The recount countdown

If there are no last-minute interventions – the possibility of which we cannot discount – the recount of the ballots cast on March 2 should finally be completed by tomorrow. But unfortunately, even though the leader of the PNC, Caretaker President David Granger, initiated this process to have a definitive determination and announcement of the elections results after seeking the intervention of CariCom, we will be nowhere closer towards reaching that goal. And it is all because Granger and the PNC have shown themselves determined to remain in office at all cost, by throwing up all sorts of colourful objections, as they did in the wake of the No Confidence Motion (NCM).
And part of the problem is that the process between the completion of the recount and the announcement of the results lends itself to further manipulations and delays (at a minimum), since it will involve the same APNU-leaning officials who have shown that they are total strangers to professionalism. After the recount, GECOM CEO Keith Lowenfield will have to compile a report that is supposed to indicate the “matrices” of the results, along with a summary of the “observation reports” that were compiled primarily from allegations made by the PNC/APNU/AFC agents to the ballots in each ballot box.
Lowenfield was himself involved in decisions that excised observations by other parties, such as the fact that in hundreds of boxes in Reg 4, the numbers of votes for the APNU/AFC were inflated while those for the PPP were deflated, as compared with the original SOPs. It is clear that his summary will incorporate his biases, and he will present the coalition’s allegations as “evidence” that has probative value, while silencing the manipulations by Mingo on the Reg 4 SOPs.
This report, which will be presented to the Commission, will be treated as a preliminary one by the latter, which will then determine exactly what information should be in the final report, which the CEO is statutorily required to make.
It is at this stage that the role of Chairwoman Claudette Singh becomes critical in a Commission that is evenly split between the Government and the Opposition Commissioners, and she therefore has the casting vote on all decisions. The law is very clear that objections questioning the credibility of the votes cast in an election should be the basis of an elections petition brought to the High Court (Art 163 (1)(b)(1), and not be determined by GECOM, since the matter being questioned falls under the latter’s remit.
Chairwoman Claudette Singh, has, however, already betrayed her thinking on the matter when she forwarded to the Police Commissioner a list of APNU’s allegations that hundreds of citizens’ votes were cast even though they were not in the jurisdiction. It seems likely that Chairwoman Singh will either appoint herself judge, jury and executioner in evaluating and deciding exactly what the CEO’s declaration would be on the March 2 elections; or, alternatively, initiate a wider process to investigate the APNU/AFC’s allegations. This will open a can of worms which neither the law nor the agreement to conduct a recount permits. GECOM, as an institution of the Executive branch of Government, cannot arrogate to itself a power constitutionally granted to the Judicial branch.
None of what we are stating above has escaped the attention of either domestic or international entities that have stood by the side of Guyana to insist that the rule of law be followed in determining the results of the elections. In the last few days, several of these international parties — such as the western diplomats, the OAS, and the US State Department — have pointed out that the numbers of the recount “speak for themselves”, and should form the basis of declaring the elections results. At this point, based on the stance of Chairwoman Singh, this outcome seems unlikely.
As with all laws, electoral laws have both a substantive and procedural aspect. The latter, however, is supposed to act as a shield to protect the former, not as a sword to degut it, as the PNC and its allies are determined to do. But this is the consequence of dealing with persons bereft of shame or honour.