Recount logistics being dragged out over “inconsequential” issues by CEO – Commissioner
…Commission to meet again today
A formal decision to undertake a recount of the March 2, General and Regional Elections is unlikely before the end of this week given the number of modalities still to be finalised, including a site visit to the Arthur Chung Conference Centre.
Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield is still to complete an initial draft operational plan for the recount exercise.
The Commissioners were instead met with requests for further clarifications into proposals that were submitted at the end of last week by the Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP).
Speaking with media operatives outside of the Commission’s headquarters following Tuesday’s meeting, PPP Commissioner Sase Gunraj expressed disappointment at the fact that the electoral body was not closer to making its decision.
According to Gunraj, when the Commission met “we discussed the proposal that we prepared” when juxtaposed with the original submission by Lowenfield to have the recount done in 156 days.
“We thought that we were clear and that those discussion would then translate into an amended document from the Secretariat.”
This was not to be and according to Gunraj, “unfortunately the Secretariat claim to still need clarification so we did not get that renewed document today (Tuesday).”
Gunraj has since indicated that the clarifications were provided and that the operational plan is expected to be supplied today when the Commission resumes meeting to work out the modalities including a site visit.
Asked to provide some insight on what clarifications were being sought by Lownefield, the PPP Commissioner disclosed that these centred on issues such as the role of the Commissioners in the proposed process.
Gunraj dismissed the issues raised by Lowenfield as inconsequential and added, “that being said, I am disappointed we lost another day” and lamented that the Commission was still to work out when it would be doing its site visit.
This, he reminded, “is a very vital component of what we have to do” taking into account the social distancing and other requirements, a result of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.”
Government-aligned Commissioner, Vincent Alexander told media operatives, bluntly, that he was not optimistic that a decision would be taken on the recount before the end of the week.
Speaking after Tuesday’s statutory meeting, Alexander said that the CEO wanted clarification on the nature of the proposed recount “which I thought we had long resolved.”
He said too, clarification was sought on the role of the Commissioners in the process.
According to Alexander, at present, the only hindrance to beginning the recount is to have the logistics ironed out since the Secretariat is adequately resourced.
Asked specifically about having a decision before the end of the week, Alexander responded saying “given where we are at today (Tuesday) it is doubtful that one can start this week.”
According to Alexander, there is still the fact that pertinent decisions with regard to the recount are still to be made based on a matrix of factors.
But even as the Commission continues with the back and forth with the CEO, the Chair of GECOM, Claudette Singh is coming in for great criticism again as she holds the power to order the process to start given its urgency.
Only on Monday, a local political analyst called her out, saying that the buck for the controversies Guyana finds itself in with its elections stops at Singh. The analyst noted that only Singh can salvage what is left of the process.
Since the elections were held over a month ago, a winner is yet to be announced. The majority of observers who scrutinised the tabulation process have pronounced it to have not been credible.
GECOM itself had come in for much of the criticism, with repeated attempts being made by Region Four Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo to subvert the process going unchecked by the Chairwoman.
Despite Singh promising that she would facilitate a recount, attempts to have the recount done at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC) never took off because of delays, more controversy and ultimately, a member of the coalition party securing an injunction from High Court Judge Franklyn Holder against the exercise.
The injunction was then thrown out by the Full Court and the Appeal Court upheld this decision, leaving the way clear for GECOM to conduct its recount and finally determine a winner of the elections.
But when given a chance to draft a proposed plan for the recount, Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield drafted one that said the recount would last 156 days.
After a firestorm of criticism, Lowenfield was ordered to return to the drawing board and revise his proposal. The plan is expected to be discussed again today by the Commission.
The Opposition-nominated Commissioners have since also submitted a more realistic proposal.