.

GECOM’s Public Relations Officer Yolanda Warde had explained that the reason for the organisation’s presence. “They indicated that they have been following developments in the country in relation to the no-confidence motion and wanted to meet with the commission to find out about the laws governing preparations for general and regional elections. It was just for information—a fact finding mission— after which they would prepare a report for their seniors,” she had said.

Last September, following months of no engagement between Granger and Jagdeo, former US President Jimmy Carter, who heads the center, intervened, calling both sides to try to get them to hold discussions on the country and seemingly paved the way for the long-awaited talks.

However, that engagement did not get far.

Jagdeo last Thursday, while not proving details, informed that he had had a conversation with former United States President Carter the previous week. He informed too that Carter was expected to speak to President Granger. There has been no word from Granger’s camp as to whether there was indeed a conversation between the two. The president is currently in Cuba where he is undergoing treatment for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and is expected back in Guyana later this week.

Carter, 93, has had a long history of association with Guyana, dating back to the 1990s, when he brokered sweeping electoral reforms between the administration of the late President Desmond Hoyte and the opposition PPP. These reforms included counting at the place of poll and an expanded elections commission where the Chairman was selected on the basis of what came to be known as the Carter-Price formula. That formula was discarded in 2017 by President Granger.