Recount results credible, enable declaration – Caricom team
…says will of the people must be respected
The high-level Caribbean Community (Caricom) Electoral Observer Team, deemed “the most legitimate interlocutors” in Guyana’s elections standoff, has concluded that the results emanating from the National Recount of the March 02 polls are credible, acceptable, and should be the basis from which the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) declares the final results.
The report was handed over to GECOM on Monday, ahead of the meeting to deliberate on the report presented by Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield.
The Caricom team comprised Sylvester King, Deputy Supervisor of Elections of St. Vincent and the Grenadines; Cynthia Barrow-Giles, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Government at the University of the West Indies (UWI); and John Jarvis, Commissioner of the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission.
Barrow-Giles led the team, and in her report to the Cariom Secretary-General, she wrote as follows:
“Overall, while we acknowledge that there were some defects in the recount of the March 02, 2020 votes cast for the General and Regional Elections in Guyana, the team did not witness anything which would render the recount, and by extension the casting of the ballot on March 02, so grievously deficient procedurally or technically, (despite some irregularities), or sufficiently deficient to have thwarted the will of the people and consequently preventing the election results and its declaration by GECOM from reflecting the will of the voters.
The actual count of the vote was indeed transparent.”
This report now further places CEO Lowenfield in the proverbial pickle, since he has been accused of parroting the incumbent A Partnership For National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) narrative of dead and migrated people voting. In his report, submitted on Saturday to GECOM Chair, Retired Justice Claudette Singh, the CEO opined that the March 02 polls were not credible, and revised the figures to show the APNU/AFC winning the General and Regional Elections with a 2/3 Parliamentary majority.
However, the seasoned Caricom Team concluded that despite some administrative failings and the disastrous tabulation by District Four Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo, the March 2 polls were credible, and attempts to say otherwise were outrightly rejected. Though having some concerns, the team noted that it had witnessed no situation where the acceptability of results could be challenged.
“…the recount results are acceptable and should constitute the basis of the declaration of results of the March 02, 2020 elections,” the report authored by Barrow-Giles concluded.
Audit, not recount
The Caricom team detailed in its observations that the process that GECOM set out to do was in fact an audit of the polls, and not a mere recount of the ballots as agreed to by the leaders.
It is important to note that there are stark differences between an audit and recount of the polls. The mere recount would involve, as on elections night, the counting of the votes cast and tabulating them accordingly. Whereas, the audit requires a more in-depth process.
According to the GECOM-gazetted Order, each ballot box was to be scrutinised to ascertain whether the seals were intact, and that was to be followed by examination of the contents inside using a Ballot Box Checklist. This, the CARICOM Team noted, was not in keeping with a recount process, since it fits the criteria of an audit.
By going on an audit disguised as a recount, GECOM contributed to prolonging of the exercise, which went way beyond the initial 25 days.
“Where there were some minor issues, the Team did not view these as sinister. Nothing we saw up to the closing days of the recount suggested that the poll workers on March 02, 2020, conducted themselves in a manner which would indicate illegality or a deliberate intent to benefit a particular list of candidates over another,” the Caricom report stated.
Each workstation was manned by four GECOM employees, and according to the team, their conduct was commendable. They noted that, for the most part, the staffers were properly trained in the execution of their basic functions, but had some time finding their footing. This, coupled with the long list of elaborate and unnecessary steps before the actual counting began, was one of the major reasons for the extended amount of time spent on counting one box.
Throughout its report, the Caricom team maintained that the recount figures are acceptable, and should form the basis for the declaration of results.
Will of the people
At every election, people go to the polls to express their choice. This activity is coined as expressing one’s will, and what was clear on March 02, 2020 was that thousands of Guyanese went to the polls to express their will.
The will of the people, according to the figures coming out of the recount, shows an overwhelming victory for the People’s Progressive Party/Civic. The PPP/C secured a victory with 233,336 votes cast in its favour, while the incumbent APNU/AFC scraped 217,920 votes. For the new parties, the numbers are as follows: A New and United Guyana – 2,313; Change Guyana – 1,953; Liberty and Justice Party – 2,657; People’s Republic Party – 889; The Citizen’s Initiative – 680; The New Movement – 244; and the United Republican Party – 360.
Those numbers are reflective of the will of the people, and the Caricom Team endorses this as being the figures to proceed with. The report added that there are obvious lessons to be learnt from this experience which, going forward, the Government and the people of Guyana must make every effort to rectify in the best interest of democratic governance.
“Many of the instances of irregularities that we witnessed can be explained by either the incompetence of some of the Presiding Officers at the polling stations on March 02, 2020 and/or the failure to give adequate training by GECOM to its staff on the varied possibilities which may have arisen at the level of the individual stations,” the report concluded.
Most legitimate interlocutors
Ever since Permanent Representative of Barbados to the Organisation of American States (OAS), Ambassador Noel Lynch, on behalf of the CARICOM Group during a meeting of the OAS Permanent Council back in May, said CARICOM were “the most legitimate interlocutors” in Guyana’s National Recount, the APNU/AFC supporters have been parroting that statement.
It was repeated several times by caretaker President David Granger.
In a letter to United States Ambassador to Guyana, Sarah-Ann Lynch, on May 15, Granger said “The Caribbean Community remains ‘…the most legitimate interlocutors in the Guyana situation’ and that Guyana, equally, is confident in the legitimacy, credibility, and competence of the CARICOM Team to perform its task.”
That was in response to the ambassador’s request to have special arrangements for the Carter Center return to Guyana to observe the recount.
In another letter to the United States Congress, Granger again stated: “The Government of Guyana wishes to inform you that the Caribbean Community did send a new team, which is actually at work with the Elections Commission. The Caribbean Community sees itself as ‘…the most legitimate interlocutors in the Guyana situation’ and Guyana, equally, is confident in the legitimacy, credibility, and competence of the CARICOM Team to perform its task.”
The recount now proves that the David Granger-led APNU/AFC was involved in some collusion with Region 4 Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo to thwart the will of the people in favour of APNU/AFC. It is a fact that Mingo manipulated the results of his District – the largest — to give the Coalition the victory it wanted. He did so not once, but two times. Mingo inflated the Coalition’s votes by 19,116 votes, while deducting 3,689 votes from the PPP/C. Neither the caretaker President nor his party has, to date, addressed Mingo’s glaring anomalies. Ironically, the APNU/AFC has been claiming victory, and that has been based on Mingo’s concocted numbers.
Last Sunday, during an interview with a selected group of media houses, Granger reiterated that the APNU/AFC’s numbers were consistent with a victory. However, in what can be dubbed as a proverbial red light, Granger said he is yet to see the Statements of Poll (SoPs) the party collected from Elections night – 106 days after Guyanese went to the polls.