President Donald Ramotar on Tuesday announced May 11, 2015 as the date for national elections in Guyana. His announcement came two months after he suspended the parliament of Guyana to avoid a no confidence motion that the Opposition was preparing to move against his administration. The combined Opposition parties held the majority in the 10th Parliament.
The President met with his cabinet this morning and the date was agreed upon, according to sources close to the Office of the President.
The President was coming under increasing pressure from the international community to set a date for elections and to allow the country to return to a “functioning democracy”.
Last week, both the British and American governments expressed their concern about the political situation in the country and called for the date for elections to be announced. The British Government had already decided to cut developmental aid to Guyana in wake of the prorogation of parliament.
The Opposition parties have also been pressing for an election date and have indicated their readiness for the elections. Both the Alliance For Change and A Partnership for National Unity have been stepping up their campaign work across the country. Just this past week, Opposition and APNU Leader David Granger visited a number of villages across Region 9 and held discussions with residents. The Alliance For Change spent the weekend in the Essequibo region and continues to also focus its attention on the Berbice region.
The governing People’s Progressive Party has also been out on the campaign trail. On Monday, PPP General Secretary Clement Rohee told reporters that his party was ready for the elections and is confident of regaining the majority.
Guyanese last went to the polls in 2011. The People’s Progressive Party which has been in power since 1992 lost it’s majority in the parliament following the 2011 elections. However, the party held onto the Presidency since it got the single highest number of votes, though that support had declined when compared to the 2006 polls. The PPP has accused the opposition parties of using their majority to block development programmes across the country. The Opposition parties on the other hand have said the change in parliament resulted in the government being forced to become more accountable to the people of Guyana.
SEE FULL ADDRESS TO THE NATION BELOW:
My fellow Guyanese, as you will recall I prorogued Parliament on November 10, 2014. In doing so, I indicated that I was opting to preserve rather than end the life of the 10th Parliament. I was also attempting to avoid further political conflict and seek avenues of political accommodation between my government and the parliamentary opposition parties.
I had hoped that the period of prorogation would have allowed for extant tensions to ease and for all of the parliamentary parties to constructively engage the government. At all times I have acted in accordance with the Constitution of Guyana.
I also did it to enfranchise those persons, though no fault of their own, who could not get on the Voters Roll at the last election because of lack of source documents, mainly residents living in the hinterland.
Unfortunately, the opportunities that prorogation provided for continued dialogue and engagements with the parliamentary opposition parties have not materialized. The parliamentary opposition adopted an inflexible position that they will not engage with me until parliament is reconvened. I had hoped that they would have reconsidered this unproductive posture and meet with me so that we can discuss our differences and find solutions to advance the development of Guyana.
During this current period, my government paid strict adherence to the Constitution in administering the welfare of our nation. Further there were regular interactions with national and international stakeholders to keep them abreast with developments and my efforts to reach some level of political consensus.
Meetings were also held with the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to emphasize the need for their readiness for holding free, fair, transparent and efficient elections. This was consistent with my intention to call general elections should there be failure to find accommodation with the parliamentary opposition parties. You will recall that in December 2014, I had alerted international observers to the possibility of elections in 2015. Also, at a Press Conference I assured the nation that I was going to announce a date for General and Regional Elections early in the New Year as not to disrupt the holiday season. My commitment to preserving and strengthening our democracy is unquestionable.
I made it clear then that I remained open to dialogue with the opposition parties. It is a door that I did not nor do not intend to shut, now or ever. In light of the opposition’s sustained refusal to engage my Government in the dialogue we anticipated and in light of the commitment I made to you, the people of Guyana, I now move towards general elections.
In the circumstances, I hereby announce that General and Regional Elections shall be held on Monday, 11th May, 2015.
I am advised that GECOM would be in a state of readiness for these polls on that date.
As usual, I intent to invite international observers to be part of the elections process and I will expect the political parties, the security services and the people of Guyana to conduct themselves in a manner that would ensure continued peace and stability before, during and after the elections. We have a collective obligation to ensure the protection of the democratic gains we have made and for which we have endured so much as a nation to secure.
Filed: 20th January, 2015