GECOM Says Party Agents Not Required to Guard Ballot Boxes

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PPP Encouraging Suppoerters to be Part of the Ballot Box Watch

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Mar 26, CMC – The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Thursday said there is no law that caters for party agents to guard ballot boxes once they are in the custody of the Commission.

The main opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has been encouraging persons calling themselves “Guardians of Democracy,” to practice social distancing as they stage nightly vigils outside the GECOM offices where the containers with the ballot boxes are held.

The PPP said it was also encouraging persons who want to be part of the ballot box watch to register at its headquarters as it prepares a schedule for the nightly watch.

Guyana is still awaiting the outcome of the March 2 regional and general elections and on Wednesday GECOM said it was awaiting the outcome of the various Court challenges before making an official announcement of the results.

In its latest statement, GECOM said that it has become aware of messages being circulated on social media “with a claim that GECOM ‘is now restricting party from moving around containers to ensure that they are safe and have not been compromised.”

GECOM said that the existing legislation in relation to ballot boxes, ballot papers and other election material states that “the property in them may be stated to be in the custody of the Chief Elections Officer.

“The law does not contemplate party agents as a key stakeholder in the security of ballot boxes once they have been deposited in the custody of the Commission.”

GECOM said that while there is no legal provision for party agents “to act as security for election materials” in the present circumstances, the chairman, retired justice Claudette Singh on March 15 made a decision that “one agent per political party be accommodated in GECOM’s compound for the sole purpose of watching containers with general and regional election 2020 ballot boxes”.

GECOM said that predating the elections, there is an administrative arrangement for all parties to place padlocks on all the containers with ballot boxes. But it said only the two major political parties – the ruling coalition A Partnership for National Unity plus the Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) and the PPP have places chains and padlocks on each container in the custody of the Commission.

The Commission also noted that it realised that the safety and security of its staff and the compound were compromised by the presence of party agents.

“Therefore, as of 25 March 2020, political parties were asked to desist from photographing and taking videos of staff members and GECOM’s routine operations,” GECOM said, calling on party agents to observe the agency’s security protocol and desist from peddling misinformation.

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