Full-blown electoral crisis

The National Democratic Congress (NDC) is sounding the warning that our nation is in a full-blown electoral crisis.

The Government’s firing of seven senior Presiding Officers is the latest in a series of unprecedented moves it has made to gain an unfair electoral advantage in the upcoming elections.

The Governor General, acting upon the instructions of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell, has dismissed seven (7) Registration/Returning Officers on Monday, 20th February 2017 with immediate effect from their positions.

The Constituencies affected are the four in St. Andrew, St. Patrick East, St. John and St. George South East.

The NDC condemns this action and calls on all civic minded Organisations to join us in this condemnation as it is a clear case of political victimisation, especially in light of the following context:

(1). Upon assuming office in 2013, the NNP administration immediately begun a systematic campaign to manipulate the Electoral Office with the installation of internet service in each electoral branch office, within the 15 Constituencies.

This Cabinet mandate also prescribed that the internet server to which all these services would be attached, should reside within the Office of the Prime Minister, ostensibly giving the Government access to ALL electoral data. Hence, the capacity to manipulate such data in their favour.

(2). The then Supervisor of Elections Judy Benoit was fired with immediate effect, for pointing out to Cabinet that this arrangement/Cabinet mandate contravened Section 35 of the Constitution, which states, inter alia, “the Supervisor of Elections is to answer to no person or authority.”

This was written in the Constitution to establish the independence of the Supervisor of Elections.

(3). Dr. Keith Mitchell’s Government failed to appoint another Supervisor of Elections, for months, despite the Constitutional requirement that the position must always be filled.

When the Supervisor was eventually appointed it was in response to pressure from the Organisation of American States (OAS), to whom the NDC wrote asking their intervention.

(4). Registration Officers, appointed by the Governor General under the Constitution, automatically become Returning Officers in the Constituency to which they are assigned on Election Day, controlling the entire electoral process. These officers are not removed on the whims and fancy of any administration because they are there to safeguard and protect our democracy from political zealotry.

The integrity of the elections depends on conduct of these officials whilst circumstances like death or prolonged illness may warrant immediate replacement of an officer. Therefore, the action against the seven Registration/Returning Officers is unprecedented; never in the history of this country has seven Registration/Returning Officers been removed in one stroke by the Governor General on the eve of an election.

The National Democratic Congress has therefore written to Her Excellency Dame Cecile La Grenade to explain her extraordinary conduct in the face of this electoral crisis.

Additionally, the party has organised a protest march in defense of the democracy of our country, and a picket of the Electoral Office, in solidarity with the dismissed Registration Officers, on Wednesday, February 22, 2017 from 11:30 am.

The Party, over the course of the coming days, will be writing to international organisations, seeking their intervention in what is a clear attempt to usurp the democratic electoral process in Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.

Moreover, the NDC stands ready to provide assistance to any or all of the affected officers who may require legal advice to determine what if any legal recourse is available to them in the face of this victimisation.

Given the NNP’s history of electoral collusion, underhandedness and electoral malfeasance, the NDC has no other choice but to interpret these latest actions as an attempt to secure an electoral advantage by replacing seven non-partisan, impartial, objective Officials with party operatives who are programmed to act in a partisan manner on behalf of the NNP.

If there was any doubt in the gravity of the situation and its far-reaching impact on our democracy, the immediate resignation of Deputy Supervisor of Elections, Ms. Ada Holder, known for her outstanding professionalism and impartiality, in protest of the Governor General’s actions should speak volumes about the nature of these actions and their implications.

The NDC reiterates its call for an explanation from the Governor General on this matter and calls on all civic minded people to resist the attempts by the Government to improperly influence the outcome of the next general election.

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