It was billed as the most important and defining moment of the year so far but a summit meeting between Guyana’s two most important political figures Wednesday failed to set an emergency date for general elections in the wake of the Dec. 21 collapse of government.
President David Granger emerged from a meeting with Opposition Leader and former President Bharrat Jagdeo and said that naming a date for elections this year was completely in the hands of the Guyana Elections Commission and not under the pervue of authorities. The body has said it needs about five months to be properly organized and ready, to cleanse an allegedly padded voters scroll and to train key staff taking a realistic day to around August at the least.
The controversy over an emergency date for elections has it roots in a Dec. 21 no confidence vote in parliament when government lawmaker Charrandass Persaud surprisingly voted with the main opposition People’s Progressive Party to erase the administration’s wafer-thin one-seat majority and collapse the administration of Mr. Granger with more than a year and a half left in its five-year term.
Saying he was unhappy with the style and state of governance, Persaud voted to bring down the government and fled to Canada hours after. Authorities accused him of taking a US$1 million bribe, allegedly organized by the opposition.
Anxious to capitalize on the parliamentary victory, Jagdeo has been pushing officials to invoke constitutional edicts requiring elections in 90 days but a calm and deliberate Granger indicated that no date had been reached from Wednesday’s session, the second since the assembly vote. Both sides have not ruled out meeting again and Granger brushed aside claims by Jagdeo that the country will plunge into a constitutional crisis after the 90-day period expires in the third week of this month.
“There is no crisis,” Granger told reporters after the meeting. He also contended that the commission was the one to indicate a readiness for elections. Jagdeo had been pressing for an end of April date.
“The president, the executive or any other body cannot intervene, intrude, interfere with the work of the commission so we have to allow for it to do its work. In that regard, the leader of the opposition was insistent that date be set,” he said, again throwing the ball in the court of the commission.
For his part, Jagdeo said “we did not get past the first item on the agenda which is a date for elections. I said to him that clearly you are the president, that you have a duty to uphold the constitution. The commission cannot override the constitution,” he said as political and constitutional uncertainty continue to swirl.