Citizens pressured into signing ‘backers list’ – Jagdeo alleges
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo said it was brought to his attention that persons are allegedly being pressured into signing ‘backers lists’ for the Alliance For Change (AFC).He said this is particularly for those individuals who are engaged under the Community Infrastructure Improvement Project (CIIP) and Community Policing Groups in several areas, ahead of Nomination Day on Friday, September 21.Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo“This move to intimidate persons, ties in with the AFC’s move to ‘buy’ support via the corrupt $120 million contract, for weeding parapets along the roadways, that was awarded to eight AFC activists,” he said.The Opposition Leader therefore urged people not to be intimidated into signing any lists.“I have had similar reports coming in from different parts of the country about both the AFC and APNU (A partnership for National Unity) misleading persons into signing lists, by claiming that they were signings up as eligible applicants who can access benefits such as house lots, among other things,” he added.Only last week, Chief Scrutiniser and Executive of the political party, Zulficar Mustapha, said he was reliably informed by several people that some political parties are on the ground misleading voters around the country.From the complaints received, he noted that the AFC, United Republican Party of Guyana (URP) and the APNU are the perpetrators.Mustapha told Guyana Times that before a candidate can contest a constituency of a Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) area, he or she would have to have a certain amount of backers.“For the [Neighbourhood Democratic Council] NDC you have to have 20-30 signatures of persons who live in that constituency. The entire list for an NDC area requires 30 backers. In the municipality the number of backers for constituency candidate is 60 and number for entire municipality list which is proportional representation part is 110.”The PPP executive said his party was informed that AFC/APNU supporters are going around telling people they can sign more than one list of candidates.He said, “That is wrong! If you sign on more than one list of candidates, those lists can become nullified and invalid. In Rose Hall we had people from URP who went and mislead people, telling them that they are from the PPP… so they were suspicious of their movement and URP activist and we double-checked.”Mustapha feels people are rejecting the coalition parties, particularly the AFC and URP, “and now they using cover under the PPP to dupe people.” He therefore warned potential voters against signing any list that they don’t feel comfortable with and to ensure they verify the authenticity of the list.“I know there are many persons that people are willing to sign on our list, and AFC and APNU people are reluctant to sign on their list to back their list of candidates. This is a trend that might take place before Local Government Elections and we are monitoring the situation carefully,” he added.The PPP chief scrutiniser said these complaints are not just limited to one particular areas but were spread out across various regions, including Region Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara); Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica); Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne); and Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni).Jagdeo said he would urge Guyanese to be wary of such practices. “I am calling on GECOM to institute stiff penalties for such acts, since they are tantamount to electoral fraud. Also, I want to assure all Guyanese that the PPP will be investigating this matter, as we continue to work to ensure that the elections are free and fair.”GECOM has already been accused of encouraging gerrymandering of boundaries to favour APNU/AFC. Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo pointed out that changing the number of Local Authority Areas (LAAs) is the privilege of Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan, but it is the role of GECOM to constitute new LAAs where they are created, and reconstitute existing ones where they have been changed.He stressed that in seeking to undertake such, it must be done fairly and in consultation with political stakeholders. This, according to him, has not been the case. Jagdeo pointed to a few examples, in Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam), Region Three and in Region Six.Jagdeo explained that by merging the constituencies where the PPP won, GECOM is reducing the number of seats won by the PPP in that particular LAA. He said by not merging the constituencies where the APNU/AFC won, where there are less voters, GECOM is providing for an increase in the number of possible seats APNU and AFC could win, based on the results at the 2016 Local Government Elections.The PPP is challenging the Minister’s decision in court.