The pressure is mounting from all quarters for the Guyana Elections Commission (GEOM) to immediately take the necessary steps that would see the National Recount of the votes cast in the March 2 polls move faster, in order to bring the electoral process to finality soon.
As at Wednesday, 789 ballot boxes were completed, and if the current pace continues, it is projected that the process would be dramatically longer than the 25-day timeline envisaged in the Recount Order.
This is unacceptable by any measure, considering it is now more than two months after the elections were held and a credible winner is yet to be declared.
It would be a travesty if the electoral body were to ask the nation to wait significantly longer for a credible winner to be announced. The nation is two weeks into the recount process, and by now all stakeholders, more so GECOM, would be well aware that given the current pace at which the process is moving, urgent steps would have to be taken to finish the exercise in good time.
The GECOM Chairperson, retired Justice Claudette Singh, must act now. As we have said several times before, she has all the power to do what is necessary to ensure the process is carried out in a transparent and expeditious manner. While she has again asked the APNU/AFC- appointed coronavirus (COVID-19) Taskforce for an assessment for two additional counting stations, she must by now be quite aware of the snail’s pace at which the very grouping operates.
As we race towards the proposed 25-day timeline, with room as agreed by the Opposition for an addition one week extension, Justice Singh and the entire Commission are well aware that it would be an indictment on the part of GECOM if they just sit quietly and allow the process to be dragged on for several more weeks.
On this basis, we urge the Commission to convene an urgent meeting to review what is taking place, and take corrective steps immediately. To begin with, we suggest the Commission expand the number of work stations to have more persons working at any given time. From the beginning, we had said that 10 work stations were inadequate, and would certainly not accomplish the task set out in good time. We are almost certain that the venue of the National Recount – the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC) — could easily accommodate at least five more work stations.
Secondly, the Commission could immediately expand the working hours from 11 to about 16, using a shift system wherein two sets of workers could be utilised. Here, again, this would allow for a larger number of ballot boxes to be counted at the same time, resulting in more boxes being completed each day.
At the moment, the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) agents are hell-bent on creating confusion and dragging out the process unnecessarily. From what we have seen so far, they are raising all sorts of issues which do not fall under the purview of a vote recount, but rather an elections petition. This, we know, is deliberate, as it has a direct relation to the push by Commissioner Vincent Alexander and others to have an ‘audit’ instead of a recount.
When the matter regarding the elections recount first surfaced, it was meant to do just that – a recount of the votes. No one ever called for an audit. It was the understanding of all the stakeholders, including the Court, the international community, and observers, that a recount of the votes was needed in order to arrive at credible election results, which would be accepted by all parties and which could stand scrutiny of the international community and international observers.
We have said before that following the massive negative publicity she faced for her actions or inaction in relation to attempts by Clairmont Mingo, in collusion with others, to declare fraudulent results for District Four, Justice Singh has another opportunity to stand up to the forces that do not want what is best for the country.
With the recount ongoing, Justice Singh has a duty to seriously monitor the process, and intervene whenever necessary by taking corrective actions, not only to see the process through to its finality, but to ensure that it is done in an expeditious manner.