Faced with a Court action filed by the Opposition APNU+AFC, Chief Election Officer (CEO) Vishnu Persaud has proposed to the Guyana Elections Commission that it moves to facilitate a 14-day exercise to correct the Register of Voters (voters’ list) ahead of Local Government Elections which are set for the 13th March, 2023.
In an internal memo to the Chairman of the Elections Commission, retired Justice Claudette Singh, the Chief Election Officer proposed that “the Commission approve the conduct of a 14-day exercise under Section 24A ‘Correction of Registers by Elections Commission,’ for the said elections. This would not only guarantee transparency and inclusivity, but would address the specific concern of the APNU+AFC coalition but by extension engender participation of the coalition’s support base in the Local Government Elections”.
Mr. Persaud warned that the move would result in a further delay in the conduct of Local Government Elections and could affect the current date set for the elections.
The Chief Election Officer said though the Registers of Voters for all 80 Local Authority Areas were extracted in accordance with the provision of the Elections Law (Amendment) Act, the Elections Commission cannot ignore the concerns of the APNU+AFC coalition as detailed in an application filed in the High Court last week.
Through its Chief Scrutineer Carol Smith-Joseph, the APNU+AFC has asked the High Court to scrap the voters list released by GECOM because the Commission did not follow legal procedures as catered for in the law.
The GECOM CEO in his memo to the Chairman said it would appear that the Coalition is concerned that the electorate was denied the opportunity to scrutinize the Registers of Voters, with specific reference to the Constituency Registers.
He said “it appears that the APNU+AFC is concerned that members of the public were not given the opportunity to (i) claim entry in the respective constituency RoVs, providing they qualify for such inclusion based on residency, and (ii) object to the inclusion of electors in constituency RoVs who do not meet the residency requirement for such inclusion”.
Persaud said in an effort to conduct an election that is free and fair, citizens from the onset must be given the opportunity to get registered once they have met the eligibility requirements, and equally, be given the opportunity to object to persons who may not have met the eligibility criteria.
“The APNU+AFC coalition, as a major parliamentary stakeholder in the conduct of elections, has a large suppose base among the electorate. In this regard, it would not be unreasonable to assume that the constituents of the coalition would withhold their participation in the upcoming Local Government Elections i.e, any electoral management body should guard against insofar as transparency and inclusivity as fundamental standards for democratic elections are concern,” Mr Persaud said.
He said it is important for the Elections Commission to not be seen to be unmindful of the concerns of coalition – a major political stakeholder.
“To do so would attract the condemnation that the Commission did not comply with the standards of transparency and inclusivity. This in itself, should it occur, would have deleterious effects on the character and reputation of the Commission as it would not on the outcome of the elections,” the CEO warned.
It was noted that the 14-day exercise, would enable the correction of Registers Exercise including claims for entry in the Registers of Voters, correction of the incorrect listing of particulars of any voters, application of name change, objections to incorrect listings in the Registers of Voters and verification of addresses.
The Chief Election Officer also detailed that all of the corrections will be applied to the Registers once approved by the Commission.
Mr Persaud said that the registration of any new person as an elector would require that the fingerprints to be cross-matched before the entry is made.
The APNU+AFC has been repeatedly raising a number and issues related to the upcoming Local Government Elections.