The PPPC Government must not attempt to subvert an established constitutional electoral system

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Dear Editor

The realignment of polling districts within a single Geographical Constituency out of ten (10) reeks of political discrimination and a blatant act of gerrymandering.

The PPPC government’s proposal to subdivide the Region 4 Polling District into four (4) Polling sub districts is both whimsical and capricious, designed to create confusion in a Geographical Constituency they have been unable to win from time immemorial.

There are ten (10) Geographical Constituencies created by Section 11(A) of the Representation of the People Act Chapter 1:03 Laws of Guyana (ROPA).

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Each of the ten (10) Regions of Guyana being a registration District and a Polling District under the Local Democratic Organs, (Regional Democratic Councils) Order 1980, is deemed to be a geographical constituency under Section 11 A (3) of the ROPA.

The ten (10) geographical constituencies elect twenty five(25) of the sixty-five (65) members of the National Assembly and the number to be elected from each geographical constituency is reflected in a table under Section 11 A (4) of the ROPA.

The Region 4 geographical constituency is to elect seven (7) members to the National Assembly. There is no physical boundary demarcated in the Region 4 geographical constituency to which any of the seven (7) prospective candidates/members attaches. (nor indeed in any of the other nine (9) Regional geographical constituencies).

I have always criticized this as failing to achieve the objective of having genuine or real constituencies since they are hovering in orbit unable to land on defined physical pieces of land.

The result is that the seven (7) candidates/members are elected en bloc and after the elections given notional constituencies.

The PPPC government must explain why they are not doing the same in Regions 3 and 6 for example.

The fact of the matter is that the creation of geographical constituencies is the product of an intricate constitutional reform process (CRP) culminating in inter alia, this attempt at a hybrid electoral system for elections to the National Assembly, which was inserted into our 1980 Constitution in 2000, by Act No. 14 of 2000, in Article 160 (2) of the Constitution.

Pursuant to Article 160 (2) of the Constitution, Parliament inserted into the ROPA, Section 11 A which operationalises the concept of geographical constituencies, in our reformed electoral system.

The framers in the CRP contemplated ten (10) geographical constituencies deemed for purposes of registration and elections, registration districts and polling districts respectively.

There was no provision for sub-districting of a polling district as the PPPC government proposes to do.

All political parties represented in the National Assembly were involved in the process when the PPPC was the government of the day, and their then Attorney General and other leading members of Parliament (MPs) participated and chaired important committees.

This petty tinkering with the system produced by the CRP by the Executive will be in breach of the doctrine of the Separation of Powers and the Constitution.

I am afraid that the PPPC will have to return to the CRP which they have been avoiding for many years now to effect meaningful and holistic constitutional change.

The PPPC Government must not attempt to subvert an established constitutional electoral system arrived at after long and mature deliberations by the representatives of the people of this nation, by a backdoor manoeuvre.

Regards
Basil Williams SC
Former Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs



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