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The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Leader and then Minority Leader, Dr. Cheddie Jagan, fought the People’s National Congress (PNC) Government to remove the condition for Guyanese residing abroad to vote in Guyana’s elections. That was achieved for the 1992 General and Regional Elections (GRE).
According to Jagan, Guyanese resident overseas have taken the decision to live abroad, and where the diaspora is so large, they could influence elections in Guyana though not resident in Guyana. This Jagan contended is tantamount to suppressing the will of those resident in Guyana to elect their representatives and government.
Jagan’s view was facilitated by the United States (US)-based Carter Centre and supported by Bharat Jagdeo, Clement Rohee, Donald Ramotar, Gail Teixeira and others. Former PPP member, Alliance For Change (AFC) Leader and Member of Parliament, Khemraj Ramjattan, speaking recently on David Hinds’ Politics 101 Programme said he too fought for the implementation of residency requirement to vote.
Last week the PPP used its parliamentary majority to amend the Representation of the People Act (ROPA) by removing the residency requirement. Guyanese resident abroad once their names are on the voters list can now return to Guyana and vote.
In the 1980s when Jagan fought to institute residency requirements only one-sixth of the population was resident abroad. US-based Forbes magazine in November 11, 2022 story ‘The World’s Biggest Diasporas’ stated 36.4 per cent of native-born Guyanese are resident abroad. This number also represents the world’s largest native-born population living abroad.
Ramjattan, former Minister of Public Security warned the removal of residency requirement is an “extraordinarily dangerous action” that could escalate conflicts at elections time. He told Hinds the amendment could contribute to voter impersonation and the PPP flying in persons to vote.
A recent poll puts the PPP support at 42 per cent, the A Partnership of National Unity (APNU) at 42 per cent, and AFC at seven per cent.
GRE in Guyana are based on the Proportional Representation electoral system. Government and representatives can win or lose an election or seat by one vote. A situation like that occurred in the 2015 GRE.