New legislation proposed to harmonise council’s elections –to address tenure and ties

Georgetown, GINA, Thursday, January 19, 2017

Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan says that the he intends to take a request to Cabinet to allow for the internal elections for the Municipalities and Neighborhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) to take place at the same time.

Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan (centre) speaking with the media

The Minister said that move would require harmonising the provisions in the Municipal and District Councils Act, with those under the Local Government Act. He said that the change will allow for all of the internal elections to take place during the month of December, and for the new heads and deputy heads of the councils to be in place, and start their term in office on January 01, of the following year.

The current legislation allows for two different periods, with regards to the tenure for Mayors and Deputy Mayors for municipalities and of Chairpersons and Vice-Chairpersons for NDCs.

Minister Bulkan explained that in the case of the Mayors and Deputy Mayors for municipalities the tenure is for 12 months following their swearing in.  The tenure for the Chairpersons and Deputy Vice-Chairpersons of the NDCs expires at the end of the Calendar year, he said.

Bulkan noted that both elections for Mayors and Deputy Mayors for the municipalities and Chairpersons and Vice-Chairpersons for the NDCs were however held in December, 2016, as the ministry’s effort to commence the process of harmonising the Councils’ elections.

Following the recent Local Government Elections, the Mayors and Deputy Mayors were sworn in in March of 2016, so their tenure should have extended to the end of March 2017.

Bulkan also explained that he intends to propose to Cabinet that legislation be introduced to Parliament to allow for resolution to the deadlock for leadership in councils that are tied.

The minister said that should such situations obtain in the future, the legislation would allow for a determination to be arrived at using the democratic principle. According to the democratic principle, the person or contestant obtaining the greatest number of votes or plurality would be entitled to either the Mayor of the municipality or Chairmanship of the NDC.

The December 2016 Council election would again result in deadlock for leadership in the municipality of Mabaruma and in those NDCs, where the government and Opposition shared equal number of seats on the councils.

Minister Bulkan said however, in the case of Mabaruma, there is no need to make a decision until the end of March, because the tenure of the incumbent Mayor and Deputy Mayor extends to March of this year. In the case of the NDCs, the legislations allows for the Minister to make a determination from among candidates who are deadlocked.

Immediately following the LGE of 2015, and having recognised the ties in some of the local government areas, the administration had offered and made a proposal to the Opposition to allow for the resolution of those ties by proceeding in conformity with the democratic principle.

The offer was not accepted by the Opposition, however, resulting in the deadlock, and in the end, the necessity for the ministerial intervention.


By Macalia Santos