Home Letters APNU/AFC squandered opportunity to be respected
The leaders of the APNU+AFC coalition, specifically David Granger, must concede defeat to respect the will of the Guyanese people. Surely, coalition leaders must understand that, by both local and international standards, they have lost these elections, and their current actions are working against the best interest of that party.
If they continue to prevent a legitimate government from taking office, they would have damaged their credibility to the extent that future prospects of holding electoral office would be greatly diminished and disrespected by many Guyanese.
The refusal to concede defeat by supporters and leaders of the incumbent A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) coalition has seen the coalition squander their opportunity to be a respected opposition in the elections’ aftermath.
Four months have passed since Guyana’s March 2 regional and national elections were held, and there is no winner legally and formally declared through free, fair, and transparent means. The longevity of the political crisis has drawn criticism from important international and regional partners such as the United States; the Organization of American States (OAS); the Commonwealth of Nations; and, most notably, the Caribbean Community (Caricom).
The latest incident in a series of unnecessary events has come from an injunction filed by an APNU/AFC supporter to stop the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) – the statutory body responsible for declaring a winner – from declaring the People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C) party and its presidential candidate Dr. Irfaan Ali the winners of these elections.
The APNU/AFC supporter claims that GECOM has not taken into account the coalition’s concerns over the validity of votes. The APNU+AFC coalition also claims that, throughout the recount process, evidence of ghosts voting had been uncovered, leading to the party’s calls to discount votes they consider as not valid.
However, the coalition’s claims are unsubstantiated, and have been settled internationally, regionally, and domestically; with CARICOM and other international observers and local stakeholders in Guyana’s electoral process approving the recount as valid and credible, based on CARICOM’s assessment, described as the most legitimate international observer by Mr David Granger.
Dr Irfaan Ali, then, must be declared the next President of Guyana. But in a 2-1 ruling, Guyana’s Court of Appeal granted the injunction which ordered that the results of the elections must be determined after the Court of Appeal’s ruling.
GECOM CEO Keith Lowenfield, who feels he is above the law, proceeded to submit an observation report that was contrary to the report submitted by CARICOM. In his report, Lowenfield argued that based on his own assessment of “valid” votes cast — which is irrespective of the consensus reached by CARICOM and local observers —115,000 votes had to be eliminated. This trickery gave the Granger APNU/AFC enough votes to be declared the winner of the national elections.
After the injunction was issued and Lowenfield’s report was submitted, PPP/C leader Mr Bharrat Jagdeo filed an appeal to the country’s final court of appeal, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). After the initial hearing on July 1, the Court is expected to issue its verdict on July 8. Until then, the CCJ has ruled, Guyana must remain without a declared winner of the elections.
At the CCJ, the PPP/C, local stakeholders and the international community expect the court to rule that Guyana’s Court of Appeal does not have the jurisdiction to issue rulings on presidential elections. The PPP/C argued that the elections’ validity can only be challenged through an elections petition filed with Guyana’s High Court after a formal winner has been declared by GECOM.
The many roadblocks APNU/AFC coalition party leaders have set up during this election cycle have decreased the credibility and trust in the APNU/AFC coalition. The APNU/AFC coalition has put its future in Guyana at risk.
The international community and local stakeholders appear to have accepted the PPP/C party as the winner of the elections, with the party securing the majority of votes cast in the general election.
The APNU/AFC will become the country’s formal Opposition, with 31 of 65 parliamentary seats. Therefore, the strength of Guyana’s democratic will, in part, rely on the APNU+AFC coalition’s ability to become a credible and trustworthy opposition. However, this possibility is becoming less likely, as specific leaders within the APNU+AFC coalition erode the trust between themselves and the PPP/C, as well as with Guyana’s international and regional partners.
Both the PPP/C and the APNU/AFC dominate Guyana’s political system, drawing support from the majority of the population. A breakdown in trust would further divide the country, since trust is integral for Guyana going forward. The country faces numerous challenges, including those associated with oil wealth and the constitutional changes needed to overhaul the elections process.
Regardless of how we may all feel, this new uncertainty in Guyana now threatens to delay and potentially limit future investments in a resource that has the potential to pour billions into Guyana’s economy in the aftermath of these elections. A transparent and steady transition process is critical to maintaining growth and signalling to international investors that Guyana is a reliable partner, which would encourage them to come on board and invest immediately in Guyana.