Home Top Stories Caricom reiterates law provides for aggrieved political parties to file elections petition
…APNU/AFC went on “fishing expedition “with migrant/dead voter claims; no proof of fraud
The Caricom high-level team, led by Senior Lecturer in the Department of Government at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Cynthia Barrow-Giles, has knocked the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance for Change into the ground for misusing the National Recount as a fishing expedition to gather evidence for a possible elections petition.
According to the Caricom high level observation team, the constant unnecessary objections of the party agents via live broadcast, and then having that behaviour being repeated at the tabulation center, undeniably gave credence to the unsubstantiated allegations.
The team explained that the numerous requests for information on serial numbers “were so bizarre” that, on one observed occasion, an APNU/AFC agent was prepared to query the serial numbers on the Official List of Electors (OLE) in a Work Station where no one had voted. The modus operandi of the APNU/AFC was more in line with seeking information for an elections petition than for a recount of votes.
The hearing of an elections petition is done in a special court, and the burden of proof lies with the alleger. In APNU/AFC’s case, that party has been making a number of unsubstantiated allegations during the recount, but with no evidence, the team said.
The team also explained that the undecided nature of GECOM as it relates to the recount process proved that the Commission was played by the political parties, particularly the APNU/AFC in promoting the false narrative of compromised elections.
“With absolutely no evidence to substantiate the allegations, this was often the source of major contention in the work stations, as all other political parties objected to the allegations raised by the APNU/AFC agents. The counter- objections were rooted in the following: the issues were best reserved for an election petition; the objections were groundless and without merit, given that no proof was offered; the polling stations on poll day were observed by agents of the APNU/AFC, who had every opportunity to scrutinise the ballot and raise objections where necessary, and that not only….”
The Team viewed much of the exercise (of calling out serial numbers) as a “fishing expedition designed to gather data for a possible election petition, and which resulted in considerable time being wasted during the recount…
“Despite our concerns, nothing that we witnessed warrants a challenge to the inescapable conclusion that the recount results are acceptable and should constitute the basis of the declaration of the results of the March 02, 2020 elections. Any aggrieved political party has been afforded the right to seek redress before the courts in the form of an election petition,” the report stated.
Article 64 of the Constitution of Guyana states: “All questions as to membership of the National Assembly shall be determined by the High Court in accordance with the provisions of article 163.”
Article 163 says: “The High Court shall have exclusive jurisdiction to determine any question in relation to the election of members to the National Assembly.”
Additionally, the Representation of the Peoples Act and the National Assembly (Validity of Elections Act) provide the means for an election petition to be filed in the High Court.
From the commencement of the exercise, the APNU/AFC have levelled ‘tall claims’ of voter impersonation in the form of dead and migrated persons voting. Though these accusations have been levelled and the People’s Progressive Party/Civic accused of being complicit, the APNU/AFC is yet to publicly bring evidence to support its claims.
As a matter of fact, the Caricom team said that it observed that this activity of requesting information based on false claims became apparent and contentious in the early stages of the recount process. It noted that these objections should have been done on polling day.
Discrepancies via elections petition
In May 2015, the then Co-Campaign Manager of APNU/AFC, Raphael Trotman, in response to questions from the media about the concerns raised by the then governing Peoples Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) in regard to certain aspects of the elections, said that if any party wants to challenge the results of an elections, the process under the Validity of Elections law is to file an elections petition.
“…and you can bring the discrepancies you feel, and the standard is that if what you have alerted or brought to the court as evidence is sufficient to materially change the results…,” Trotman said in 2015.
The APNU/AFC Coalition had, in 2015, won the elections by a razor thin majority – just over 4000 votes – which saw it gaining 33 seats while the PPP/C got 32 seats in the 65-member National Assembly.
Hours after the results were announced, in its quest to hurriedly take the reins of power, the Coalition had dismissed all concerns raised about the electoral process, and was adamant that such matters could be addressed only in the High Court by way of an election petition.
However, now that the recount has confirmed the PPP/C has convincingly won the 2020 General and Regional Elections with in excess of 15,000 votes more than the APNU/AFC, Coalition officials, including Trotman, are peddling a false narrative of voter fraud on Elections Day, and are involved in a relentless effort to have the elections nullified even before the results are officially declared by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).
The many unsubstantiated claims being made by the Coalition include that votes were cast in the names of dead and migrated persons.
Legal experts have argued that if the Coalition is serious about pursuing its case of voter fraud, it should approach the courts to seek redress, but the results based on the National Recount should first be declared.
Abused Observation Report
It was documented that the APNU/AFC agents abused the observation report aspect of the national recount process to identify voters whom they thought had voted for the PPP/C, as well as to delay the process.
The numerous requests for information on serial numbers were so bizarre that the Caricom Team documents one instance when an APNU/AFC agent was prepared to query serial numbers on the Official List of Electors (OLE) in a work station where no one had voted.
This was observed in Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice), box 5157, where there was a single elector on the list, yet the APNU/AFC agent raised five serial numbers.
On more than one occasion throughout the period of the recount, the Team observed that APNU/AFC agents requested information on more than 100 serial numbers, with GECOM providing the requested information on which the agents later launched their objections to the serial number (a voter) having cast a ballot in the March 2 elections. These challenges were often made on the grounds of either death or migration.
The team posited that the APNU/AFC seemed resolute in its contention that ghost voting occurred, as well as voter impersonation and other forms of voter fraud.
“Furthermore, the net was cast extremely wide in the hope of at least making a small catch, and at times the anticipated harvest ended in slim pickings. In only one observed recount of a ballot box was the number of queried serials confirmed as having voted in fact significant relative to the queried number,” the CARICOM Team said in its report.
The Team’s leader received two letters from the campaign manager of the APNU/AFC, Joseph Harmon, both of which purported election fraud. The second letter, which was received on Thursday, June 11, contained more than 100 pages of documented evidence.
Throughout the recount exercise, the other parties’ representatives contended that the APNU/AFC agents were on a fishing expedition, as well as they were aggressive in their objections. Those representatives noted that it is one thing to be passionate, but another to be wholly confrontational – which the APNU/AFC agents were.
The Caricom Team’s report also highlighted this aggression towards the other parties’ agents. It noted that the level of aggression left much to be desired, and that the observed conduct of the APNU/AFC agents was “totally unacceptable”, resulting in the wastage of time. Additionally, the behaviour of the APNU/AFC agents lent itself to intimidation of the GECOM staffers.
However, the Team also noted that the APNU/AFC agents played an integral role as additional scrutineers.
The two other members of the CARICOM Team were Deputy Supervisor of Elections of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Sylvester King; and Commissioner of the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission, John Jarvis.