There now are mounting calls coming from various stakeholders in Guyana for the Guyana Elections Commission (GCOM) to put in place systems that would allow for the elections recount to be televised, so that everyone would be able to see for themselves how the process is unfolding.
Like many of these stakeholders, we support such calls, considering all the confusion and what some say were blatant attempts before the watchful eyes of the world to manipulate the results for District Four, which everyone knows were fraudulent. These questionable results would have led to the swearing in of a Government that would have had a cloud hanging over its legitimacy had the Opposition not moved to the Court with haste to challenge the declaration.
It could be recalled that, following the relatively smooth voting process in nine of the 10 regions, the nation waited with bated breath on Region Four Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo’s declaration. Mingo’s declaration was imperative to determining which of the two major political parties – the PPP/C or APNU/AFC — would take the presidency.
There was much drama at the GECOM Command Centre, with strange things happening, and this was all played out on live television to the embarrassment of all Guyanese. As the tabulation of the SoPs got underway, Mingo complained of feeling unwell, and he was then rushed to the hospital. His staff, a deputy RO, could have continued the exercise, but blatantly refused to do so for various reasons. A GECOM staffer was then seen being whisked away by Police after going into a room with a flash-drive and computer, and eventually the count was suspended. Sometime after, Mingo returned with a piece of paper, and declared results in spite of the objections of all the party agents and international observers present.
That declaration was subsequently declared unlawful by the High Court, but in clear defiance of the court’s ruling, Mingo later returned to make another controversial declaration, this time at GECOM’s office in Kingston. Prior to his second declaration, agents at the GECOM office had complained of being impeded from observing the counting process. Mingo’s refusal to show agents the original SoPs is reported to have hampered the transparency of the process.
What occurred later were deliberate attempts to use the court again by APNU/AFC to block the elections’ recount.
Now that the Appellate Court has paved the way for the recounting of the votes to proceed, with GECOM itself being in charge of the process, all systems must be put in place to allow for the entire process to be well-supervised, and to be carried out in a transparent and fair manner to the satisfaction of all stakeholders. Live-streaming the recount, we all know, would provide the greatest degree of transparency, and that would instill public confidence in the process and the results of the elections.
In addition to the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), the Liberty and Justice Party (LJP) and the Private Sector Commission (PSC) have also made strong calls for the elections recount to be streamed live on television. In a letter to the GECOM Chair, Retired Justice Claudette Singh, Shuman recommended that the Commission adopt a policy that would allow the media to be present and provide live broadcast of the recount.
In addition to COVID-19, the political instability is taking a heavy toll on almost every aspect of national life in the country. It is the ordinary citizens and small and medium–scale businesses that are feeling the squeeze, especially at a time when the authorities have imposed a lockdown with no relief support mechanisms in place. The country would be able to progress only if the political crisis is brought to an end, and this means concluding the electoral process in a credible and transparent manner.
GECOM, and Guyana as a whole, cannot afford to treat the recount exercise lightly. The international community seems to be losing patience with all the events post-March 2; and from their many statements issued so far, they are eager to see the electoral process come to an end and the duly elected government sworn in. Citizens are also becoming fed up, and would like to see the country move ahead and confront the deadly coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic head-on. Guyana cannot move ahead and effectively confront the challenges of fighting this pandemic in this present political crisis.