Carter Center Withdraws from Guyana as Country Still Awaits Outcome of March 2 Poll

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Heads of the Carter Center Mission, Aminata Toure and Jason Carter, speak to reporters in Guyana.

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Mar 20, CMC – The US-based Carter Center, one of the many international groups that monitored the March 2 regional and general elections here, Friday announced its withdrawal from Guyana “after careful consideration”.

The decision comes even as the latest attempt to have the results of the elections known to the voters here is being played out in the High Court where an interim injunction granted to a private citizen blocking the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) from ordering a recount of the ballots is being challenged.

In a statement, the Carter Center said it had decided to withdraw its electoral experts and international observers even as it “remains committed to promoting democracy and constitutional reform in Guyana and is willing to return when the electoral process resumes, assuming international travel is feasible.

“The Carter Center made the difficult decision to have the team leave Guyana earlier today after weighing a combination of factors, including the absence of an ongoing electoral process, increasing restrictions on international travel because of COVID-19, and the decline in the security environment in Guyana.”

It said that in light of the current injunction and subsequent legal process, there is not currently electoral activity for it to observe and that “the security environment in Georgetown has declined in the wake of the impasse created by the non-transparent tabulation process in Region 4.

“International observers have been harassed, and protestors supportive of the APNU+AFC coalition have at times blocked international observers from doing their work. Specific threats have also been made against the international community that are unacceptable and further undermine the credibility of the electoral process.”

Justice Franklyn Holder last week granted the injunction to the private citizen, Ulita Moore, restraining GECOM from setting aside or varying the declarations already made by the 10 electoral districts with any other documents or declarations until the hearing and determination of the judicial review of the application.

The respondents to the Court matter are the Guyana Elections Commission, the Chairman of the Commission and the Chief Elections Officer.

Last Friday, GECOM said the ruling coalition, A Partnership for National Unity plus the Alliance for Change (APNU-AFC) had polled 136, 057 and 130. 289 respectively in the general and regional elections as against 77,231 and 74, 877 respectively for the main opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C). If the preliminary result is upheld, it would mean that the coalition would have won the disputed polls.

Chairman of the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Grouping, Prime Minister Mia Mottley said it was “clear that there are forces” in Guyana “that do not want to see the votes recounted for whatever reason” as CARICOM announced the withdrawal of its independent team that would have observed the recounting of the ballots, from the country.

The Carter Center said it hopes that conditions will be in place for CARICOM to return to Guyana to supervise a national recount.

“The Carter Center noted the Guyana Election Commission’s (GECOM’s) willingness to support the recount under CARICOM’s supervision and appreciated the measures taken to make that happen. Both the president and the leader of the opposition agreed to the recount process, and GECOM was satisfied with its legality. The Center hopes that that any remaining legal issues hindering the recount can be addressed quickly to avoid further delaying a satisfactory resolution to the electoral process.”

In its statement, the US-based group said that Guyana’s electoral process began well and that polling day “was well-administered and reflected international standards for democratic elections.

“The process was sound and capable of delivering results that credibly reflect the will of the people. Tabulation was well-conducted in nine of 10 regions. In Region 4 – by far the largest region – the credibility of the tabulation process deteriorated when, after some delay, results were announced before the region’s full results were transparently tabulated in the presence of party scrutineers and observers. As a result, The Carter Center and other international election observation groups denounced these results as not credible.”

It acknowledged that the environment at the GECOM office where the tabulation was being conducted for Region 4 “was at times chaotic because of the large number of persons present and the efforts by PPP/C representatives and others to disrupt the declaration of results.

“Unfortunately, when that process was resumed following litigation and a court order, it still did not comply with expectations set by Guyana’s chief justice and failed to meet international standards. As such, the tabulation process in Region 4 continued to lack credibility.

“The Center hopes that the electoral process can still be concluded with credible results and that the will of the Guyanese people – as expressed at the polls on March 2 – will be carried out,” it added.

Meanwhile, the High Court Friday admitted representatives of the main opposition party and the three small joinder political parties as interested parties in a judicial review of the decision to recount the ballots.

The three parties that contested separately with the intention of having their votes added are A New and United Guyana (ANUG), Liberty and Justice Party (LJP) and The New Movement (TNM).

Attorney, Sase Gunraj, who is also a GECOM Commissioner, told reporters that the substantive case concerning the request for a judicial review was not expected to be heard until sometime next week.

In their affidavit, the three small political parties contend that the determination of the GECOM for a national recount is “manifestly necessary for good administration” and the application blocking that recount is “mala fides” and granting the orders would “inure detrimentally to the administration of the electoral process, which is within the sole jurisdiction of GECOM.”

They further stated that it is “impossible” to conclude that GECOM cannot lawfully decide to conduct a recount of ballots and so the matter should be dismissed.

Justice Holder in his order last Tuesday gave GECOM until Monday net wek to file a defence and Moore will be given until Wednesday to file a reply. The oral hearing is not expected to begin before Wednesday.

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