-’new’ registrants list for public scrutiny
December 17 2019
The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has received applications from 14 new political parties for symbols with which they hope to contest the upcoming general and regional elections.
According to GECOM Public Relations Officer Yolanda Ward, a total of 19 political parties applied before the December 13th deadline, including 14 new ones.
The governing coalition APNU+AFC and the parliamentary opposition PPP/C have formally applied to retain their symbols as have Gerald Pereira’s Organisation for the Victory of the People and Vishnu Bandhu’s United Republican Party.
At least four parties which contested in 2015 have not applied. Those are the ealing the Nation Theocracy Party (HTNTP), the Independent Party led by Mark Benschop, the National Independence Party (NIP) led by attorney Saphier Hussain and The United Force (TUF), which in 2015 fielded Marissa Nadir as its presidential candidate. TUF which was original the UF had participated in national elections since the 1960s and had formed a crucial governing alliance with the PNC in 1964 when it was headed by businessman Peter D’ Aguiar.
In their place have sprung up a plethora of smaller parties hopeful of holding the balance of power between the APNU+AFC and the PPP/C. They include A New United Guyana (ANUG), Change Guyana, the Federal United Party (FEDUP), the Liberty and Justice Party and The Citizenship Initiative.
Also applying for symbols were A Guyana National Service Party, the Democratic National Congress, the Destiny to Oneness, the Horizon and Star – a perennial entrant, the Kingdom Liberal Movement, the National Congress of Progressive Peoples’ Alliance, People’s Republic Party, the Cooperative Republicans of Guyana, the Guyana United Democratic Party and The New Movement.
Meanwhile, members of the public and other stakeholders will be able to review lists of those who were newly registered during the truncated national house-to-house (HtH) registration exercise and also those who were registered during the recently conducted Claims and Objections exercise, according to sources at GECOM.
Stabroek News was told that while it is still not clear when this information will be published or what guidelines would govern its review, it will be available for public scrutiny at various registration offices countrywide.
It is not clear either whether this information will be published as a separate list or as part of the Revised List of Electors (RLE), which is to be published before January 10, 2020, which is Nomination Day for the 2020 general elections.
According to the National Registration (Claims and Objections) Order of 2019, Commissioner of Registration Keith Lowenfield has until December 28th to make alterations, including the addition of new names to the Preliminary List of Electors (PLE), after which the RLE is to be published.
Stabroek News had previously reported that at an extraordinary meeting on Friday, the commission agreed to post for public scrutiny the names of the approximately 20,000 new registrants recorded during HtH.
The commission has supposedly run into problems with the fingerprint cross-matching service provided by overseas service provider Gemalto and is resorting to different methods to see if those persons identified as new are actually new registrants or previously existed as entrants on the National Register of Registrants (NRR).
While the HtH exercise recorded just over 370,000 entries, fingerprint cross-matching as well as a manual examination by GECOM’s Secretariat found that approximately 350,000 of those entries were already on the NRR.
The commission has decided to provide to “stakeholders,” such as political parties, the new names so that they could engage in their own verification and that each registration officer in the presence of party scrutineers would engage in a “desk review” of the list to ensure that those persons are not entered into the NRR.
The commission appears to have dismissed outright a recommendation from the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) to allow for a “joint verification exercise” of any new registrants.
Opposition parliamentarian Anil Nandlall, in a statement to the press on Friday, stressed that the law mandates that not a single name must eventuate on to the OLE without verification.
“GECOM has an unconditional duty to ensure compliance with this legal requirement. Nothing short will suffice,” Nandlall stressed.
According to Nandlall, GECOM was prepared to do a verification by using a 10 per cent random sample but the PPP/C objected on the grounds that even if 80 per cent of the sampling proved accurate, it would allow for 20 per cent of unverified data to eventually reach the OLE.
Another concern raised is that this process and any treatment of the HtH data falls outside of the provisions of Guyana’s elections law. “What happens if a party scrutineer finds someone on the list who is ineligible to be registered? This is not the claims and objections exercise, there is no legal provision for what’s next in such a scenario,” a source indicated.
The treatment of the data collected during the nearly month and a half HtH process has engaged the commission for months. A decision had previously been taken to publish for public scrutiny the entire list but no directive legal or otherwise accompanied this publication so the public remained unaware of how to treat with the information.