PPP Accuses the President of Trying to Blackmail Opposition
GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Set 25, CMC – Guyanese go to the polls on March 2, next year to elect a new government more than a year after the main opposition People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) had successfully tabled a motion of no confidence in the coalition government of President David Granger.
In a nationwide radio and television broadcast on Wednesday night, Granger said he had selected the date “after discussions with the chairman of the Elections Commission and with my Cabinet”.
He said that the “earliest possible date for the holding of general and regional election will be on Monday, the second of March 2020”.
In his address Granger insisted that Parliament must meet to grant an extension of the period for polls, a demand the opposition PPP/C had repeatedly said was out of the question.
However when he was later questioned, the President said that while his choice of words were conditional the date is not.
“Elections will be held on the 2nd March. That is the advice I received. I did not want to use perhaps more definitive terms, because I expected that in accordance with the Constitution, we would have to go to Parliament, but if the Opposition doesn’t go to Parliament, well we will abide by what I said last night. Elections will be on the 2nd March. That is as definitive as I can get,” he told reporters at the Cyril Potter College of Education.
Granger, who has come under mounting pressure from the international community to name a date and has had his government described as unconstitutional, further said that he was “quite guarded” in his remarks to give “the commission an opportunity to publicize its own work schedule.”
“It is not my intention to micromanage the process,” he noted, adding that he met with retired Justice Claudette Singh, the Chair-man of the Commission on Wednesday and learned that there is a work schedule that has to be approved by the commission itself.
“I expect once the commission has given that final approval other requirements would be met,” he stressed.
Those requirements include a period of Claims and Objections which will begin on October 1.
In his address to the nation on Wednesday, Granger said that Parliament would meet on October 10th for the purpose of requesting an extension of the three-month period for the holding of general elections in the aftermath of a successful motion of no-confidence.
Article 106 (7) of the constitution says that “Not-withstanding its defeat, the Government shall remain in office and shall hold an election within three months, or such longer period as the National Assembly shall by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the votes of all the elected members of the National Assembly determine, and shall resign after the President takes the oath of office following the election”.
The Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which is the country’s highest court, had in July said that the vote of no confidence which had been passed last December against Granger’s coalition administration was valid and urged all parties to adhere to the provisions of the country’s constitution.
Under the Guyana Constitution, the elections should take place 90 days after the vote of no confidence is passed. The Constitution also makes provision for an extension of the period based only on a two-thirds majority vote in the Parliament. The CCJ made no ruling as to a date when the polls should be held.
The newly appointed chairperson of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), retired justice Claudette Singh said the polls could be held in February next year.
In his broadcast, Granger said that since the passage of the no-confidence motion in the National Assembly on December, 21 last year, his administration has respected the decisions of the Courts and upheld the Constitution.
“We challenged the validity of the no-confidence motion and defended the challenge to the constitutionality of the appointment of the Chairman of the Elections Commission,” Granger said, adding that the legal processes were neither frivolous nor aimed at delaying the consequences of the no-confidence motion.
He said they sought to clarify and interpret the Constitution and to ensure that the elections would be conducted on the basis of a credible list.
“I have complied with the rulings of the Courts, upheld the Constitution of Guyana and respected the National Assembly at all times. I engaged the Elections Commission from February 2019 repeatedly. I insisted that credible elections be held at the earliest possible time. Credible elections are essential to representative democracy.”
Granger said that Singh had written to him last Thursday indicating that GECOM “will be able to deliver credible elections by the end of February 2020”.
He said he met with his Cabinet on the issue twice and the deliberations benefitted from the advice given by the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams.
Granger said he also met with the GECOM chairperson earlier on Wednesday when she discussed the statutory timelines for the upcoming general and regional Elections.
“Guyanese can now look to the Elections Commission to conduct credible elections within the time frame prescribed. Guyanese, We are on the right path to preserve our precious parliamentary democracy,” Granger said as he spoke of the various constitutional matters that had to be overcome in order to set the date for the election.
The main opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) says the announcment of a March 2, 2020 election and a call to return to parliament – is an attempt by the government to blackmail the opposition.
“The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) remains convinced that his call for a return to the National Assembly is an attempt to blackmail the Parliamentary Opposition into extending the life of his illegal government, so that he can secure some legal cover for the many illegal acts, including the approval of billions in contracts, which have been committed since the passage of the no-confidence motion on December 21, 2018. All of this is taking place as he grasps for some level of respectability,” the party said in a statement.
According to the PPP, there is no valid link between the naming of an elections date and the need to return to Parliament.
The party said it is “wholly unnecessary for him to discharge his constitutional duty to proclaim a date for Elections and dissolve Parliament, nor is it linked to a requirement for GECOM to be ready for Elections”.
The Opposition party said nothing short of a signed proclamation from the President, declaring a date for General and Regional Elections, will be credible.
President David Granger in his address said the extension of a period beyond three months for the holding of an election is related to the Elections Commission’s readiness to hold the elections.
“The Government of Guyana must, as a consequence, return to the National Assembly to request an extension. The National Assembly reconvenes on 10th October 2019″, the President noted in his address.
Opposition leader Bharrat Jagdeo has been saying for months that his party will not be returning to the National Assembly to grant any extension. – CMC