It seems as if it is one controversy after the other at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM). Since the Commission started planning for the March 2 General and Regional Elections, almost every one of its activities has been marred by controversy and disagreement. Certainly, these elections will be remembered as one of the most controversial, especially considering the fact that it is now two months after and a credible winner is yet to be announced.
Following a relatively smooth voting process on Election Day, controversy peaked after Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo proceeded to declare fraudulent results for District Four, in spite of protests from all stakeholders except the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC). This led to the country being on the brink of almost having a president being sworn in on the basis of concocted results by Mingo and company.
After a string of court cases and lengthy delays, the way was cleared for a national recount, which is now underway at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC). However, everyone is cautiously optimistic about the process, as from time to time there seems to be some impediment being constructed by certain forces to derail the exercise from being completed in a transparent and expeditious manner.
A case in point is the use of the observation reports, which seem to be the source of much controversy in the recount process. The observation reports are attached to the Statements of Recount (SoRs) after each ballot box has been counted and processed. GECOM, at the request of the APNU/AFC coalition, took a decision to include observation reports in the tabulation process.
However, not only is the preparation of the observation reports a time-wasting exercise, they also contribute to much of the delays currently being experienced in the tabulation of the SoRs. What is even worse is that they are used with the intention to discredit the election itself.
APNU/AFC, who had agents present at each of the 2339 polling stations on E-Day, is now making a number of unsubstantiated claims which it is demanding must be recorded in the observation reports. These claims include allegations that dead people and persons who have migrated were allowed to vote. This is in spite of the fact that all stakeholders, including political parties, local and international observers, etc, have stated that the voting process was generally smooth and transparent.
These allegations are ridiculous and the APNU/AFC would find it very difficult to convince right-thinking Guyanese of their merits. Coalition leaders are on record congratulating GECOM for an excellent job in holding free and fair elections. On May 4, President David Granger himself, in a public statement, described the elections as “free, fair and orderly”.
To begin with, it is difficult to believe that these ‘irregularities’ would happen in spite of all the various party agents, observers and GECOM staff being present at each polling station. For something like this to occur, it would require a great deal of collusion with the involvement of everyone present. It is, therefore, left to question if these claims are indeed true, as is being claimed by the coalition, then what were their own agents doing on polling day to have missed such blatant voter malpractices and illegalities.
We have also noted that since these allegations began gaining traction, GECOM, the body that has a constitutional mandate to manage the conduct of elections in Guyana, has not uttered a word debunking these claims which are now being placed on official record in the form of the observation reports.
GECOM must urgently respond to these claims that are continuously being made by the APNU/AFC. For example, the agency must say whether it allowed dead people or persons who migrated to vote in the elections.
It is also quite unfortunate that these observation reports, with unverified allegations and objections, are being broadcast publicly without GECOM conducting any investigation as to whether the objections were factual or lawful.
GECOM cannot allow APNU/AFC agents to use the observation reports to persistently record matters based on allegations which are unsupported by the presentation of any credible evidence. The electoral body must be well aware that these allegations directly question GECOM’s conduct of the elections process and to completely ignore them does not do any good to the image of the organisation.
The Commission is meeting again today; it is our hope that this issue would seriously engage its attention.