PPP demands recount in 10 days, beginning with Reg 4
– proposes increase in workstations
– wants compromised staff removed from recount process
The Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) is demanding that the national recount of votes cast in the recent General and Regional Elections, being embarked on by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), be conducted within a 10-day period, commencing firstly with the tabulation of the contentious Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) votes.
This is according to the party’s General Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo on Thursday, as he rejected the 156-day recount proposal recently made by Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield.
“We made it clear…that we will never accept any of these elements
coming from GECOM or anywhere else to delay the announcement of the legitimate, credible results for the elections,” he posited during a virtual press conference.
He argued that the laws of Guyana had allowed three months to prepare for elections after the December 2018
passage of the No Confidence Motion, but now the Chief Elections Officer wants more than five months to just do a recount – which under the electoral laws are supposed to be done within a 15-day period, upon which election results are to be declared.
There are provisions, he added, after those declarations for further recourse.
Jagdeo argued that it is transparent that the Lowenfield proposal is a deliberate ploy to lengthen the stay of observers and ultimately make then want to quit before the end, as well as to possibly frustrate the protracted recount with even more litigation.
He added that during this entire period, the caretaker APNU/AFC Coalition will remain in office illegally.
“(They will) exercise the powers of office illegally, and they’re hoping by being there in a de facto way, they will avoid, by claiming that the process of recount is going on, the sanctions [from the international community] and claim that they’re still legally there…So it is very, very transparent what the proposal was all about. The proposal was part of the plan to steal the elections,” the PPP General Secretary asserted.
Nevertheless, Jagdeo went on to disclose that the party, through the Opposition-nominated Commissioners, has tabled to GECOM a counter-proposal that could see the recount being conducted within two weeks.
According to the PPP’s ‘Draft Plan for Recount’, which was made public, the number of workstations should be increased from three (as proposed by Lowenfield) to 20. It explained that since there are 2339 ballot boxes to be re-tabulated, this increase in workstations would allow for one hour to be spent on one box. It also suggested that the recount be a 12-hour process daily, commencing at 09:00h.
The eight-page document also outlined that there be a limited number of persons present at each workstation; that is, only two GECOM staff, one representative from each political party, and one from each observer group.
It further detailed that each workstation be assigned a single ballot at a time with Statements of Recount (SoR) prepared based on the tally. These SORs will then be prepared electronically and displayed on a screen, and once agreed upon, it is printed and signed by party representatives and the GECOM staff who did the count. A copy of the SOR would also be given to each party representative.
The draft plan also recommended that a separate ‘tabulation workstation’ be set up with the same limited number of persons at each recount station. After the completion of each SOR and public declaration by the Deputy Returning Officer (DRO), the original SOR is taken to the dedicated tabulation desk to be manually and electronically tabulated.
“At the end of each count per district, the very team…will prepare a matrix of all SORs signed by at least 2 [GECOM] Commissioners. The matrices of the final count for all 10 Districts will be submitted to the Commission to determine the finality of the count.
The Commission shall then instruct the Chief Elections Officer to use the results for the districts provided in the matrices…to ascertain the result of the elections…,” the plan stated.
The party further suggested that, “The recount will begin with counting of ballots cast for Elections District #4 since the tabulation of the Region 4 results is the basis of the controversy which erupted and the reasons for the recount.”
GECOM had indicated last week, when it announced that it was going ahead with the recount, that the process would be conducted in chronological order – from Region One to 10.
Moreover, the draft plan stated that the count would be conducted and supervised by the Elections Commission, and only in the event that the authenticity of a ballot is questioned should there be further investigation into the ballot itself.
It was also recommended that the recount be conducted at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre at Liliendaal, Greater Georgetown, which was the location cited for the Caricom-brokered recount last month, before it was abandoned after the now dismissed injunction was obtained by APNU/AFC candidate Ulita Moore, blocking GECOM from going ahead with the process.
Meanwhile, the party also noted in its proposal that the recount should be televised, broadcasted and live streamed by GECOM, as well as for the Audit Office of Guyana or an accredited audit firm oversee the process. This, it noted, will enhance transparency and credibility of the process, as well as allow public scrutiny.
Added to these, however, Jagdeo, during his briefing on Friday, also joined calls by stakeholders for compromised GECOM staff who had previously frustrated the process to be removed from the process. These include Lowenfield, the Deputy CEO, Roxanne Myers, and controversial Region Four Returning Officer (RO) Clairmont Mingo.
“We’re arguing that the compromised staff of GECOM must not be part of this process, and there are about four or five persons we have identified. Mr. Lowenfield has proven that he is part of the problem, because of his actions. He knew of the plot and he is an active part of this plot to undermine legitimate results being announced at GECOM. So, we would not like these people to be present, because they will undermine the recount as they undermined the process of declaration…,” the PPP General Secretary contended.