National recount set to commence on Wednesday

– GECOM to live stream tabulated results, will open unused ballots
– Chair wants ballot boxes shown to viewers before they are opened

The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has confirmed that the recount will start on Wednesday and that an order to this effect will be gazetted today, with Chairperson Retired Justice Claudette Singh making concessions to have certain aspects of the count live-streamed.

GECOM Commissioner Sase Gunraj

This was communicated after a lengthy and at times tempestuous meeting at GECOM headquarters that included shouting Commissioners, on Sunday. The Commission had been deeply divided over the question of live streaming the recount, which many argue will restore confidence and credibility in GECOM.

GECOM Chair, Retired Justice Claudette Singh

In his interview with the media, GECOM Commissioner Sase Gunraj explained that a concrete decision was taken to have the recount start on Wednesday. When it comes to the live streaming of the exercise, he noted that this is still being worked out and the methodology to be used will be finalised tomorrow.

GECOM Commissioner Vincent Alexander

In fact, Gunraj said it was the Chairperson who reintroduced the issue at the meeting following a meeting with political parties on Saturday at the recount venue where the parties petitioned for the live streaming of the process.
“At this point, there is divergence on the aspects of [live streaming]. What will be live-streamed and what will not be live-streamed. From the onset, I said the entire process should be live-streamed, bar none. However, the Chairman had a reservation about the identity of the persons conducting the process being broadcast.”

Arthur Chung Conference Centre

“I understand her point. I can’t say I agree fully with it. However, if it is a compromise, she’s willing to make, life is a two-way street. Sometimes you get what you want. But any person who is opposed to this broadcast may have things to hide,” Gunraj said.
According to Gunraj, the disagreement on live streaming also saw input from Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield. Gunraj explained that Lowenfield, who missed a critical stakeholder meeting at the recount venue on Saturday, expressed concerns about the live stream proposal. Gunraj maintained that a live stream would benefit the process.
“I maintain that live streaming will inject the necessary credibility in the process. We have nothing to hide. As a Commissioner, I have nothing to hide. You described our meeting as being vociferous. Part of that vociferousness is me being adamant that GECOM has nothing to hide in this process.”
“We heard about 33,000 masks being needed. Within minutes of this being publicised, I saw dozens of people posting on Facebook that there are masks available by the thousands. Same with live streaming. As long as there is a will to get it done, it will be done. It cannot be that insurmountable a task to get done.”
Meanwhile, Government-nominated Commissioner, Vincent Alexander disclosed that the GECOM Chairperson expressed a desire to have photographs taken when the containers containing the ballot boxes are opened so that the public can see that they were not tampered with, adding that she is also open to an audio broadcast of the recount.
“At the point of tabulation, there will be streaming, broadcasting of the tabulated results. She also said that she would wish to see the ballot boxes when they’re out of the container, a picture is taken so that it is clear to the viewer that nobody tampered with the seals.”
“In addition to that, she said she wishes to have an audio broadcast as the count proceeds and that is what she unequivocally said,” Alexander further explained. However, he noted that it is unlikely that these measures will affect the timeline of 25 days they are working with.
When it comes to the concerns raised by the Opposition, including calls for the unused ballots set aside in envelopes not to be opened, Gunraj said that the Chairwoman has not budged on this issue. GECOM will thus relook at these ballots, something the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has argued is illegal.
On the issue of observers, Gunraj explained that since the election process has not ended, observers are still engaged. He explained that observers will soon be engaged, as well as political parties, on what will be expected of them.