Reporting on its mission here this week, the Atlanta, Georgia-based Carter Center today said it hopes that Parliament will convene no later than tomorrow to authorize an extension of the three-month election deadline and it noted the constitutional uncertainty than can arise if this is not done.
At a meeting with the Guyana Elections Commission yesterday, the Carter Center team made various proposals to end the stalemate between the government and the opposition over a date for general elections following the December 21, 2018 motion of no-confidence which was carried in Parliament.
The statement by the Center follows:
Carter Center Issues Statement on Guyana Political Situation
GEORGETOWN, GUYANA — A Carter Center delegation led by Jason J. Carter, chairman of the Carter Center’s Board of Trustees, has been in Guyana this week meeting with key stakeholders to learn about the current challenges facing Guyana and to assess whether the Center could assist Guyanese going forward.
The Center’s visit comes at a critical moment. Guyana could move into a time of constitutional uncertainty after March 22, which marks the end of a three-month period following a contested vote of no confidence and the deadline to hold elections, unless there is a political agreement about the way forward and either a National Assembly vote or a court decision to approve an extension of the electoral timeline.
· President David Granger and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo have a shared desire to have elections in the shortest possible time, consistent with law and pending judicial decisions.
· Because March 21, 2019, is a national holiday, under Guyana’s Interpretation and General Clauses Act, the constitutional three-month period following the no-confidence vote would expire on the following day, March 22, 2019.
· The Carter Center reiterates its support for Guyana and urges all sides to find an agreed-upon way forward to establish an early election date. The Carter Center hopes the National Assembly is able to convene no later than March 22 to authorize an extension of the election timeline and to avoid a period of constitutional uncertainty.
· GECOM commissioners recognize that the current voters list is “bloated.” A primary concern is the likely inclusion of significant numbers of Guyanese living overseas. GECOM commissioners hold different views about whether or not to conduct a new house-to-house registration exercise to address this concern.
· GECOM’s chief electoral officer has prepared various scenarios for election timelines, and in the event that a new house-to-house registration is not required, elections could be organized in July or August. Conducting a new house-to-house registration would mean an election would not be possible until late November.
· Give the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the vote of no confidence and the constitutional requirement for early elections, there are several steps that could be considered to try to mitigate concerns about the voter list while scheduling elections as early as possible, including:
o Using data from the Ministry of Immigration, GECOM could prepare a reference list of Guyanese who are currently overseas (for three months or longer) and also included on the voter registration list. The voters on the reference list would not be removed from the registration list (other than through already existing legal procedures like, for example, the claims and objections process). But the reference list would be made available to party agents and scrutineers to facilitate enhanced review of these names during the electoral process, both during the claims and objections period and on election day, serving as a deterrent to multiple or substitute voting.
o The reference list would supplement safeguards already in place in Guyana’s electoral administration to protect against multiple voting. As The Carter Center has recognized in the past, Guyana’s existing safeguards are strong and consistent with international standards for democratic elections.
o In addition, GECOM could consider providing resources to expand the number of political party agents and scrutineers who can monitor the electoral process before, during, and after election day. These efforts could be complemented by a strong presence of international observers and domestic citizen observers to enhance transparency.
· The Carter Center is aware of pending decisions from the Court of Appeal and that these decisions may be appealed to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). In the event that final court rulings invalidate the vote of no confidence, elections would not need to be held this year.
Background: Prior to the delegation’s visit, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter spoke with President Granger and opposition leader Jagdeo, both of whom indicated they would welcome a Carter Center team. The delegation is led by Jason J. Carter, President Carter’s grandson and the chairman of the Carter Center’s Board of Trustees and includes David Carroll and Brett Lacy of the Center’s Democracy Program.