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As Guyana approaches the Local Government Elections (LGE) scheduled for March 13, 2023, sections of the society remain unrelenting in their demand for a clean voters list. The coalition, A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC), separately or collectively, is holding steadfast to the conviction, also shared by observers mission to the 2020 Elections, a clean voters list is important to the credibility of the electoral process.
Despite the acknowledged considerations, including from the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), the list remains largely as it was in 2020 save for the addition to those who have come of voting age. GECOM for its part has presented to the public a narrative that the list remains as is because of the ruling by the High Court. On 14th August 2019 acting Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire, SC, ruled that names from the National Register of Registrants cannot be removed outside of compliance with Article 159 of the Constitution of Guyana.
At the Leader of the Opposition press conference on 8th November the issue was raised by a member of the press who sought clarification of the Opposition’s position regarding removal of names given the court’s ruling.
Shadow Minister of Legal Affairs, Roysdale Forde, SC, informed GECOM has an obligation to produce and present for the public an electoral list that is credible. The APNU+AFC has demonstrated the fact that the list lacks credibility by the information that came out of the 2020 National Recount, by the confirmation of information by the Registrar General and Commissioner of Police/Chief Immigration Officer, he advised.
The information attested that dead persons and those not in Guyana on election day voted. To this end the Opposition insists a clean voters list and biometrics could deal with voter impersonation and minimise voter fraud.
According to the Member of Parliament, the Opposition has gone to pains to point out voter impersonation could skew an effective election, and the best way to avoid this, and as acknowledged around the world, is the introduction of biometric information and technology.
Further, he said, the Opposition finds it very surprising that up to now GECOM seems to be taking a very partisan position that is against the grain of common sense, and a position that supports the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) that there should be no introduction of biometrics. “Biometrics is what is going to deal with the issue of voter impersonation.”
Guyana has the Proportional Representative system and political parties/groups can win or lose an election or seat by one vote.
Answering to a follow-up question on residency as it relates to the List and LGE, Forde directed attention that under the Local Government Act residency is a factor that cannot be ignored. According to him, the question of residency is a critical element of a requirement of a voter to be able to exercise his/her franchise to vote. To this end, the shadow minister suggested persons should not use the August 2019 ruling to deal with the issue of voter impersonation or biometrics in the context of LGE where there is specific requirement the voter should be resident in the local authority area.
The Opposition has expressed concerns the list GECOM produced for LGE has failed to satisfy the issues in relation to the constituency element and residency as required by the Local Government Act. GECOM, as pointed out by the Opposition, should have put out a list for LGE rather than a list for General and Regional Elections which is what was done.
Monday, 12th December 2022 is Nomination Day for LGE.