Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Boycott looms for Guyana's 1st elections since '94

Boycott looms for Guyana's 1st elections since '94
(Associated Press)

GEORGETOWN, Guyana — Opposition leaders in this South American country threatened Thursday to boycott the first municipal elections in 16 years over a plan to give a government-dominated commission control over local affairs.

The government says the proposed seven-member commission would reduce the central government's power over cities, but critics note that the government would still appoint a majority of its members.

"We can't agree with this and are not prepared to work with this," said Oscar Clarke, general secretary of the main opposition People's National Congress.

Clarke said his party might boycott planned April elections if the government doesn't agree to give local governments greater control over their own affairs, such as helping decide how to allocate funds.

He complained that the current system gives the central government power to fire and hire key city staffers, as well as to withhold funds for municipalities and neighborhood councils.

The government has proposed the commission plan to parliament as an alternative.

Vishnu Persaud, Guyana electoral commission spokesman, said officials are planning elections for a still-unset date in mid-April to choose mayors and councilors of six towns and 65 rural districts.

Guyana has not elected mayors, district and village leaders since 1994, largely due to continuing disputes about how to update voter registration lists.

Disputes over voting lists also prompted delays in several recent presidential elections.

Plans to hold municipal elections last year were scrapped because officials said new voter cards based on updated lists were not yet ready and a redistricting project had not been completed.

Presidential and general elections are scheduled to be held next year.

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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