By Dr. Vishnu Bisram
Voters are fearful that the recount exercise of March 2 election ballots may be derailed or the outcome nullified. Spokespersons of the ruling party say they wont accept the outcome and that the original fraudulent count must be used to declare a winner. That being the point, then what is the purpose of the recount?
Some 82% of the ballots have been painfully recounted. Only Regions 4, 6, and 10 remain. The tabulations so far put the opposition some 18K votes ahead; the final count will settle somewhere near there because the unofficial count of SOPs after March 2 put PPP close to that margin of victory. The percentages are 52% PPP, 46% for APNU-AFC, and 2% for the minor parties.
Voters narrated conspiracies and plots to derail the recount with un-peaceful actions. Will a willful effort be made to derail the recount or bring it to a peaceful conclusion? President Granger stated he speaks for the government and that Claudette Singh would be allowed to make a declaration. He is opposed to any act that would halt the recount exercise.
The President was under immense pressure from Caricom and the ABCE countries on the Mingo fraudulent declaration. He called up Mia Mottley to be an intermediary with Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo offering a recount of votes to avoid international sanctions and foreign intervention to protect democracy. Jagdeo acquiesced! The President, according to some voters, stopped a plot hatched by conspirators to derail the recount. Everyone is on finger edge that the process would conclude. It would take another week to finish recounting Region 4 that has been moving at a snail’s pace.
Gecom chair Claudette Singh has come under a lot of fire over recent revelations that she acted ultra vires the constitution. She took actions on her own without consultation from the agency. Her act has drawn the ire of opposition parties and constitutional lawyers. Some have begun to question her impartiality and professionalism and are asking whether she is compromised. The Chair is blamed for the many problems at Gecom including the fraudulent count. One must take cognizance of the challenges facing the chair. It takes courage for a Gecom chair to stand up to some tough party figures and the six election commissioners. And it also takes significant courage for the chair to agree to a recount.
I conversed with several legal luminaries on the purpose of a recount. They note that election day improprieties do not fall within the remit of a recount. That falls within the remit of the election petition.
The Chair wrote the Police Commissioner querying whether some voters were out of the jurisdiction on election day. People don’t understand the rationale behind the query to the Police Commissioner. The recount is about redoing the count to ascertain the validity of the original count. It does not involve any investigation. Legal luminaries note that the chair’s decision to pursue an investigation of voters would not necessarily compromise the recount or prevent a declaration. She was forced to walk a tightrope.
There is also a claim that some 8,000 votes of disciplinary services were not stamped and or counted. There is also a claim that some dead voted in PPP strongholds and that many who voted were out of the country. It has dawned on people that these claims run counter to APNU’s original claim of a victory. Initially, APNU declaring it won the elections and that the President would be sworn in only to now contradict that position saying the election was rigged by the PPP. Is APNU preparing its supporters for non-acceptance of the results? Thus far, as revealed by the recount, some 3100 ballots were rejected; of these, less than 200 rejected ballots were not stamped. Also, of the claims made by APNU on dead voters, migrants, etc. almost all the names were certified as being alive and in Guyana. Thus, the complaints ring hollow. Apparently, the end games are election nullification; but Gecom cannot nullify an election. That can only be done by the court after a declaration of the final results by Gecom and a challenge in the court via a petition.
The Chair holding a press conference would help to clarify concerns about the query to the Police Commissioner regarding complaints from APNU about migrant voters. The chair should address the voters’ concerns of the potential derailment of the recount. She must do whatever it would take to make people have greater confidence in Gecom and in her leadership of the elections’ body. She must give an assurance that the process would come to a conclusion.
There are some political figures who do not think the chair will do anything to scuttle the recount process because her hands her tied. She signed a sworn affidavit that she would recount the ballots to avoid contempt of court charges. She must also give an assurance that the recount would be completed and nothing would derail it. This would reduce voters’ anxiety as well as political tensions.